Breckland Line

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Breckland Line
Norwich railway station.jpg
Norwich is the eastern terminus of the line
Type Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale East of England
Termini Norwich
Stations 12
Opened 1845
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Abellio Greater Anglia
East Midlands Trains
Great Northern
Character Secondary[1]
Rolling stock Class 153/156
Class 158
Class 170
Track length 51 miles 8 chains (82.2 km)
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Loading gauge W10
Electrification 25 kV AC (between Cambridge and Ely)
Operating speed 75-90mph
Route map
Preserved British Railways Standard 7MT 70013 Oliver Cromwell travelling down the line near Hethersett in 2010 hauling a special train bound for the North Norfolk Railway.

The Breckland Line is a secondary railway line in the east of England that links Cambridge in the west to Norwich in the east. The line runs through three counties: Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk. It takes its name from the Breckland region of Norfolk, and also notably passes through Thetford Forest.

The line is 51 miles 8 chains (82.2 km) in length from where it branches off the Fen Line north of Ely to where it joins the Great Eastern Main Line south of Norwich. There are 12 stations on the line including the termini.

The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 5, SRS 05.09 and part of SRS 05.05. It is classified as a secondary line, except between Cambridge and Ely, which is classified as a London and South East commuter line.[1] Passenger services on the Breckland Line are operated by Abellio Greater Anglia (which manages all of the stations), CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains, and Great Northern.


The Norwich & Brandon Railway was incorporated in 1844 and backed by George and Robert Stephenson. It was opened as the Norfolk Railway on 30 July 1845.

The Eastern Counties Railway opened its route from Cambridge via Ely to Brandon on the same day.[2]


The line is double-track throughout but is only electrified between Cambridge and Ely, at 25 kV AC. It has a loading gauge of W8, except for the section connecting the Ipswich to Ely Line to the Ely to Peterborough Line which is W10. The line speed ranges between 40 and 90 mph.[1]

Until 2012 the line retained its historic characteristics, with well preserved stations, semaphore signalling and, until spring 2009, lineside telegraph poles, along with sections of jointed rail on wooden sleepers. However, the two stage Ely-Norwich re-signalling programme in August and December 2012 involved the closure of the nine local mechanical signal boxes and removal of the seven sets of manually-operated wooden gates at level crossings. The Cambridge signal box now controls the modern electronic interlockings which operate the lightweight LED signals, while the level crossings have been fully automated with barriers and warning lights.


The places served by the route are listed below, with Ordnance Survey grid references for the stations:

Place Station and grid reference
Norwich Norwich: TG239083
Wymondham Wymondham: TG114009
Spooner Row Spooner Row: TM094974
Attleborough Attleborough: TM051950
Eccles and Quidenham Eccles Road: TM018900
East Harling Harling Road: TL977879
Thetford Thetford: TL867836
Brandon Brandon: TL784872
Lakenheath Lakenheath: TL723863
Shippea Hill and Prickwillow Shippea Hill: TL641841
Ely Ely: TL543793
Cambridge Cambridge: TL461572


Some of the stations on the Breckland Line see just one stopping train in each direction per day, mostly in the Norwich direction in the morning and in the Cambridge direction in the afternoon or evening. Three stations on the line are request stops only: Spooner Row, Lakenheath and Shippea Hill.

Passenger services are operated by several companies:


  1. ^ a b c "Route 5 - West Anglia" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  2. ^ "Station history". Wymondham Station. Retrieved 2009-05-04.