Soham – Britain’s Newest Railway Station

Sunday 12th December 2021, as usual for the second Sunday in December, was timetable change day on Britain’s railways. Along with the second Sunday in May, this is the time that generally any major changes to services are introduced and if it was to fall around that time anyway, any new stations would open. As such, Soham, Britain’s newest station (at the time of writing) was scheduled to open on the 12th December.

Soham’s brand new station sign

However, in the true style of Britain’s railways, despite the station officially being open from Sunday 12th, it did not see any services until Monday 13th as the line between Ely and Bury St. Edmunds, where Soham is located, was closed for engineering works. Tying in nicely with another trip that I had planned (that’ll be coming soon on the blog), I decided to pay Soham a visit, arriving on the first eastbound service the station had seen in over 60 years.

Originally opened in 1879 by the Ely and Newmarket Railway, the station operated without incident until the Second World War. On 2nd June 1944 a munitions train carrying high explosives caught fire and exploded, killing the fireman and guard, damaging more than 700 buildings and destroying the station. Having been rebuilt, the station then lasted until September 1965 when it was closed to passengers. The line remained open to both passenger and freight services, connecting the Port of Felixstowe to the East Coast Mainline and Midlands.

The second westbound service to call at Soham

The campaign for a new station essentially started when the old one was closed, however gained momentum in 2011 when Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) provided funding for a study into reopening. A new station gained even more traction in 2013 when Network Rail included it in their five-year upgrade plan for the area. Unsuccessful in gaining funding via the New Stations Fund, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, along with CCC provided the funding for the design and delivery of the station.

Despite dual tracking starting just a few hundred meters south, the station was built on the site of the previous one, on a single-track section of the line. As such the station has a single, 100m long platform which allows both Greater Anglia’s three and four-car class 755s to serve Soham. Some future proofing has been included, with a footbridge providing access to a public right of way including space for both dual tracking, electrification and the addition of lifts.

The station approach with motorcycle parking to the left and the car park just visible

Greater Anglia are the only operator to currently serve the station with one train every two hours in each direction between Peterborough and Ipswich. Campaigners are hoping for the reinstatement on the Snailwell loop which would allow the introduction of services from Soham to Cambridge, however this would require much more widespread works to prevent an adverse impact on the key freight corridor.

The station itself is one of the standard modern, low-key local stations, and includes LED displays, ticket machines, help points and bus shelters as waiting areas. The station has also been built with cycle parking, a drop off point and a 50-space car park, however no bus stop. This prevents what would be a sensible next step in integrating transport in the area, by diverting the bus route that runs through Soham to serve the station.

Looking down the platform in the Ely direction

Its great that a new station had been built at Soham and I understand the need for a basic design to allow these to happen. However, I do wish we had a much more ambitious railway improvement policy which would have allowed for the double tracking, electrification and increase in services on the line at the same time.

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