Gainsborough Line

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Gainsborough Line
Type Heavy rail
System National Rail
Locale Essex, Suffolk
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Greater Anglia
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Gainsborough Line
miles/chains from London Liverpool Street
Stour Valley Railway (closed)
58m 34ch Sudbury
53m 45ch Bures
Colne Valley and Halstead Railway (closed)
50m 18ch Chappel and Wakes Colne
Chappel viaduct
To Colchester
46m 55ch Marks Tey Jn
46m 49ch Marks Tey
Great Eastern Main Line to London

The Gainsborough Line is the marketing name of the Sudbury Branch Line, a single track railway line running through the rural area between Sudbury and Marks Tey in England. Prior to the Beeching Axe the line, known as the Stour Valley Railway also served Cambridge, Long Melford, Clare and Haverhill. The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.10 and is classified as a rural line.[1]


The Stour Valley Railway opened on 9 August 1865 running from Cambridge via Shelford, Long Melford, Clare and Haverhill to join the current line from Sudbury to Marks Tey. The Shelford to Sudbury section was closed on 6 March 1967 as part of the Beeching Axe.

In December 2006 the line was designated as a "Community Railway"[2] by the Transport Minister, and is part of the Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership.[3] The line is named after the painter Thomas Gainsborough who was born in Sudbury, and used to be named the Lovejoy Line, after the BBC television series filmed in the Sudbury area. All passenger services on the line are operated by Greater Anglia, which runs an approximately hourly shuttle service seven days a week. Only one train each day is extended to/from Colchester.

During July 2005 the line received around £3 million of investment, which saw around 5 miles (8 km) of old jointed track replaced with new continuous welded rail. August 2006 saw further investment, to replace around 6 miles (10 km) of track, leaving just the Chappel Viaduct and Lamarsh to Sudbury sections in need of modernisation. This work was completed in July 2007.

The Suffolk County Council Public Transport Strategy of February 2006 proposed the creation of an additional station for the line, at Great Cornard, approximately 1 mile (2 km) from Sudbury station.

It was designated by the Department for Transport as a community rail line in November 2006.

Official posters appeared at all stations on the line shortly before the Summer 2008 timetable came into effect on Sunday 18 May, advising travellers that the 1922 and 2008 services from Sudbury would be request stop at the intermediate statons. However, as of the 2012 timetable,[4] all services are advertised as stopping at all stations without being request stops.

Notable sights[edit]

Viaduct at Chappel

The line runs across the Chappel viaduct, which has 30 arches each with a 35 ft. span with a maximum height of 75 ft. and was the longest viaduct on the Great Eastern Railway.[5] The East Anglian Railway Museum is located alongside the Chappel and Wakes Colne railway station.


The line is single track for its whole length, has a loading gauge of W6, and a line speed of 50 mph.[1] Unlike other branch lines in the area, such as the Braintree branch and Harwich branch, the Gainsborough Line is not electrified and so trains are formed of British Rail Class 153 and Class 156 diesel multiple units.


On 17 August 2010, the Little Cornard derailment occurred when a Class 156 diesel multiple unit collided with a road vehicle on a level crossing at Little Cornard, Suffolk.


External links[edit]