UPGRADE ON THE HAUGHLEY JUNCTION TO ELY LINE
It seems that things are moving forward in the matter of reopening Soham station in Cambridgeshire. I didn’t expect such an improvement to be built anytime soon, but I was wrong. Construction is expected to start later this year. Soham used to possess a railway station which was the scene of a fatal explosion in 1944, when a munitions train blew up there. Why was the station closed by Dr Beeching in 1965? Much smaller stations nearby were kept open and remain so to this day, but the town of Soham has had to watch trains passing through but not stopping for over 50 years. The line was also singled, another mistake that is having to be reversed to accommodate the heavy traffic of goods trains from Felixstowe port, at huge cost.
Further into the future is the plan to reopen the ‘Snailwell loop’ which would allow trains to travel from Soham to Cambridge without changing. This would take trains through Newmarket. The ‘Snailwell loop’ was not a loop at all when it was built; there was no direct connection between Soham and the line to Bury St Edmunds. The line linking the Bury to the Soham line was built in the 1930s, to connect this line (built in 1878) with the earlier Haughley Junction to Newmarket line. The 1922 Bradshaws timetable shows trains running from Ely via Soham to Newmarket, where they reversed direction to carry on to Bury St Edmunds before terminating at Ipswich. There was no direct train to Cambridge in 1922.
What is now referred to as the Snailwell loop was later abandoned, probably some time in the 1930s or 40s. If, as I hope will be the case (and sooner rather than later), the short length of track at Snailwell is reinstated, the route from Ely to Cambridge via Soham will be the first such service to use the track for that purpose for over a century. You can go on Google maps Satelite View to see the route of the Snailwell loop.
I have ridden the line from Haughley Junction via Bury to Cambridge, but I the line past Soham is one of the few stretches of railway line in East Anglia that I have never used; another is from Ely to Kings Lynn via Downham Market. To make up for these gaps in my knowledge of the lineside I have been from Dereham to Kings Lynn via Swaffham, from Holt to Melton Constable, from North Walsham to Mundesley and from Lynn to Snetisham. All these lines closed fifty years or more ago. Now that the powers that be are reopening lines and stations that were closed in the sixties there is plenty of scope to reopened lines in East Anglia! I wonder if we will ever see any of the lines reconnected to the railway network? At least we are now seeing stations reopened, but painfully slowly; first Needham Market, and then more than forty years later Soham. I hope it will not take another forty years before another station is reopened. [I have a suggestion for the next station to have a passenger service restored – Middleton Towers near Kings Lynn. It still has a freight service to the nearby sandpit, and would be a first step in reopening the line to Swaffham.)
The cost of the single platform station will be whopping £22million. I think a large part of the sum will be the footbridge. Even so it will have no lifts for the disabled. This stepped footbridge will replace a nearby foot crossing which will make the railway safer. This bridge will also be needed when the stretch of line is doubled, to allow people to cross to the second platform. This further improvement will happen in the near future, sooner the Snailwell loop, which is not even certain.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA