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The Fen Line is a railway line in the east of England that links Cambridge in the south to King's Lynn in the north. The line runs through Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and is so called because it passes through the Fens. It is 41 miles 47 chains (66.9 km) in length and has eight stations.

Fen Line
365537 passing through Runcton Holme.JPG
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
LocaleEast of England
King's Lynn
OwnerNetwork Rail
Operator(s)Great Northern
Greater Anglia
CharacterSecondary\London & South-East[1]
Rolling stockClass 317
Class 387 "Electrostar"
Class 379 "Electrostar"[2]
Class 170 "Turbostar"[1]
Class 365 "Networker"
Line length41 miles 47 chains (66.9 km)
Number of tracks1-2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV AC OHLE
Operating speed90 mph (145 km/h) maximum[3]
Route map

Mileage from London Liverpool Street

King's Lynn
96mi 75ch
to King's Lynn Harbour
Harbour Junction
St Germain's
90mi 70ch
Stow Bardolph
Downham Market
86mi 08ch
Ouse Bridge
76mi 00ch
Queen Adelaide loop
70mi 30ch
61mi 01ch
Cambridge North
55mi 52ch
Shepreth Branch Junction
Cambridge line
to London King's Cross


The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 5 and comprises SRS 05.06 and part of 05.05. It is classified as a secondary line except between Cambridge and Ely where it is classified as a London and South East commuter line.[1]


Great NorthernEdit

Great Northern operate through services to London King's Cross (via the Cambridge line). These services operate non-stop between London and Cambridge for most of the day, as part of the half-hourly "Cambridge Express" service. One train an hour is extended beyond Cambridge to serve all stations to King's Lynn, whilst the alternative services run to Ely.

These services are mostly operated by Class 387 electric multiple units. Before May 2017, Class 365s were the principal units.

Three Class 365 EMUs received names associated with the line:

  • The Fenman (365 518) – previously a "named train" that used to operate on this line, consisting of locomotive-hauled InterCity (British Rail) trains;
  • Robert Stripe Passengers' Champion (365 527) was named on 10 March 2006, after the 21st Anniversary of the Fen Line Users Association;
  • Nelson's County (365 531) had a special livery applied to the outside which shows various scenes of West Norfolk however this was removed when Great Northern took over First Capital Connect.

Greater AngliaEdit

Greater Anglia regularly runs services between Cambridge and Norwich on an hourly basis via the Breckland line, running non-stop between Ely and Cambridge. Class 170 units are typically used for this service.

In addition to this, Greater Anglia operate a few direct services between London Liverpool Street and King's Lynn or Ely (via the West Anglia Main Line). These services operate only run during the morning and evening peaks, and use Class 317 and Class 379[2] units.


The section between Cambridge and Ely is also used non-stop by CrossCountry services to Stansted Airport. (and onward to Birmingham New Street via Peterborough)


The line is double tracked except between Littleport and Downham Market and between Watlington and King's Lynn where it is bi-directionally signalled single track. In the Down direction, the entrance to the single line sections is protected additionally by SPAD indicators.

Signal boxes controlling the line are;

  • Cambridge power box
  • Littleport
  • Downham Market
  • Magdalen Road (Watlington)
  • King's Lynn

The signalling system is Track circuit block with multiple aspect colour light signals- with the exception of:


Traction current for electric trains is provided by 25 kV AC OHLE controlled by Romford Electrical Control Room.[5] There are Neutral Sections at Shepreth Branch junction, Milton Fen and just north of Littleport bypass. The line has a loading gauge of W8 except for the section connecting the Ipswich–Ely line to the Ely–Peterborough line, which is W10.[1]

Passenger volumeEdit

These are the statistics of the numbers of passengers on the line from the year beginning April 2002 to the year beginning April 2017. Comparing each station between the first and last years (14 years total), King's Lynn has increased by 68%, Watlington by 133%, Downham Market by 111%, Littleport by 157%, Ely by 113%, Waterbeach by 149% and Cambridge by 109%.[6] Cambridge North did not open at the publication of these previous figures.


  1. ^ a b c d "Route 5 – West Anglia" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b Rail Magazine. 673: 37. 29 June – 12 July 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Network Rail (August 2006). East Anglia Route Sectional Appendix. Module EA. p. 109 LOR EA1162 Seq007. NR30018/02.
  4. ^ Network Rail (August 2006). East Anglia Route Sectional Appendix. Module EA. p. 110 LOR EA1270 Seq001. NR30018/02.
  5. ^ Network Rail (August 2006). East Anglia Route Sectional Appendix. Module EA. p. 110 LOR EA1161 Seq008. NR30018/02.
  6. ^ "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2 September 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Perren, Brian (19 October – 1 November 1989). "Electrification to King's Lynn". RAIL. No. 107. EMAP National Publications. pp. 40–43. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Adderson & Kenworthy (December 2008). Eastern Main Lines – Ely to King's Lynn. Middleton Press. ISBN 9781901706536.

External linksEdit