Saxmundham station has been vital for East Suffolk rail line

Trevor Garrod

Trevor Garrod is Chair of ESTA and has been a long-term campaigner for better public transport. - Credit: Paul Geater

The formal reopening of Saxmundham railway station was a significant development for a town and community that has an important role in the past - and the future - of the East Suffolk line.

Among the guests at the reopening of the £1.3million station was Trevor Garrod from the East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA), which had a key role in saving the line from the threat of closure under the Beeching axe of the mid-1960s.

Saxmundham station

Saxmundham station has been rebuilt after the fire in 2018. - Credit: Paul Geater

It was in Saxmundham's White Hart pub that ESTA was formed - and the hearing that finally decided to reprieve the line was held in the town's Market Hall.

Mr Garrod said: "I wasn't able to go to the hearing in 1966 myself because I was a student at university at the time. At the time I was going to university at the beginning of the term, and not knowing if they'd still be a train to take me home at the end!"

The hearing in the early part of that year made recommendations to Minister of Transport Barbara Castle and she decided to save the line from Ipswich to Lowestoft - although the branch from Saxmundham to Leiston and Aldeburgh was not saved and closed later that year.

Since then Saxmundham has become a "hub" station used by passengers from a wide area - Leiston, Aldeburgh, Framlingham and all the villages nearby.

Saxmundham Town Council vice-chair Di Eastman said the station was also vital to the expansion of the town in recent years - and told the opening ceremony it had been a key factor in encouraging her to move there.

Di Eastman and Jonathan Denby

Di Eastman of Saxmundham Town Council with Greater Anglia's Jonathan Denby at the opening of the town's restored station. - Credit: Paul Geater

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She said: "We came here when I retired, and a key factor in that decision was the existence of the station so I knew I'd be able to get about even if I didn't want to drive in later years."

Mr Garrod is now chair of ESTA which campaigns to improve public transport across East Suffolk. He said: "The emphasis has thankfully changed now - we're not worried about the threat of cutting lines - we're looking ahead at how we can get more people to use trains and buses."

In the long term they would like to see passenger trains re-introduced on the Leiston branch, which is still open for freight to Sizewell, with an hourly service from Leiston to Ipswich leading a half-hourly service on the southern half of the line to Woodbridge, Campsea Ashe and Saxmundham.

Bu he accepts that is some way off and would require major investment and new track between Saxmundham and Woodbridge.

The growth of passenger numbers on the line has been significant. Jonathan Denby from Greater Anglia said it was now carrying 110% more passengers since an hourly service was introduced on the route about 10 years ago.