Ipswich to Ely Line

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Ipswich to Ely Line
Type Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Suffolk
East of England
Termini Ipswich
Opened 26 November 1846
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Abellio Greater Anglia
Character Rural
Rolling stock Class 153 "Sprinter"
Class 156 "Sprinter"
Class 170 "Turbostar"
Line length ~24 mi (39 km)
No. of tracks Two
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Ipswich-Cambridge/Ely Line
Fen Line
Ely and St Ives Railway
Ely Dock Jn
River Great Ouse
Cambridge and
Huntingdon railway
Cambridge Science Park (proposed)
Soham Lode
River Cam
Barnwell Junction
Fen Ditton Halt
Coldham Lane Jn
Bottisham and Lode
Varsity Line
Swaffham Prior
Cambridge Line
West Anglia Main Line
Exning Road Halt
to Mildenhall
Cambridge to
Newmarket and
Mildenhall railway
Chesterford Railway
Six Mile Bottom
Newmarket (High Level)
Warren Hill
Warren Hill tunnel
Newmarket Warren Hill
Chippenham Junction
Saxham & Risby
Bury St Edmunds
Long Melford to Bury
Thetford to Bury
St Edmunds line
St Edmunds line
River Lark
Haughley Road
Great Eastern
Main Line
Light Railway
River Gipping
Needham Market
River Gipping
East Suffolk Line
Great Eastern Main Line

The Ipswich to Ely Line is a railway line linking East Anglia to the English Midlands via Ely. There is also a branch line to Cambridge. Passenger services are operated by Abellio Greater Anglia. It is a part of Network Rail Strategic Route 5, SRS 05.07, 05.08 and part of SRS 07.03.[1]


The Eastern Union Railway had built a line from Colchester to Ipswich and they formed a new company, Ipswich and Bury Railway Company, chaired by John Chevallier Cobbold to build an extension from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds which was known as the "Bury extension". It was granted parliamentary approval by Royal Assent on 21 July 1845 and the first train ran on 26 November 1846. The Ipswich and Bury Railway Company was formally merged with the Eastern Union Railway Company on 9 July 1847.[2]

The 'Newmarket Railway' was built by the Newmarket and Chesterford Railway with the first section from Newmarket to Six Mile Bottom (and on to meet the West Anglia Main Line at Great Chesterford) opened in 1848,[3] followed by a section from Six Mile Bottom to Cambridge in 1851.[4]

The Great Eastern Railway was formed in 1862 acquiring both the Newmarket and Chesterford Railway and the Eastern Union Railway. They opened the final section of the route from Newmarket to Ely and also to Bury St Edmunds in 1879.[5]

Following the grouping of 1923 the lines became part of the London & North Eastern Railway.

In 1948 as a result of nationalization of the railways the route became part of British Railways.


The line shares the route between Ipswich and Haughley junction with the Great Eastern Main Line which is classified as primary line. The section between Haughley junction and Ely is classified as secondary line with the Cambridge branch being classified as rural.

The line from Ipswich to part way between Kennett and Ely is double track with the remainder, plus the Cambridge branch, being single track (with a passing loop at Dullingham). Where the line is separate from the Great Eastern Main Line it is not electrified and has a line speed of between 40-75 mph. It has a loading gauge of W10 between Ipswich and Ely with the Cambridge branch being W8.[1]

Passenger Services[edit]

The Summer 2015 passenger services, both operated by Abellio Greater Anglia, are:

  • Ipswich - Cambridge (hourly)
  • Ipswich - Peterborough (two-hourly)

Some services are extended to Harwich Parkeston Quay.

Proposed developments[edit]

Track doubling between Kennett and Ely[edit]

The line between Kennett and Ely will be doubled as part of the Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme.[6]


Soham rail disaster[edit]

The Soham rail disaster where an ammunition train exploded during World War II occurred on 2 June 1944.

Freight train derailment June 2007[edit]

All traffic on the line was suspended for six months following a freight train derailed on the bridge over the River Great Ouse between Ely and Soham on 22 June 2007. The bridge was severely damaged and closed to all traffic[7] while it was rebuilt. Rail replacement buses operated between Bury St Edmunds, Ely, March, Whittlesey and Peterborough for the duration until the section of line re-opened on 21 December 2007[citation needed]. (See also Railways in Ely)


  1. ^ a b "Route 5 - West Anglia" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  2. ^ "THE HISTORY OF THURSTON RAILWAY STATION". Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  3. ^ Allen, Cecil J. (1956) [1955]. The Great Eastern Railway (2nd ed.). Hampton Court: Ian Allan. pp. 37–38. 
  4. ^ Allen 1956, pp. 44–45
  5. ^ "FORDHAM". British History online. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  6. ^ "Enhancements programme: statement of scope, outputs and milestones" (PDF). Network Rail. 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  7. ^ BBC News (23 June 2007). "Derailed train moved from track". Retrieved 2007-07-10.