Multi-million pound Soham station reopening leads to fresh calls for better Newmarket rail services
The re-opening of Soham station on Monday has seen renewed calls for improvements to Newmarket’s passenger rail services.
Soham was reconnected to the nation’s railway network for the first time in 56 years after a £18.6 million new station was opened.
“I believe it can act as a springboard for enhancing rail services in our area by helping us make the case for re-instating the loop near Newmarket which could provide a direct rail service between Ely, Soham, Newmarket and Cambridge,” said MP Lucy Frazer, whose constituency includes part of the town.
And Newmarket rail campaigner Frances Stanley, who was at the station opening in her role as deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, said: “I hope that when the people of Soham get over their excitement of having their station back, pressure will mount for a more regular service to Cambridge and to get more trains we have to re-dual the line between Newmarket and Cambridge.”
Mrs Stanley was one of a group of representatives of Newmarket’s racing and business community, MPs and councillors, who joined forces two years ago to put pressure on Network Rail to invest more in the town’s passenger rail services.
Newmarket Racecourses boss and East Cambridgeshire district councillor Amy Starkey said investment in Newmarket’s rail infrastructure was vital to make the town more accessible for the community and for visitors.
Currently Newmarket, which once had three stations, has one train an hour leaving for Cambridge, with frequency limited by the single line which exists between the town and the city.
The opening of the new station at Soham is the realisation of a long campaign to rebuild the station which was closed and demolished in the mid 1960s.
Former mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer, who was one of the driving forces behind the project, said: “I hope that next we will see an hourly service and direct trains to London via Newmarket. I am proud of my role in helping to bring this project to the town.”
More than 100 people turned out to see the official opening ceremony for the station, the unveiling of two plaques, and the award of three prizes to local school children for designing posters.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “Welcome to our, and your, new station. We are at the start of something life-changing for this town, because connectivity is a key to life, a key to freedom and a key to attracting visitors.
“My congratulations to everyone involved in this special enterprise. We have created an asset of lasting value to this community and its future generations – opening a door to opportunity..”
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, added: “We’re proud to be the train operator serving Soham with our high quality new bi-mode trains and to be the operator responsible for managing the new station. It’s not often that new stations are opened and even rarer that they are served by new state-of-the-art trains.”
The station, which was built by Network Rail, will be managed by Greater Anglia as part of the Ipswich to Peterborough route and was built with funding from Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) at a cost of £18.6 million.
Work on the station began in autumn of last year with construction commencing in the spring of this year.
The two plaques mark the opening of the station and the heroism of railway workers involved in Soham’s 1944 railway disaster in which a train’s wagon, containing heavy ammunitions exploded.
Train driver Benjamin Gimbert and fireman James Nightall ensured that the burning wagon was detached from the rest of the ammunition-bearing wagons and driven away before exploding at Soham station.
A signalman, Frank Bridges, along with Nightall, were killed, while Gimbert was seriously injured.
Nightall and Gimbert were later awarded the George Cross.
The awards for best poster were presented at the ceremony, with Jasmine Steward, of The Shade Primary School, Eve Rovery, of The Weatheralls Primary, and Khloe Willett of St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School, winning the competition.
Ellie Burrows, route director for Network Rail Anglia, was quick to thank the community for their patience during the construction works and praised the team spirit of those involved.
“I want to thank the community of Soham for being involved in those project and for their patience as we’ve been working,” she said.
“It’s important to point out that the project would not have possible without the close cooperation of the CPCA, Greater Anglia, the community, Network Rail Anglia, construction contractor J Murphy and Sons Ltd and everyone involved.”
Soham’s MP, Lucy Frazer, said: “I am delighted Soham station has reopened.
“This project is a fantastic example of the quick delivery of public transport infrastructure that will benefit this local community.”