Gainsborough line

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Gainsborough line
Chappel Viaduct and Green.jpg
The Chappel viaduct carries a section of the Gainsborough line
Type Community rail
System National Rail
Locale Essex and Suffolk
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Greater Anglia
Line length 11 miles 71 chains (19.1 km)
Number of tracks 1
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Gainsborough Line
Stour Valley Railway
58-36 Sudbury
Mill Tye
53-45 Bures
Old Barn Road
Colne Valley & Halstead Rly
50-18 Chappel & Wakes Colne
Chappel viaduct
46-49 Marks Tey
Marks Tey junction
Great Eastern Main Line
UpperLeft arrow to London • to Norwich LowerRight arrow

The Gainsborough line is the current marketing name of the Sudbury branch line, a railway branch line off the Great Eastern Main Line in the east of England, that links Marks Tey in Essex with Sudbury in Suffolk. It is 11 miles 71 chains (19.1 km) in length and single-track throughout.

Prior to the Beeching cuts initiated in the 1960s, the line, then known as the Stour Valley Railway, continued beyond Sudbury to Shelford in Cambridgeshire. Today the line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.10, and is classified as a rural line.[1]

As of December 2016 the stations and all trains serving them are operated by Greater Anglia. The typical service frequency is one train per hour in each direction, with a timetabled journey time between one terminus and the other of 19 minutes.


The Stour Valley Railway opened on 9 August 1865, linking Shelford near Cambridge with Marks Tey in Essex, with 13 intermediate stations along the line.

The section between Shelford and Sudbury was closed on 6 March 1967 following the Beeching cuts, leaving Bures and Chappel & Wakes Colne as the only stops between the termini.

In 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. Further investment was made in 2006 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 2007.

In 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 current name of the line commemorates the painter Thomas Gainsborough, who was born in Sudbury; the previous name was the Lovejoy line, after the television series Lovejoy, which was filmed in the Sudbury area.

All passenger services on the line are currently operated by Greater Anglia, which runs an hourly service seven days a week, with frequency increasing slightly during peak hours. One train each day is extended to or from Colchester. Greater Anglia are planning to start operating direct services from Sudbury to Colchester and Colchester Town in 2019/2020 using new Stadler Flirt bi-mode trains.[4]

Notable sights[edit]

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 station at Chappel & Wakes Colne.


The line is single track throughout, has a loading gauge of W6, and a maximum speed of 50 mph.[1] Unlike other branches in the area, such as the Braintree branch line and Mayflower line to Harwich Town, the Gainsborough line is not electrified and so trains are formed of Class 153 and Class 156 diesel units.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 12 July 1887 one person was killed at Bures when part of a runaway train collided with a crossing gate.[6]
  • On 27 January 2006 at least four passengers were slightly injured when a Class 156 train ran into the buffer stop at Sudbury. The 6:05 pm service from Marks Tey was travelling at a speed at the time of the collision of approximately six miles per hour. An investigation determined that the driver failed to apply the brakes in a "timely and appropriate manner".[7]
  • On 17 August 2010 the Little Cornard derailment occurred when the 5:31 pm service from Sudbury collided with a lorry that had entered a level crossing without permission. The train driver and four passengers were seriously injured in the accident.


External links[edit]