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Firefighters tackle Suffolk station fire as rail services resume

PUBLISHED: 14:45 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 22:47 12 February 2018

Fire at Saxmundham railway station. Picture: SKYNAMIX AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Fire at Saxmundham railway station. Picture: SKYNAMIX AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Archant

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.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham Railway Station. Picture: SUZIE CAMPBELL Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham Railway Station. Picture: SUZIE CAMPBELL

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.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham Railway Station. Picture: SUZIE CAMPBELL Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham Railway Station. Picture: SUZIE CAMPBELL

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.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham Railway Station. Picture: SUZIE CAMPBELL Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham Railway Station. Picture: SUZIE CAMPBELL

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”.

Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Damage to the station infrastructure at Saxmundham also meant trains were unable to call there until firefighters made it safe.

Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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.

Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Greater Anglia said: “We won’t know what the future holds until a full assessment is carried out.”

Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Firefighters tackle a blaze at Saxmundham train station. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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.

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