Passengers rescued from Hastings East Hill lift

5 April 2010, 09:15 | Updated: 5 April 2010, 09:21

Thirteen people were rescued when a cliffside funicular railway in Hastings broke down.

Fifteen firefighters used rescue ropes to free the passengers from two carriages on the East Hill Cliff Railway in Hastings on Saturday.

The owners of the 267ft (81m) lift said it was suspected that a fault had occurred in new safety equipment.

The railway was reopened last week following two years of repairs and refurbishment work.


The existing fibreglass carriages were replaced with wooden ones that match the original design but have space for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

The lift, the steepest working funicular railway in the UK, was built in 1902 and officially opened in April 1903.

Hastings East Hil lift from sea


In 1898 permission was given for a cliff railway. It wasn’t an easy start with rock faults making excavation tricky and an early trial proving unsuccessful but in August 1902 the lift was finally opened to passengers.

An “alarming incident” followed a month later, when a carriage full of council officials was derailed but gradually bugs and faults were ironed out and the lift became, what it is today, an enduring and well-loved landmark.

The lift was given its last overhaul in the 1970s and since then about six million people have enjoyed riding the funicular railway.

Wear and tear, an exposed position and damage from an earlier accident meant it was high time the lift was given another facelift and in 2008, a major project was launched to do just that.

The existing fibreglass coaches have been replaced with wooden ones, more closely matching the original designs but with better access for wheelchairs, bikes and buggies. Control and safety elements have been replaced, the concrete track
bed repaired and the stations, top and bottom, repainted.

The restored East Hill lift in Hastings