The first section of what is now the East Suffolk Line opened in 1854, going from Halesworth to Beccles and on to Haddiscoe. In 1859 the line extended south to Ipswich, the northern terminus being Yarmouth South Town station. The Beccles to Lowestoft branch opened at the same time. The line north of Beccles was closed in 1959; trains then used the remaining branch to Lowestoft.
The line was singled in many places in 1984, and through services to London were withdrawn. At the same time British Rail installed a Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) system; this allowed signals to be controlled from a central location at Saxmundham.
The East Suffolk Line was privatised in 1997. A seven year franchise to run trains was awarded to Anglia Railways (GB Railways PLC). In 1999 one through train to London Liverpool Street was re-introduced. National Express won the franchise in December 2003 and began running services under the banner 'one' in April 2004. The name was changed to 'National Express East Anglia' in February 2008. In order to free-up capacity south of Ipswich East Suffolk Line through trains to London were withdrawn from December 2010; at the same time an hourly service between Ipswich and Saxmundham was introduced. In late 2011 the Department for Transport choose Abellio to run services from 5 February 2012; Abellio operates the franchise as 'Greater Anglia.'
At present the East Suffolk Line line has three dual sections of track: from Ipswich to Woodbridge, a short section at Beccles, and from Saxmundham to Halesworth. Up until December 2012 sixteen miles of single track just north of Halesworth prevented the reinstatement of an hourly service, but that changed 10 December when approximately 1/4 mile of dual track (known as the Beccles loop) was opened at Beccles station. A state-of-the-art signalling system was also installed in 2012 and the old RETB system removed. This work coincided with the the Beccles Loop project
Today the 49 mile East Suffolk line serves as a direct gateway to East Anglia. Fast connections to London, Peterborough and Cambridge are easily made at Ipswich. Norwich can be reached by changing at Ipswich or Lowestoft.
When you board your local East Suffolk Line service it is being operated by train company Abellio Greater Anglia. Network Rail owns the infrastructure (the stations, tracks, viaducts and bridges) and maintains it. East Suffolk Line stations are leased to Abellio Greater Anglia. The companies work seamlessly to provide an integrated rail system.
The East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership (CRP) meets several times per year to discuss ways in which to improve local rail services, promote the line, to talk about issues such as timetables and capacity, service levels and station facilities. Members and stakeholders come from the private sector, government bodies, county councils, district councils, Abellio Greater Anglia, and Network Rail.
The CRP and Abellio Greater Anglia work closely on the station adoption programme; it allows communities to become involved in the running of their local station.