Firefighters tackle Suffolk station fire as rail services resume
PUBLISHED: 14:45 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 22:47 12 February 2018
Rail travellers in east Suffolk faced hours of disruption today after a major fire at a disused station building brought services to a standstill – and left an art project in jeopardy.
Six fire crews spent more than two hours battling the blaze at Saxmundham railway station as flames leapt from the roof and plumes of smoke billowed high into the sky.
Greater Anglia was forced to close the East Suffolk line between Ipswich and Lowestoft, with services unable to resume until after 6pm.
MORE: Drone footage of fire at Saxmundham railway station
The fire came as a major blow to Art Station project, which was redeveloping the building as a contemporary art space for the station’s 3,000 weekly users.
Artist and project lead Clare Palmier: “I’m very upset at the damage to this fine period station building and the potential loss to the community of a building for the arts. Lots of hard work and energy from so many people has gone into this project.
At the height of the fire, rail replacement bus services operated between Beccles and Ipswich, however some passengers complained of being unable to find their connections. One passenger Tweeted they were “stuck at Wickham Market”.
Damage to the station infrastructure at Saxmundham also meant trains were unable to call there until firefighters made it safe.
A Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the fire was in an “old station building” and there was “no threat to public safety”. They added most of the damage was confined to the roof.
Greater Anglia said: “We won’t know what the future holds until a full assessment is carried out.”
The East Suffolk Travellers Association (ESTA) said there had been various attempts to bring the building back into use in recent years. David Adams, ESTA’s Saxmundham committee member added: “Unfortunately, the building had been vandalised time and again and so this is almost an expected outcome.”
The Art Station project represented the most developed plans for it in years. Organisers had agreed a lease with Greater Anglia and wanted to raise £1.5million for the work to breathe new life into the building.
The project launched last June, with a virtual reality installation by award winning artist Emily Godden.