Ipswich railway station is on the Great Eastern Main Line in the East of England, serving the town of Ipswich, Suffolk. It is 68 miles 59 chains (110.6 km) down the line from London Liverpool Street [2] and on the main line it is situated between Manningtree to the south and Needham Market to the north.

Ipswich is also the terminus of the East Suffolk Line to Lowestoft, a branch line to Felixstowe, and a branch line to Ely, Cambridgeshire. Its three-letter station code is IPS.

The station is currently operated by Greater Anglia, who also operate all trains serving it, as part of the East Anglia franchise.


The Eastern Union Railway (EUR) opened its first terminus in Ipswich, called Ipswich Stoke Hill, in 1846 on Station Road at the other end of the current tunnel close to the old quay for the steamboats and the aptly named Steamboat Tavern. The Ipswich Steam Navigation Company had been formed in 1824/25 during a period of "steamship mania" and briefly offered services from the quay between Ipswich and London calling at Walton-on-the-Naze. [3]

The current station is just to the north of Stoke tunnel, which was constructed as part of the Ipswich to Ely Line which opened as far as St. Edmunds in late 1846.

The station was re-sited to its present location in 1860 and the main building was thought to be principally the work of Peter Bruff ; who had certainly started the structure. The actual design was in the Italianate style and submitted by architect Sancton Wood (1816-1886) as part of a competition. When the new station was completed, a new road (Princes Street) linking the station to the town was also opened.

By the 1860s the railways in East Anglia were in financial trouble and most were leased to the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). Although they wished to amalgamate formally, they could not obtain government agreement for this until 1862, when the Great Eastern Railway (GER) was formed by the amalgamation. The island platform at Ipswich was added by the GER in 1883.

Ipswich engine shed (shed code 32B) opened in 1846 and was at the south end of Stoke tunnel. It was the third-largest shed in the Great Eastern area during the steam era, after those at Stratford and Cambridge.

At the beginning of World War 1 soldiers of the Norfolk Yeomanry regiment were deployed to Ipswich to guard key railway bridges in the area. They were relieved by the 9th field company Royal Engineers.

In 1923 the GER amalgamated with other railways to form the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).

On 30 April 1932 the LNER arranged an exhibition of railway stock at Ipswich. The show was opened by Sir Arthur Churchman, of tobacco family fame, and over 16,000 visited the show. The proceeds were divided between the Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital and railway charities. The exhibits were (class/wheel arrangement/number/name):

  • 'Hush Hush' W1 class 4-6-4 No. 10000;
  • A1 Class 4-6-2 No. 4476 Royal Lancer with corridor tender and "Flying Scotsman" headboard;
  • Class D49 4-4-0 No. 201 "The Braham Moor". This last locomotive was brand new and had not been in service.

The show also included a sleeping car and a new composite corridor coach.

In 1948 following nationalisation of the railways Ipswich became part of the British Railways Eastern Region.

In the early 1980s the railway through Ipswich was electrified and in May 1985 electric services operated by class 86 locomotives started to operate to London Liverpool Street. At this point the line from Norwich had not been electrified and for a year diesel locomotives were detached and electric locomotives attached at Ipswich (in the London-bound direction and the reverse in the other direction). During 1985-86 the line to Norwich was electrified and through electric working commenced.

The station's original lifts were removed in 1983 when the line was electrified. [4]

Following the privatisation of British Rail, services from Ipswich were operated by Anglia Railways from 1997 until 2004, after which the franchise was won by National Express East Anglia (operating under the 'one' brand, including 'one' Great Eastern and 'one' Anglia, until February 2008). [5]

In the five years between 2004–05 and 2008–09, patronage rose by 50% from 2 million per year to 3 million per year. [2] Ticket barriers were installed in the station building in 2009 and the exit gate on platform 2 was closed permanently.

New lifts, which had been promised for many years since they were removed in 1983 [4] were opened in June 2011. [2] [2]

In October 2011 the Department for Transport awarded the new franchise to Abellio, the services formerly operated by National Express transferring to Greater Anglia in February 2012. Abellio then became responsible for the operation of Ipswich station. [9] [10] [2]


  • Platform 1 is a bay platform for trains to/from Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
  • Platform 2 is used for through-trains to London from Norwich as well as some Felixstowe services.
  • Platform 3 is used for through-trains to Norwich from London as well as some Cambridge services.
  • Platform 4 (4A, 4B and 4C) is used for services to Cambridge and Peterborough, and stopping services to London.

There is an avoiding line between the lines that serve the main through platforms 2 and 3. [2]

Prior to electrification there were two short sidings at the London end of the "up" platform which were used for locomotive changes on up trains when required. [2]

Platforms 3 and 4 can be accessed via the footbridge or lift.

Opposite platform 4 is a stabling point used by Freightliner diesel and electric locomotives. Classes 66, 70, 86 and 90 are the most common, although locomotives of other companies have been known to use the point in the past. For railway photographers, platforms 3 and 4 offer the best views of the stabling point.

The station has extensive facilities including self-service ticket machines, ticket counters, a convenience store, two cafes, a multi-storey car park, taxi stand, bus station and ATMs. The whole stations is now fully accessible, with lifts having been installed in 2011.


Historic overview

Passenger train services to and from Ipswich have always been dominated by the main line to London Liverpool Street however to the north as well as Norwich some services used the East Suffolk Line with trains for Great Yarmouth South Town station or, after that was closed, Lowestoft. Through-trains operated until the 1980s and were briefly revived in the early part of the 21st century although the need for more commuter seats south of Colchester saw these terminating at Ipswich (although occasional workings are extended to Harwich International).

Many minor local stations closed during the 1960s as did branch lines to Framlingham and Aldeburgh. Branch services on the Felixstowe line have, with the exception of the first few years of that line’s existence, started for Ipswich as have local stopping services on the East Suffolk, Norwich and Cambridge lines. One interesting working in the 1920s and 1930s was a train that operated from Sheffield via Worksop, Spalding, March and Ely to Felixstowe during the summer months. [3]

By far the most interesting working was the “Boat Train” which operated between Harwich Parkeston Quay and various destinations until the 1990s. The privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s saw this service terminated at Peterborough. Another long-distance working was from Colchester to York via Lincoln which ran for a number of years. [3]

Throughout the steam era trains were predominantly hauled by Great Eastern Railway locomotives and indeed when steam ended in Suffolk in 1960 some of these locomotives were still operated. After the grouping of 1923, LNER designed locomotives were also employed in the area with the B17 4-6-0 class working many main line services. After nationalisation in 1948 British Railways introduced the Britannia class 4-6-2 class which worked main line services until succeeded by diesels in the late 1950s.

Eastward view, showing Stoke tunnel

East Anglia was the first area to be worked completely by diesel trains with Class 40s taking over main line express workings. The first one of these ran in June 1958 complete with a headboard with the wording "First Diesel Hauled train on the GE in public service". [3] These were succeeded by Class 37 and Class 47 up until electrification in the 1980s when Class 86 and then Class 90 locomotives took over.

Local services in the diesel era were worked by Diesel Multiple Units although smaller diesel locomotives such as Class 31 worked local trains such as Ipswich - Birmingham during the 1980s.

Former train operating company Anglia Railways ran services known as London Crosslink from Norwich to Basingstoke via Stratford. This service started in 2000 and ended in 2002 and employed British Rail Class 170 DMUs.

Current timetable

The following services typically call at Ipswich: [3]

Operator Route Rolling stock Frequency
Greater Anglia London Liverpool Street - Colchester - Manningtree - Ipswich - Diss - Norwich Class 90 + Mark 3 Coaching Stock 1x per hour
Greater Anglia London Liverpool Street - Stratford - Chelmsford - Colchester - Manningtree - Ipswich - Stowmarket - Diss - Norwich Class 90 + Mark 3 Coaching Stock 1x per hour
Greater Anglia London Liverpool Street - Stratford - Shenfield - Chelmsford - Hatfield Peverel - Witham - Kelvedon - Marks Tey - Colchester - Manningtree - Ipswich Class 360, Class 321 1x per hour
Greater Anglia Ipswich - Stowmarket - Bury St. Edmunds - Ely - March - Whittlesea - Peterborough Class 156, Class 170 Every 2 hours
Greater Anglia Ipswich - Needham Market - Stowmarket - Elmswell - Thurston - Bury St. Edmunds - Kennett - Newmarket - Dullingham - Cambridge Class 156, Class 170 1x per hour
Greater Anglia ( Harwich International -) Ipswich - Westerfield - Woodbridge - Melton - Wickham Market - Saxmundham - Darsham - Halesworth - Brampton - Beccles - Oulton Broad South - Lowestoft Class 156, Class 170 1x per hour
Greater Anglia Ipswich - Westerfield - Derby Road - Trimley - Felixstowe Class 153 1x per hour

Goods facilities

Ipswich has a number of goods facilities and a myriad of private sidings as well as extensive railways in the docks.

Upper Yard

This is located between Ipswich and East Suffolk Junction on the east side of the line. The yard is still active (as of 2013) with Freightliner (container) trains recessing or running round before running to/from the docks at Felixstowe.

In the past a branch from this yard ran down and across Ranelagh Road, crossed the River Gipping to Ipswich lower yard and the eastern part of Ipswich docks but traffic ceased in circa 1990. The remains of the branch line are still visible today (2013).

In the main yard a transhipment shed existed for a number of years where small consignments were transferred between wagons; there was no public access to this facility, which closed in 1951.

Local and regional freight trains serving local stations as well as the other goods facilities in the Ipswich area were re-marshalled in this yard. Regional destinations included Goodmayes and Temple Mills in London and Whitemoor (March) in Cambridgeshire.

Ranelagh Road sidings

Another branch further to the north crossed over Ranelagh Road to a headshunt and then served a warehouse. This was built circa 1920 and was at one time going to be a new route into Ipswich docks avoiding the level crossing on the other branch. The warehouse served a number of companies including Boots, J Lyons & Co, McFarLanes Biscuits, and Swift and Co. The site was also used to dump redundant permanent way materials and in the 1970s travelling circuses used the site.

The bridge was demolished in 1967 and an abutment remains (in 2013). The rest of this site has been redeveloped with retail facilities.

Lower Yard

This yard contained a wooden goods shed where goods for the town were loaded or unloaded. Cattle pens were also located close to this yard (traffic ceased in the 1960s) and there was a siding to Constantine Road power station. A small engine shed was located in this area for locomotives that worked in the docks (although they were officially allocated to Ipswich engine shed). At the east end of the yard the railway lines crossed over Bridge Street (which until the 1980s was the first road [3] crossing over the River Orwell) and from 1903 there was a tram line necessitating special signaling arrangements between the two systems.

In the latter part of the 20th century a construction terminal and a British Oxygen Company terminal were also located in this area. Most of the site has now been redeveloped into retail premises.

Ipswich docks

The docks were served by a myriad of dockside lines which fell out of use during the 1990s although some remnants of the dockside lines are still evident today.

This was built as a branch off the Bury line in 1848 crossing the River Gipping adjacent to the station and served the northern side of the docks area . The town corporation would not allow steam engines to pass over Stoke Bridge so the dockside tramway was worked by horses until the corporation relented in 1880. However even then the locomotives had to be fitted with animal guards and side valances, an arrangement that continued until 9 May 1969. [3]

An early customer of this line was a carriage building company called Quadling. Initially starting business as Catt and Quadling they built a number of carriages for the Eastern Union Railway at a works in Handford Road, Ipswich. This premises which had no railway access was blown down in a gale in February 1847 damaging several carriages under construction and after that Catt withdrew from the rail side of the business but continued making road carts. Quadling relocated to new premises (located in the modern day Quadling Street in Ipswich) and had a siding off the branch. The company built further carriages for the EUR and Great Western Railway as well as some coal wagons. However this premises also suffered significant gale damage in February 1863 leading to Quadling becoming bankrupt. [3]

Ipswich Lower Goods Yard was constructed by the ECR on this line in 1860. [3]

After 1880 the lines were worked by small locomotives with enclosed wheels such as J70 tram engines. The dockside tramways covered both sides of the dock and crossed the 1881 lock gates at the south end of the dock. Freight was switched between trains and ships on the dockside.

Sidings were provided for the following businesses (list not complete or date specific):

  • Fisons (fertiliser)
  • Packards (fertiliser)
  • Esso/Shell/National Benzole/BP (Oil)
  • Tolly Cobbold (Brewery)
  • Cliff Quay Power station (which closed in 1983)
  • Ipswich Gas works
  • Cranfields (Mill)
  • William Brown (Timber)

Freight traffic to the docks ceased when freightliner (container) and grain traffic to Cliff Quay ceased in 1992.

East Suffolk Junction

This is where the main line for Norwich and the East Suffolk Line split. There were industrial sidings serving Eastern Counties Farmers, Petters (Ipswich) Limited and Manganese Bronze and Brass. These companies had their own locomotives which worked to and from the upper yard.

An extensive site with loading and unloading platforms was developed in 1934 to serve the needs of the 1934 Royal Agricultural Show which was held on 3–7 July 1934 at Chantry Park. A civil engineers depot was developed here afterwards.

in 2013 it was suggested that this area will be the site of the locomotive fuelling point which will be relocated from the station. However no such move had materialised in by the end of 2015.

Sproughton Sugar Beet Factory

A British Sugar Corporation owned facility (which traded as Ipswich Beet Sugar Factory until 1936) which had its own fleet of industrial locomotives although on occasion shunting locomotives from Ipswich engine shed were also hired out to the factory. The sidings were established in 1925 and at times were used as an overflow when the upper yard at Ipswich was congested. Rail traffic ceased in 1982.

West Bank

This branch still exists (as of 2013) but it was not until 20 August 2013 that traffic in the form of sea dredged aggregate was operated on the branch. It was hoped this would be a weekly trip and sand traffic to Watford was also expected.

Originally known as the Griffin Wharf Branch it had sidings serving dockside sidings such as (note list not complete or date specific):

  • Ransomes and Rapier (Engineering works)
  • Cooksedge & Co Ltd
  • Christopherson
  • Watkins
  • Coal Depot (GER/LNER).

A couple of shunting horses were based at this location during Great Eastern days (pre-1923). The West Bank Ferry terminal was developed in 1973.

Derby Road railway station and Westerfield railway station both had goods yards and a number of industrial facilities were located on the Felixstowe Branch Line.

Horse Box and Carriage truck traffic

A small set of sidings existed at the south end of Ipswich station on the up side of the tracks adjacent to the tunnel. Only one track was accessible from the main line the other sidings being accessed from a wagon turntable. Shunting horses were used in this location to position the vehicles and Ipswich had an allocation of around 30 horses in the 1890s. One track off the wagon turntable led to a small shed which housed a steam fire engine mounted on a flat truck.

By the 1970s only a single siding remained which was used to occasionally stable locomotives and was lifted c1980.


The following is a list of signal boxes found during the period during Ipswich was controlled by mechanical signaling. The last of these boxes closed in 1985 when the area was re-signalled and electrified. Currently all signals are controlled from Colchester Power Signal Box.

  • Halifax Junction (access from main line to West Bank/Griffin Wharf Branch and Ipswich engine shed)
  • Ipswich Station (south end of Ipswich station on platform 3/4)
  • Ipswich Goods Junction (120 levers for signals and points manned by 3 shifts of signalmen supported by two box lads)
  • Ipswich Upper Yard (known locally as No.2 Box)
  • Ipswich East Suffolk Junction
  • Sproughton (opened 1925 and replaced the signal box at Bramford).
  • Westerfield Bank (1898-1926)
  • Westerfield Junction
  • Derby Road
  • Ranelagh Road Crossing Box
  • Lower Yard

Water troughs

Water troughs were installed at Halifax Junction in 1897 south of Ipswich tunnel. These were used by trains to pick up water using a scoop operated by the engine crew, although water cranes were located on the platforms at the station as well. Using the troughs was a quicker method of filling the tenders of steam locomotives and they were located between the rails in the centre of the tracks. These were heated in winter to prevent freezing. The Ipswich troughs fell out of use in the 1960s when steam locomotives were withdrawn from East Anglia.

Ipswich tunnel

Ipswich tunnel was built by the Eastern Union Railway's engineer Peter Bruff and opened in November 1846. Trains from Bury St. Edmunds passed the existing station site (at that point undeveloped) and continued to Halifax Junction south of the tunnel where they then reversed into the original Croft street terminus.

The tunnel was built as there was no room between the River Orwell and Stoke Hill to build a railway and is thought to be the first tunnel in the world to be built on a continuous curve. During its construction many fossils were found including those of a wooly mammoth. [12]

There have been two accidents in the tunnel. On 5 May 1910 a wagon examiner was taking a short cut through the tunnel (this was forbidden) when it is believed he tripped whilst trying to get out of the way of an engine. On 21 August 1912 a platelayer (track worker) was hit by the engine of a troop train having failed to get out of the way.

Further excavations in 1908 and 1919 were led by Nina Frances Layard revealed remains of mammoths, a turtle and lions. The latter excavation was as a result of the GER widening the cutting east of the tunnel to accommodate some additional sidings. Further bones were found in 1975 by archeologist John Wymer.

For many years the tunnel was regarded as an obstacle to electrification with insufficient clearance for the overhead wires. In 1985 however the tunnel was temporarily closed and the track bed lowered to accommodate the overhead electric lines.

The tunnel was closed again in 2004 to allow for work to lower the track in order to enable larger containers to pass through on goods trains to and from the port of Felixstowe. [13]

Ipswich Railway Chord

The Ipswich Railway Chord (or 'Bacon Factory Chord' in early documentation), officially the Bacon Factory Curve [10] is a short 1415 metre section of track constructed to link the East Suffolk Line and the Great Eastern Main Line just North of Ipswich Goods Yard. This chord, which was opened to traffic in March 2014, [7] allows freight trains from the Port of Felixstowe to access the West Coast Main Line using the Ipswich to Ely Line and a cross-country route via Nuneaton, rather than via the Great Eastern Main Line and the North London Line.

The chord was built on the site of an old Bacon Factory, hence its original name. It has been reported that the finished scheme should "take 750,000 lorries off the roads". [16]

Preliminary work for the chord started in August 2012, [17] and the Secretary of State for Transport granted full development consent on 5 September 2012, coming into effect on 26 September 2012. [18] Two new junctions were created by the scheme - Boss Hall Junction at the eastern end of the chord with the East Suffolk Line and Europa Junction with the Great Eastern Main Line located close to the site of the Sproughton sugar beet sidings.

The chord opened to regular traffic on 31 March 2014 although the first revenue earning train headed by Class 66 locomotive 66733 on a Felixstowe - Doncaster container train ran on 24 March. [10]

Future developments

Ipswich Upper Yard

In connection with the above work Ipswich Upper Yard will be redeveloped to cope with longer trains. It is also likely that the locomotive sidings will be moved to the East Suffolk Junction site.

Station interior

The entrance to the station is being remodelled during 2015 in a £1 million scheme. [19]