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Network SouthEast
Network southeast logo.svg
465034 at Waterloo East.JPG
Main region(s)London, South East
Other region(s)East of England, South West, Thames Valley
Fleet sizeCarriages: 6,700 (1986)
Stations called at930 (1986)
Parent companyBritish Rail
Dates of operation1986–1994

Network SouthEast (NSE) was one of the three passenger sectors of British Rail created in 1982. NSE mainly operated commuter rail trains within Greater London and inter-urban services in densely populated South East England, although the network went as far west as Exeter. Before 1986, the sector was originally known as London & South Eastern.

During the privatisation of British Rail, it was gradually divided into a number of franchises.


Two Class 309 (AM9) units; one in NSE livery, the other in Jaffa Cake livery
Two Class 309 (AM9) units; one in NSE livery, the other in Jaffa Cake livery
Class 411 (4CEP) in modified NSE livery with rounded corners
Class 411 (4CEP) in modified NSE livery with rounded corners
Transitional scene from BR Blue (the train) to NSE (the signage, train label) at Farnborough North station
Transitional scene from BR Blue (the train) to NSE (the signage, train label) at Farnborough North station

Before the sectorisation of British Rail (BR) in 1982 the system was split into largely autonomous regional operations: those operating around London were the London Midland Region, Southern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region. Sectorisation of BR changed this setup by instead organising by the traffic type: commuter services in the south-east of England, long-distance intercity services, local services in the UK regions, parcels and freight. The aim was to introduce greater budgetary efficiency and managerial accountability by building a more market-focused and responsive business, rather than privatising BR completely. It was expected that the London and South East sector would cover most of its operating costs from revenues, in contrast to heavily subsidised rural services.[1]

Upon sectorisation, the London & South Eastern sector took over responsibility for passenger services in the south-east of England,[2] working with the existing BR business units of Regions and Functions to deliver the overall service. Day-to-day operation, staffing and timetabling continued to be delivered by the Regions – and the sector came into existence with barely thirty staff based at Waterloo.[3]

On 10 June 1986, L&SE was relaunched as Network SouthEast, along with a new red, white and blue livery.[2][4][5] The relaunch was intended to be more than a superficial rebranding and was underpinned by considerable investment in the presentation of stations and trains, as well as efforts to improve service standards.[3] This approach was largely brought about by a new director, Chris Green, who had presided over similar transformation and rebranding of ScotRail.

Although NSE did not originally own or maintain infrastructure, it exercised control over almost all carrier core functions. NSE set its own goals and service standards in consultation with BR, and created its own management structure and oversight. BR allowed NSE to decide about scheduling, marketing, infrastructure enhancements, and rolling stock specifications on NSE-assigned lines and services.

In April 1990, British Rail Chairman Bob Reid announced that sectorisation would be made complete, with regions disbanded by 1991/92 and the individual sectors becoming directly responsible for all operations other than a few core long-term planning and standards functions. Network SouthEast thus went from a business unit of around 300 staff to a major business operation with 38,000 staff and a £4.7bn asset value – large enough to be ranked as the 15th-biggest business in the UK.[3]

Network SouthEast, like each other sector, was given primary responsibility for various assets (rolling stock, tracks, stations), and control resided with the primary user. Other sectors could negotiate access rights and rent facilities, using their own resources. NSE was able to exert much greater control and accountability over both its operating budget and service quality than BR could under its Regions. Relations were generally good between NSE and other sectors, although operating pressures sometimes forced staff to use equipment and assets belonging to other sectors to meet immediate needs.

On 1 April 1994, Network SouthEast was disbanded with its operations transferred to train operating units ready for privatisation.

Network Railcard

Main article: Network Railcard

Although NSE ceased to exist in 1994, the grouping of services that it defined before privatisation remain grouped by the Network Railcard,[6] which can be bought for £30 and which offers a 34% discount for adults and 60% discount for accompanying children after 10:00 on weekdays and all day at weekends (subject to a minimum weekday fare of £13). Holders of annual season tickets for journeys within the Network area, including on London Underground, are issued with a "Gold Card" which gives them similar privileges to the Network Railcard.

Rolling stock

Class Image Number Power Carriages Notes
BR class 03 D2059.jpg
2 Diesel Shunter N/A Shunters at Ryde depot on the Isle of Wight.
Goole Station, with Diesel-hauled goods trip geograph-2398252-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
1 Shunter at Ryde depot on the Isle of Wight, where it earned the nickname "Nuclear Fred". Replaced by two Class 03s, currently owned by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
Class 08 08631.jpg
Examples include:
  • 08 600 'Ivor' (97800)
  • 08 631 'Eagle'
  • 08 641 'Dartmoor'
BR class 33 114.jpg
Diesel Locomotive
47 530 in NSE livery.jpg
BR 50026.jpg
73140 at Tunbridge Wells West - Spa Valley Railway (19600606243).jpg
6 Electro-Diesel Locomotive
86401 in Network SouthEast colours.jpg
AC Electric Locomotive
97407 Manchester.jpg
97545 BHI 1989.jpg
Departmental Locomotives and Shunters Had ex-members of starred classes and worked across the NSE network.
BR 101 L832 Sarah.jpg
DMU 2, 3 or 4
Class 104 24307217093.jpg
Class 108 - 30876251431.jpg
Aylesbury Station geograph-3933405-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
41 4 Worked on the London Marylebone to Banbury Chiltern Line and London Marylebone to Aylesbury Line from 1960 to 1992.
BR class 117 L421.jpg
119 L575.jpg
21 1 Worked the branches of the Thames valley.
159 019 DMU.jpg
30 3
165119 at Didcot Parkway.JPG
76 2 or 3 165/0 replaced the Class 115’s on the London Marylebone to Banbury Chiltern Line and London Marylebone to Aylesbury Line from 1991. Still in operation by Chiltern Railways.
Oxford. - - 123732.jpg
21 3
BR SR Thumper 4L 203001 and 6L1001 DEMUs - Uckfield Line 09.JPG
Ongar railway station MMB 07 205205.jpg
34 3 or 4
207013 3D East Sussex DMU.jpg
19 3
BR 302 203 EMU.jpg
AC EMU 4 Worked the GE lines out of Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street
Class 306 Green.jpg
313 Original NSE livery.jpg
64 Dual Voltage EMU 3
61 AC EMU 4
British Rail Class 457 - unit 7001 - vehicle 67300.JPG
1 Converted to class 457.
Class 317 317319.jpg
319058 - Bedford (8959164642).jpg
86 Dual Voltage EMU
321401 - Rugby (8959162488).jpg
114 AC EMU
365530 at Cambridge, 1997.jpg
41 4
1586 at London Victoria.jpg
135 DC EMU 4
BR 4-CEP 413207.jpg
Hugh llewelyn 4308 (6679912913).jpg
209 2
Beckenham - - 107690.jpg
Unknown 4
416 at Dalton Kingsland2.jpg
128 2
Warcop Railway Station, Eden Valley Railway - - 76834.jpg
10 DC Motor Luggage Van 1
1879 at London Charing Cross.jpg
166 DC EMU 4
3810 arriving at London Waterloo.jpg
36274258373 ea64fe602d Hugh Llewellyn.jpg
BR 442 410.jpg
24 5
Class 455 at clapham junction station.jpg
137 4
Southern456015-WandsworthRoad-20040927 XAM-E1.jpg
24 2
British Rail Class 457 - unit 7001 - vehicle 67300.JPG
1 4
MetCam and Brel at CX.jpg
Greenwich Station. - - 42765.jpg
43 2
65507 at Bank LUL station.jpg
10 DC Tube Train Waterloo & City line 1992 stock, transferred to London Underground in 1994.
483 001 at St John
10 Works on the Island line on the Isle of Wight. Following the retirement of the Classes 485 and 486, the class became the oldest to operate on the mainline.
485, 486
12 3 or 4 Worked on the Island line on the Isle of Wight. Replaced by Class 483s from 1989 onwards.
Class 487 at London Transport Museum Depot.jpg
28 2 Worked on the Waterloo & City line before being replaced by Class 482 in 1993.


NSE was broken down into various sub-divisions.

Subdivision Main Route(s) Route Description
Chiltern Chiltern Main Line, London to Aylesbury Line London Marylebone-Aylesbury/Banbury
Great Eastern Great Eastern Main Line, Mayflower Line, Sunshine Coast Line, Shenfield–Southend line, Crouch Valley Line London Liverpool Street-Ipswich/Harwich/Clacton-on-Sea/Walton-on-the-Naze/Southminster/Southend Victoria
Great Northern East Coast Main Line, Hitchin-Cambridge Line London King's Cross-Peterborough/Cambridge (and subsequently London King's Cross-Cambridge-King's Lynn)
Island Line Island Line Ryde Pier Head-Shanklin
Kent Link North Kent Line, Bexleyheath Line, Dartford Loop Line, Greenwich Line, Mid-Kent Line, Catford Loop Line, Bromley North Line London Victoria/Charing Cross-Dartford/Gravesend/Gillingham/Orpington/Sevenoaks/Hayes, Grove Park-Bromley North
Kent Coast Chatham Main Line, Hastings Line, Sheerness Line, South East Main Line, Maidstone Line London Victoria/Charing Cross-Margate/Dover/Folkestone/Ashford/Tunbridge Wells/Hastings (and subsequently North Downs services as far as Redhill/Three Bridges)
London, Tilbury and Southend London, Tilbury and Southend line London Fenchurch Street - Tilbury - Southend Central - Shoeburyness
North Downs North Downs Line Reading-Guildford-Reigate-Gatwick Airport-Tonbridge
Northampton Line/North London Lines West Coast Main Line, Marston Vale Line, North London Line London Euston/Broad Street-Watford-Milton Keynes-Northampton-Birmingham, Bedford-Bletchley
Solent and Wessex Portsmouth Direct Line, South West Main Line London Waterloo-Guildford-Portsmouth, London Waterloo-Basingstoke-Southampton-Bournemouth-Weymouth
South London Lines South London Lines, Oxted Line, Sutton & Mole Valley Lines, Caterham Line, Tattenham Corner Line London Victoria & London Bridge to Croydon/Caterham/Tattenham Corner

London Victoria-East Grinstead/Uckfield/Sutton/Epsom Downs/Dorking/Horsham

South Western Lines Alton Line, Waterloo-Reading Line, Hounslow Loop Line, Kingston Loop Line, Shepperton branch, Staines–Windsor line, Weybridge branch, Chessington branch, Hampton Court branch, New Guildford Line London Waterloo-Alton/Reading/Windsor/Guildford/Epsom/Chessington South/Dorking/Hampton Court/Kingston Circle/Shepperton/Hounslow Circle/Weybridge
Sussex Coast Brighton Main Line, Arun Valley Line, East Coastway Line, West Coastway Line London Victoria/London Bridge-Gatwick Airport-Brighton/Eastbourne/Littlehampton, Brighton-Hastings, Brighton-Portsmouth-Southampton
Thames Great Western Main Line, Cotswold Line, Greenford branch, Windsor branch London Paddington-Slough- (-Windsor-) Reading-Oxford-Worcester/Banbury, Ealing-Greenford
Thameslink Thameslink Bedford-Luton-London-Gatwick Airport-Brighton
Waterloo & City Waterloo & City line Waterloo-Bank
West Anglia Fen Line, Lea Valley Line, Chingford branch London Liverpool Street-Harlow-Cambridge-King's Lynn (express services to Cambridge, and almost all services to King's Lynn, were subsequently transferred to the Great Northern route from London King's Cross); London Liverpool Street-Stansted Airport, and local services: Liverpool Street-Chingford, Liverpool Street-Enfield Town, Liverpool Street-Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters), and Liverpool Street-Hertford East/Broxbourne (via Tottenham Hale).
West of England West of England Main Line London Waterloo-Basingstoke-Salisbury-Exeter


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Soon after conception, Network SouthEast started to modernise parts of the network, which had become run down after years of under-investment. The most extreme example was the Chiltern Lines.[citation needed]

Chiltern Lines

The Chiltern Line ran on two railway lines (Chiltern Main Line and London to Aylesbury Line) from London Marylebone to Aylesbury and Banbury. These lines were former GWR and GCR intercity lines to Wolverhampton and Nottingham respectively. After the Beeching Axe in the 1960s, these lines became seriously run down with a lack of investment and a reduction of services.[citation needed]

By the late 1980s, the 25-year-old Class 115s needed replacement; the lines had low speed limits and were still controlled by semaphore signalling from the early 1900s; and Marylebone was served only by infrequent local trains to and from High Wycombe and Aylesbury.[citation needed]

Marylebone still with the red NSE livery for stations, around 30 years later in 2015. Marylebone was one of the stations given a facelift in the late 1980s.
Marylebone still with the red NSE livery for stations, around 30 years later in 2015. Marylebone was one of the stations given a facelift in the late 1980s.

Numerous plans for the lines were proposed. One serious plan was to close the line between Marylebone and South Ruislip/Harrow-on-the-Hill, and convert Marylebone into a coach station.[7] Metropolitan line trains would be extended to Aylesbury and BR services from Aylesbury would be routed to London Paddington via High Wycombe. Also the line north of Princes Risborough would close.[citation needed] However, this did not happen as Baker Street and London Paddington would not have been able to cope with the extra trains and passengers.[citation needed]

What did happen was total route modernisation. This was an ambitious plan to bring the lines into the modern era of rail travel.[citation needed] Class 115s were replaced by new Class 165s. Semaphore signals were replaced by standard colour light signals and ATP was fitted on the line and trains. Speed limits were increased to 75 mph (only 75 due to running on London Underground track between Harrow and Amersham), all remaining fast loops at stations were removed and the line between Bicester North and Aynho Junction was singled. Stations were refurbished and even reconstructed (£10 million spent on stations alone), and signal boxes and the freight depots/sidings were demolished.[citation needed] Regular services to Banbury, and a few specials to Birmingham were introduced and a new maintenance depot was built at Aylesbury. This was a massive undertaking and work began in 1988 and by 1992, the route had been completely modernised, demand for the service had grown considerably and the route had become profitable.[citation needed]

Since modernisation the route has seen further improvements (see Chiltern Main Line).

Electrification was considered but was deemed to be too expensive as the Thames Line sector would then have to be electrified as well. Another reason electrification did not take place was that some part of the line ran on underground lines, which were electrified as 4-rail 660 V DC, while British Rail preferred 25 kV AC overhead traction for lines north of London.[citation needed]

Success of the modernisation implemented by NSE has made it possible for the Chiltern Main Line to compete with the West Coast Main Line between London and Birmingham, and there are now plans to increase speeds and quadruple sections of the line,[8] returning the line to the state it was before the Beeching Axe.

New trains

See also: Rolling stock of Network SouthEast

The later style of the Network SouthEast livery
The later style of the Network SouthEast livery

Network SouthEast started a programme of replacing old rolling stock up to privatisation.


During the privatisation of British Rail, NSE was divided up into several franchises:

Shadow franchise (1994 - 1997) Original franchise Route(s) Currently
LTS Rail LTS Rail London, Tilbury and Southend line Rebranded c2c in 2002
Chiltern Lines Chiltern Railways Chiltern Main Line, London to Aylesbury Line, Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Line, Leamington to Stratford Line and the Oxford to Bicester Line Unchanged
Great Eastern First Great Eastern Great Eastern Merged into larger franchise operated by National Express East Anglia, then passed on to Abellio Greater Anglia in 2012
Thames Trains Thames Trains Thames
North Downs (Gatwick/Redhill - Dorking/Guildford/Reading section)
Franchise passed to First Great Western Link, later merged into larger franchise operated by First Great Western (later Great Western Railway)
Island Line Island Line Island Line Operated by Stagecoach from 1996 until 2017 retaining Island Trains brand, now operated by South Western Railway
North London Railways North London Railways Northampton Line
North London Line
Rebranded as Silverlink in September 1997, later split up into two franchises operated by London Midland (Northampton) and London Overground (North London)
South Eastern Connex South Eastern Kent Coast, Kent Link, North Downs (Tonbridge- Redhill section) Then passed to South Eastern Trains, then to Southeastern
Network SouthCentral Connex South Central South London Line
Sussex Coast
Then passed to Southern
Thameslink Thameslink Thameslink Merged into larger franchise operated by First Capital Connect, became part of Govia Thameslink Railway in 2014
West Anglia Great Northern West Anglia Great Northern Great Northern
West Anglia
Split with GN merged into First Capital Connect, now part of Govia Thameslink Railway) and WA merged into National Express East Anglia, then passed on to Abellio Greater Anglia in 2012. Some of the Abellio Greater Anglia lines were transferred to TfL Rail, as part of Crossrail, and London Overground in 2015.
South Western Railway South West Trains Solent & Wessex
South Western Line
West of England Line
Operated by Stagecoach from 1996 until 2017, but retained South West Trains branding, now operated by South Western Railway

One element of NSE that remained in public ownership was the Waterloo & City Line; too small to be operated as a self-contained franchise, it was not incorporated with the rest of NSE services from Waterloo into the South West Trains operation, and was instead transferred to London Underground.[9]


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NSE-era signage at Old Street station in September 2008
NSE-era signage at Old Street station in September 2008
NSE's logo in a plaque at Kew Gardens station
NSE's logo in a plaque at Kew Gardens station

Although NSE ceased to exist in 1994, its logos, livery and signage would linger well into the following decades. Southeastern, Southern and First Capital Connect trains continued to run in NSE livery until as late as 2007.[citation needed]

Underground stations on the Moorgate branch of the Great Northern route (Highbury & Islington, Essex Road, Old Street and Moorgate) used to have the NSE era colour schemes after going through 3 privatised operators (WAGN, First Capital Connect and Great Northern) until late-2018.[citation needed]

NSE signage and logos can be found across the Island Line, Isle of Wight, with particularly well-maintained examples existing at the Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin ticket offices. Kew Gardens station in London still has the NSE logo on a plaque in the booking hall marking the station's reopening by Michael Portillo in 1989.

The last train still in NSE livery was withdrawn on 15 September 2007 when 465193, was sent for revinyling.[10]

In 2002, the Network SouthEast Railway Society[11] was formed to keep the memories of NSE alive by re-promoting through merchandise that they make to raise money for their 4-CIG EMU No.1753 which was named 'Chris Green' at the NSE 30 event at Finmere, Oxfordshire by the ex-NSE boss himself. On 28 August 2015, the Network SouthEast Railway Society obtained the trademark of Network SouthEast's brandname, logo and typeface.[12] The group wanted to obtain the trademark to help Network SouthEast's name and legacy live on following its demise and educate about NSE.[13]

In 2017, the Railway Heritage Trust collaborated with train operator Govia Thameslink Railway to recreate the Network SouthEast image at Downham Market station as a commemorative measure. The station has been equipped with paintwork and signage that mimic the Network SouthEast branding of the late 1980s.[14]


  1. ^ Mark Lawrence: Network SouthEast - From Sectorization to Privatisation. Sparkford, Oxford Publishing Co. 1994
  2. ^ a b Thomas, David St John; Whitehouse, Patrick (1990). BR in the Eighties. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-9854-8. OL 11253354M. Wikidata Q112224535.
  3. ^ a b c Green, Chris; Vincent, Mike (2014). The Network SouthEast Story. Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 9780860936534.
  4. ^ "Network SouthEast". Jane's Railway Year. 6: 4–11.
  5. ^ "How the Network SouthEast was won" Rail Magazine issue 747 30 April 2014 page 72
  6. ^ "Network Railcard". Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
  7. ^ Haywood, Russell (2016). Railways, Urban Development and Town Planning in Britain: 1948–2008. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-07164-8.
  8. ^ "Network Rail route plan for Chilterns November 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 January 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  9. ^ "Waterloo & City Line". Clive's Underground Line Guides. Clive Feather. 14 December 2007. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  10. ^ "After 21 years, no more NSE" Rail Magazine issue 575 26 September 2007 page 9
  11. ^ "NSERS Website". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  12. ^ Intellectual Property Office (28 August 2015). "Trade mark number - UK00003110943". Archived from the original on 14 May 2021. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  13. ^ Shepherd, John (6 October 2016). "Network SouthEast TRADEMARK INFORMATION". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Archived from the original on 24 May 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  14. ^ Heritage makeover unveiled at Downham Market railway station Archived 23 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine Lynn News 4 May 2017

Further reading