The Anonymous Widower

Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station

I came into Ipswich station today on a train from Lowestoft and took these pictures before I got on a train to London.

They would appear to show the following.

  • An electrified line has been created to the North of Ipswich Yard between the Felixstowe Branch Line and Ipswich station.
  • Some construction on the far side of the siding that lies next to the platform used for Lowestoft and Felixstowe trains.

Could the construction, be tye start of work for a dedicated platform for the Felixstowe Branch?

Consider the following about traffic on the Felixstowe Branch Line.

  • According to this article in Rail Magazine, there are now twenty-three daily freight trains out of Felixstowe.
  • The freight trains are getting longer and I have seen trains hauled by a pair of Class 66 locomotives.
  • Passenger trains are a single-car Class 153 train every hour.
  • The Class 153 train takes twenty-six minutes.
  • The line is around fifteen miles of unelectrified line.
  • The Freightliner motive power depot is going to be moved from Ipswich to Felkixstowe.
  • The December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways is saying that a 1.4 km loop will be built on the branch and six level crossings will be closed.

Despite the last two points, the single track branch line must be very much full.

There are also issues with the Class 153 trains at Ipswich.

  • Do they sometimes find it difficult to get through all the freight trains to the bay platform at Ipswich?
  • Sometimes, they use the end of the main platform 2, but as the Flirts will be longer, this won’t be possible when the new trains arrive.
  • Various reports have said that two bay platforms are needed; one for Felixstowe services and one for Lowestoft services.

We don’t know their actual plans, but Greater Anglia would probably love to put a modern electric train on the Ipswich-Felixstowe route.

Electrification of the Felixstowe Branch is not even likely.

  • Electrification of the Felixstowe Branch without wiring all the way to Nuneaton would probably not be good value for money.
  • Where would Freightliner get all the electric locomotives?
  • The Port of Felixstowe isn’t wired and might not want wires all over the place with cranes everywhere!
  • The Gospel Oak to Barking Line will be electrified and what effects will this have?

The only bright spot on the horizon is Greater Anglia’s new Flirts, which could release fifteen well-maintained and reliable Class 90 locomotives.

A modern two-coach train, even if it was a diesel, would have benefits.

  • It would be faster and thus scheduling the crowded route could be easier.
  • It might attract more passengers to the line, especially, if there was space for bicycles and buggies.
  • It should be more reliable.

But I suspect Greater Anglia would want an electric train with all the trimmings.

So am I right,  that a new electrified line has been created into the station in a place where a new platform can be created?

  • I might be wrong and it could have been there for years to enable the movements of electric locomotives, without blocking the main line.
  • But there are certainly modern style gantries and supports for the overhead wires.
  • The existing bay platform 1 is wired. Why? No current or possible electric services could use the platform.

But something is certainly happening.

  • Is it a new platform or just tidying up?
  • Is it a walkway to enable train drivers to get to locomotives in Ipswich Yard?
  • Is it a short platform to take up to a two-car train?

There is one other possibility, that fits with my observations at Maidenhead and the Marlow Branch, that I wrote about in Bourne End Station And Improving The Marlow Branch Line.

At Maidenhead, I came to the conclusion, that electric trains (Class 387s?) with on-board energy storage were going to be used on the Marlow Branch to Bourne End, with a diesel shuttle between Bourne End and Marlow.

Is the current Platform 1 at Ipswich, which could probably accommodate a five-car Aventra going to be used in the same way?

Consider how an electric train with on-board energy storage, would work the Ipswich-Felixstowe service.

  • I’ll assume that a fully-charged train starts from the new depot at Manningtree or some othe suitable overnight stabling.
  • The train positions early in the morning for the first service from Felixstowe, using  overhead power to Ipswich and on-board power on the branch.
  • Passengers load at Felixstowe and the train proceeds to Ipswich under on-board power to the current Platform 1 at Ipswich.
  • The train would sneak into the platform on the North side of Ipswich Yard, well out of the way of the Great Eastern Main Line and any freight movements.
  • If the platform was busy and the train had to wait at a signal, it could even up pantograph to start the recharging of the on-board storage.
  • Once in Platform 1, the train would either start or continue the charging process.
  • The pantograph would be lowered, when the charging was complete or the train was approaching the limit of the overhead wiring on its way out to Felixstowe.

The process would continue all day.

But Aventras will be a clever train. This is a snippet from an article in the Derby Telegraph.

Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.

So could we see a train parked at Felixstowe overnight, ready for the driver to get into a nice warm train?

I used to live round the corner from Felixstowe station and as the train would be in full view of the Police Station opposite and electrifically dead, I doubt there would be any security problem.

A five-car Aventra parked overnight with an appropriate all-over paint scheme might even encourage new passengers to give it a try.

Obviously, the suitable Aventra doesn’t exist yet, but putting in a new short platform 0 at Ipswich station, that can accept a three-car train, would mean.

  • Platform 2 would no longer be needed for terminating trains at Ipswich.
  • Twelve-car Flirts could work the London-Norwich services, without terminating services interfering.
  • Felixstowe and Lowestoft services would have a short platform 0 and a longer platform 1, to use appropriately.
  • The infrastructure would be ready for the Aventra with on-board storage.

But surely the biggest advantage is that a second bay platform would probably be to make it possible to schedule all trains such that if passengers were changing between the various lines to Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge, Felixstowe, London, Lowestoft and Norwich, it was a convenient process of less than ten minutes.

Whether an Aventra with on-board storage will ever appear on this route is unknown at present, but there could be other advantages to running such a train on the Felixstowe Branch.


  • Electrification of the branch can be kicked into some very long grass or buried at sea.
  • The branch gets a massive increase in passenger capacity, without losing any paths for freight trains.
  • The extra capacity with plenty of space for bicycles and buggies.
  • Greater Anglia get a line for training drivers to use on-board storage.
  • Bombardier get a  demonstration of a train with on-board energy storage.

It could be a win for all parties.






November 24, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,


  1. […] In Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I wondered what was happening on the far side of Platform 1 in the station. […]

    Pingback by A Good Look At Platform 1 At Ipswich Station And The Work To The North « The Anonymous Widower | November 26, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] In Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I described how the current five-car Platform 1 has been electrified and given an electrified route of a few hundred metres to the Felixstowe Branch Line. […]

    Pingback by The Definitive Branch Line For An Electric Train With On Board Energy Storage « The Anonymous Widower | November 27, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] my observations at Ipswich that I wrote about in Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I am convinced that they have simplified track layout around Ipswich Freight Yard so that freight […]

    Pingback by Along The Felixstowe Branch « The Anonymous Widower | November 27, 2016 | Reply

  4. […] Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I questioned if construction had started on a Platform 0 at Ipswich […]

    Pingback by Work Has Finished Behind Platform 1 At Ipswich Station « The Anonymous Widower | March 5, 2017 | Reply

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