The East Suffolk Line is a thing, if not of beauty, then of infinite wonder. It wombles its way from Ipswich to Lowestoft, a journey not many people seem to want to make, particularly during this last year when the train has often carried literally only one or two passengers. Yet its continued existence is vital for special groups of travellers like musicians going to Snape Maltings and students going to college at one end or the other. Above all, it is East Suffolk’s link with the outer world, connecting at Ipswich with trains bound for London. Oh, and with the country’s largest container port at Felixstowe, and – though its map can’t quite bring itself to show this – with Ely and its great cathedral, and with Cambridge.
The rolling stock seems entirely inappropriate for such a rustic line. It is brand new, and has greatly increased the efficiency of the service; but passengers look at it twice before boarding, wondering whether such a stream-lined, surrealist apparition will really go to Oulton Broad South or Wickham Market, actually at Campsea Ashe. First impressions are that here is a train which took a wrong turn somewhere and has sped into Westerfield from the Swiss Alps or Japan. And how can it really go anywhere when the power unit, which we used to call the engine, is in the middle, jammed between the carriages? And how can you tell in which direction it might go when there is no knowing which is the front and which the back?
Is this train arriving or departing? Have you arrived just in time to catch it or have you just missed it?
And then there is Wickham Market………….