Transport links between Langstone and Hayling Island
Until 1824, the only access to the island was by ferry between Portsea and the western extremity of Hayling Island or by the use of the Wadeway linking Langstone with Hayling island at a point close to where Chichester harbour opens out. This situation was resolved when a single-lane wooden road bridge was constructed by the Lord of the Manor, the Duke of Norfolk. A toll was charged for those using the bridge and a weight restriction was placed on it.
The birth of the Hayling Railway
The story begins following the arrival of the LBSCR at Havant in 1847 with its Portsmouth direct line from Chichester. The Hayling Bridge and Causeway Co was formed in 1851 and was authorised by act of Parliament to create a short, horse drawn railway from the junction with the LBSCR at Havant, Langstone and the land opposite the western extremity of Hayling Island. The purpose of this was to take advantage of the new railway to develop the harbour facilities at Langstone. However, construction did not take place due to lack of funding and the act was allowed to lapse. In 1858, the LSWR opened up the direct line between London and a junction with the LBSCR at Havant. The LBSCR protested but in the end, the LSWR won the day. Local business men and traders recognised the opportunities that the new London connection would bring to the area. They saw that this was not only an opportunity to develop the Langstone harbour facilities but also to improve the links between the mainland and Hayling Island. Neither of the railway companies were interested in this venture but, despite objections from Land Owners and the Portsmouth & Arundel Navigation Committee, it was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1860 as the Hayling Railway Company. The Act allowed the construction of the railway as planned in the 1851 Act but with the line extended, via a wooden trestle bridge, onto Hayling Island. The line would then follow the west coast and terminate near the Portsea – Hayling Ferry. Costs were to be saved by building the railway on an embankment, thus avoiding the need to purchase land on the island. Interestingly, the Act also allowed the building of a connection with the LSWR north of Havant which would allow direct services from London to Hayling Island to be established. The construction contract was awarded to Fredrick Furniss.
Construction was slow and behind schedule according to the Act. The capital to construct the line was also unavailable and the Company had to look at ways that would make the line more attractive. This resulted in a new Act of Parliament, The Hayling Dock and Railway Act of 1864, authorising a 1 ¼ mile extension and the provision of Docks and a pier at the ferry terminal. The railway, as described in the 1860 Act, had to be completed by 1866 (a 2 year extension) or by 1869 for the Hayling Docks scheme.
Havant to Langstone opening
The section of line between Havant and Langstone opened for Goods traffic in 1865. Traffic from the Quay at Langstone was substantial and included timber, coal, gravel and other goods for delivery to a number of destinations. At last the Company was in receipt of income from this venture. Considerable difficulty, however, was experienced with tidal erosion, in Langstone Harbour washing away the embankments. This very nearly led to the abandonment of the railway on Hayling Island.
The railway is re-vitalised
Francis Fuller, a London land and estate agent, visited the island and recognised the opportunities for improving the facilities for tourists to the island. He purchased land and promoted a racecourse for summer visitors but recognised the need to improve the transport links to the island. He injected a new sense of purpose and enthusiasm with the shareholders and the railway embankment scheme was abandoned. The line was relocated on land purchased by Francis Fuller and he became chairman of the Company in 1866. Frederick Furniss was once again appointed to construct the southern extension on the new alignment and work commenced in 1867. A new Act of Parliament was sought to abandon the embankments and also the docks and harbour near the ferry. The line was completed swiftly highlighting the folly of the original scheme. The first train carrying passengers traversed the line on 28th June 1867. This was a private train, run to convey the Contractor, Francis Fuller and friends. Public usage had to wait until authorised by the Railway Inspector from the Board of Trade.
The Board of Trade Inspection
This took place on 4th July 1867. The inspector found it puzzling that the line was being offered for inspection when the first section was already authorised for operation and the southern section was still before Parliament as a bill seeking deviation from the original route. The inspection revealed, amongst other things, the following problems:- Havant – Langstone section, signalling, track and track layout problems were identified. The level crossing at Langstone was also found to be unauthorised. Alterations had been made to the bridge without submitting these changes to the Board of Trade. Incomplete fencing, damaged rails and some rotten sleepers were found on the southern section. Needless to say the line failed the Inspection. The inspector returned on 15th August and found that considerable work had been done to correct some of the issues raised. This was sufficient for him to allow the line to open although he recommended a speed limit of 20mph. The level crossing was never authorised and this remained the case until the line closed in 1963. The outstanding Act of Parliament was approved on 12th August 1867. Reference: Based on an extract from The Hayling Railway by Peter Paye. Published by ‘The Oakwood Press’. Pages 1-7