Each year at the National Railway Heritage Awards there is probably one project that stands out from the rest in terms of its scale and ambition. The 2023 competition was no exception and the competition’s adjudicators had no doubt that the massive scheme to restore Folkestone Harbour station and its environs – including the approach viaduct – made the entry the clear winner of the Greater Anglia Award as the best entry for the year.
On Friday 7 June, in front of the Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Abena Akuffo-Kelly, members of the local community and representatives of the Folkestone Docks and Harbour and of the National Railway Heritage Awards, the plaque was formally unveiled by Richard Turner, Head of Asset Management for Greater Anglia, and Sir Roger de Haan CBE, chairman of Folkestone Docks and Harbour.
The station and its steeply-graded approach line were constructed to serve the cross-Channel passenger ferries; however, the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 resulted in this traffic largely ceasing. Ferry services ceased in 2000 with the station and line being mothballed in 1009; they were officially closed in 2014.
Since 2015, work has been undertaken to conserve, restore, redevelop and repurpose the former harbour and railway infrastructure as a key enabler for a major regeneration and redevelopment project on the site. All significant surviving historic elements were included within the scheme. The work on the railway infrastructure included repairs to the 13-arch brick built viaduct and the swing bridge that was installed as a replacement by the Southern Railway in 1930.
Other railway features that have been carefully restored include the Saxby & Farmer signalbox of 1930, which retains its lever frame and apparatus, and the platforms built by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway in 1904 during the programme to extend the pier along with the platform canopies installed by the Southern Railway in the late 1930s.
As the citation concludes: ‘The result of this project is that a new destination has been created from decay and dereliction by celebrating, renewing and enhancing the infrastructure that has underpinned 180 years of railway and marine engineering and operations.’

The unveiled plaque at Folkestone Harbour with, from the left, Richard Turner, Head of Asset Management for Greater Anglia (the award’s sponsors), Sir Roger de Haan CBE, chairman of Folkestone Docks and Harbour, and Andy Savage MBE, chairman of the NRHA.

The scale of the entries to the National Railway Heritage Awards each year can vary from the small to the great; undoubtedly one of the latter was the spectacular project completed at Folkestone that saw the restoration of the disused harbour station, its signalbox, approach viaduct and much else. The multi-million pound scheme was judged as the best overall project at the 2023 ceremony, taking the Greater Anglia Award when the awards were announced in London in early December 2023.