Plans to build a new railway station at Soham have progressed to the next stage as Network Rail has submitted an application to East Cambridgeshire District Council for permitted development rights to build it. The move follows the announcement in September 2019 of an £18.6 million funding package from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA).
Reopening Soham station, on the Ely to Newmarket line, will provide residents and local businesses with better connections and support more investment as part of the council’s vision for the wider area.
The previous station was closed in 1965, although the line remained open. As the new station is proposed to be constructed on existing Network Rail land, permitted development rights apply, which allow Network Rail to build the station without the need to submit a full planning application.
The application for the new station at Soham includes:
- Construction of a single 102-metre platform, to accommodate four-car train services, including waiting shelters, lighting, information screens and a public address system;
- Installation of a stepped footbridge across the railway to connect to an existing public right of way, designed for any future installation of lifts for a potential second platform for any scheme;
- Construction of a drop-off point and a car park to accommodate 50 vehicles and five spaces for blue badge holders, as well as lighting masts;
- Cycle parking and ticket vending machines on the station forecourt.
Subject to gaining the consent required, the construction for the station is currently planned to begin later this year and is expected to be completed in spring 2022.
Train operator Greater Anglia, which will serve the new Soham station, initially using its Ipswich to Peterborough service, has already committed within its franchising agreement to increase the frequency of trains from two-hourly to hourly.
The CPCA’s vision for Soham is that the delivery of a new station will build a much stronger case for the reinstating of the Snailwell loop, which could provide a direct service between Ely, Soham, Newmarket and Cambridge. This could be part of a future scheme.
Network Rail’s Ellie Burrows, route director for Anglia, said: “I am excited that we are taking this next step to make Soham station a reality in partnership with the Combined Authority.
“Providing a new station will re-establish that relationship with the Soham community that was lost in the 1960s and I can’t wait to forge a new future together for the benefit of Soham.”
The original 1879 station building was destroyed in 1944 when a munitions train exploded, killing two people and damaging 700 buildings, including the station’s signal box. A fire had broken out on the leading wagon and, rather than run for cover, the train crew detached the burning wagon from the rest of the train and started to pull it clear of the remaining wagons, which contained a total of 400 tonnes of high-explosive bombs.
While the locomotive and the burning wagon were still alongside the station platform, the wagon’s load of 44 500lb (227kg) bombs blew up. Fireman James Nightall died instantly while signaller Frank Bridges, who had been on the platform, died the following day. Driver Benjamin Gimbert was badly injured but guard Herbert Clarke, although dazed by the blast, walked to the next signal box to warn the signaller there and close the line.
As well as destroying the station building, the explosion left a crater 66 feet across and 15 feet deep (20 metres diameter x 4.6 metres deep). Despite this, the line was reopened 18 hours later.
Benjamin Gimbert (41) and James Nightall (22) were both awarded the George Cross for their bravery in preventing the rest of the train from exploding and almost certainly causing further loss of life.