Saturday 1 April 2017

East Suffolk Line To Become Busway

News has reached me of a quite amazing development in the future of the East Suffolk Line. If Sizewell does get the green light, it has been proposed that the East Suffolk Line be turned into a guided bus and lorry road. It will be a joint venture with EDF Energy, Network Rail, Greater Anglia and Suffolk County Council. The plans are as follows:

  • The East Suffolk Line including Sizewell to become a Guided Busway, with appropriately equipped HGV's to be permitted on the Busway between Sizewell and Martlesham/A12
  • A spur from the Busway at Martlesham where current railway passes under the A12 so Sizewell C construction traffic can access the A12 where it is dualled without having to travel through local villages or the single carriageway section of the A12. Plans include Park & Ride site for Sizewell workers.
  • The section of line between Westerfield and Bacon Curve will be widened, including new bridges so current Felixstowe traffic unaffected. 
  • Platform 1 at Ipswich will be converted to Busway to provide direct link and transfer between Busway and National Rail. The buses will then continue into Central Ipswich. It is envisaged at the Lowestoft end of the Busway buses will continue from Lowestoft Station into Lowestoft and beyond. 
  • It is expected local buses will link up with the Busway at hubs in Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Halesworth and Beccles so as many people as possible have access to the fast buses.
  • Integrated fares with National Rail will be available so commuters using both guided bus and train will not be adversely affected financially.

Could it really happen?
The reasons for this project are explained thus. It works out cheaper to convert the ESL to busway than restore the Sizewell branch to full working capacity, coping with large amounts of traffic. There has been local opposition to the amount of extra road traffic including many extra lorries and construction worker's cars. Financial incentives will be given to workers to leave their cars and use the Busway to get to work. This will negate the need for the A12 to be developed, including bypasses and huge P&R sites which will just increase the traffic.

Who'd have thought it!
So who will be operating the services? This is yet to be decided as the decision to build Sizewell C has not yet been finalised. However, a certain operator's eyes lit up at the thought, and kindly agreed to show us what the destination might look like.

A Gemini up the ESL?
So what do I think of this? Mixed feelings but can't help thinking it actually makes sense. Railways are costly to maintain and operate. The East Suffolk Line isn't the fastest around and buses will actually be able to reduce journey times considerably. Restoring the whole line to two way traffic will mean a much increased service pattern, and will do wonders for tourism too. With the dawn of electric buses it could become the greenest transport system around.

Taking the threat of all the extra traffic from the construction of Sizewell C will go down very well with residents of places such as Yoxford, and Leiston will benefit greatly from the new faster services which should help property prices and encourage investment.

Obviously there will be some who vehemently oppose these plans. The ESL holds many memories for a lot of people, but I think this plan actually secures the route's future for generations to come, and means it won't just be abandoned to grow over if the money to maintain it runs out. I'll miss the test trains, but the reduced travelling times, and cheaper fares, which are essential, should see the route gain in popularity, and like the Cambridge Busway, attract enthusiasts to the area in their droves.

All that is now required is Sizewell C to be built. I hope it is. Then sights like this may become reality.

Can't wait!
My thanks to Andrew and Colin at Borderbus for their help with the pics, and I have a feeling sights are already being set for the future!


  1. Congratulations on the new job as Suffolk County Council's Transport Supremo by the way! Though knowing Suffolk the letter might still be on its way.

    1. Not a chance - I have far too much imagination and vision for that role!

  2. Andrew Kleissner3 April 2017 at 23:03

    Reminds me of Simon Knott's splendid Ipswich Underground spoof a few years ago:

  3. Joking apart a Busway could be a sensible solution to reopening the Stour Valley line to Camberidge. Using Trolleybuses with laser guidence would be the most sensible and cost effective solution

  4. Thomas Browne) Best idea we've seen for years. Question is will it actually happen fingers crossed!