Breckland Line

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Breckland Line
Spooner Row Railway Station.jpg
Spooner Row
Type Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale East of England (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk)
Termini Norwich
Stations 13
Opened 1845
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Abellio Greater Anglia
East Midlands Trains
Great Northern
Character Secondary[1]
Rolling stock Class 153/156 (Irregular)
Class 158
Class 170
Track length 53 miles 59 chains (Norwich-Ely)
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

The Breckland Line runs from Cambridge in Cambridgeshire to Norwich in Norfolk, in East Anglia, England. It is so called because it runs through the Breckland region of Norfolk. The line also passes through Thetford Forest. 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 Ely and Cambridge which is classified as London and South East commuter line.[1]

Preserved British_Railways Standard 7MT 70013 Oliver Cromwell at speed heading down the Ely-Norwich line near Hethersett on 11 March 2010 hauling a special train bound for the North Norfolk Railway.


The Norwich & Brandon Railway was incorporated in 1844 and backed by George & Robert Stephenson. It was opened as the Norfolk Railway on 30 July 1845 and Eastern Counties Railway opened a 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, and has a line speed of between 80-105 mph.[1]

Until 2012 the line had very historic feel to it, with its well preserved stations, semaphore signalling and prior to Spring 2009 lineside telegraph poles, along with sections of jointed rail on wooden sleepers (gradually being replaced with many sections now cleared for 90 mph running, with 100 mph being feasible).

However, the two stage Ely-Norwich resignalling in August & December 2012 has meant closure of the nine local mechanical signal boxes and removal of the 7 sets of hand operated wooden gates at level crossings. Cambridge signal box now controls the modern electronic interlockings which operate the lightweight LED signals. The level crossing have been automated and are provided with full barriers and red flashing road lights.


The towns and villages served by the route are listed below (Ordnance Survey grid references for stations):

Places Grid references
Norwich TG239083
Wymondham TG114009
Spooner Row TM094974
Attleborough TM051950
Quidenham (Eccles Road) TM018900
East Harling (Harling Road) TL977879
Thetford TL867836
Brandon TL784872
Lakenheath TL723863
Shippea Hill TL641841
Ely TL543793
Cambridge TL461572


Some of the stations it serves see just one stopping train in each direction per day, mostly in the Norwich direction in the morning and from Norwich in the evening.

Passenger services are operated by several operators.

The line between Cambridge and Ely, part of the Fen Line to King's Lynn, is electrified at 25 kV AC, using overhead wires. The rest of the route between Ely and Norwich is not electrified, other than the final section into Norwich station, after joining with the electrified line from London.


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