Network Rail improving Suffolk line that has no regular train services

The former Leiston railway station in 2016 - now private homes.

The former Leiston railway station in 2016 - now private homes. - Credit: Archant

Engineers from Network Rail have been working hard repairing and improving track on one of the region’s least-known rail lines – a route with no regular trains.

The Sizewell branch which runs for about five miles from the East Suffolk Line north of Saxmundham station was originally part of the Aldeburgh branch line.

That was closed in 1966 following the publication of the Beeching Report, but most of the line remained open for freight to carry trains of nuclear waste from Sizewell A power station.

It was also used during the construction of Sizewell B and the decommissioning of Sizewell A – although the waste from Sizewell B is stored on site and not taken away to Sellafield for reprocessing.

The line has not seen regular trains for more than two years – but it is technically still open and Network Rail engineers are regularly seen carrying out maintenance work.

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It would be used again if Sizewell C is built, but at present the only use is stabling Network Rail engineering trains during the day if they are working in the area at night.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said because the line was still open it had to be maintained – and safety rules said there had to be staff keeping a lookout for trains even though none were scheduled.

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Local residents had wondered whether the line was being used to train Network Rail track engineers – but this was not the case.

She said: “This is a line that is open to traffic and we have to keep it open for trains that need to do it. But we have to do that in a safe way for our staff.

“We know it might seem strange for people who do not often see trains there at present but it could become busier again in the future and it has to be kept in good condition.”

The provisional plans for Sizewell C power station show the line being extended to take trains nearer to the potential construction site – and there have been calls for it to be reopened for regular passenger trains to Leiston. However Leiston station has been converted into individual houses.

The track will be used by a passenger train next April, however, when a one-off steam special pulls hundreds of enthusiasts along the little-used line.

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