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Gallery: Old railway station building wrecked by blaze demolished at Higham as line set to reopen this evening

PUBLISHED: 17:05 11 September 2016 | UPDATED: 17:05 11 September 2016

The fire at Higham railway station today. Photo: George Harpur

The fire at Higham railway station today. Photo: George Harpur

Archant

A severely-damaged Victorian railway goods shed, which was wrecked in a fierce blaze yesterday, has now been demolished due to a risk it would have collapsed onto a busy railway line.

The fire at Higham railway station today. Photo: George HarpurThe fire at Higham railway station today. Photo: George Harpur

Sixty firefighters tackled the fire at the former railway station at Higham in west Suffolk.

They managed to save surrounding buildings but the goods shed was left a charred shell and at risk of collapse – possibly onto the rail line. A structural engineer was called in to make a technical assessment.

Train services were cancelled between Ipswich and Cambridge/Peterbororough while the fire crews deal with the incident because it was too dangerous for the trains to pass.

Firefighters had to work on the line and old platform in order to put out the fire.

Firefighters tackle the fire in buildings by the railway line at  Higham early on Saturday morningFirefighters tackle the fire in buildings by the railway line at Higham early on Saturday morning

Abellio Greater Anglia have confirmed the line will reopen at about 5.30pm, after the building was knocked down at about 12noon today (September 11).

The first services to run since the line was closed early on Saturday will be the 5.41pm from Bury to Cambridge and the 5.45pm from Peterborough to Bury St Edmunds will now run as scheduled.

A spokesman said: “A building fire at the old railway station at Higham has left the structure in an unsafe condition and it will be demolished on Sunday. Until the building is demolished it is unsafe for trains to run past the site.”

The building was built in the Victorian era and was originally a large agricultural goods shed for the railway. However, it is not a listed building. Before it was converted, track sidings used to run inside the shed.

Firefighters tackle the fire in buildings by the railway line at  Higham early on Saturday morningFirefighters tackle the fire in buildings by the railway line at Higham early on Saturday morning

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service had 12 fire crews from stations around the area fighting the flames at the height of the incident, working hard to prevent the blaze spreading to other nearby buildings.

The station is used by a local business as its premises.

Higham resident George Harpur said his wife Katy Davies had seen smoke coming from the building at around 6am as she was going to drop their son off at a morning swimming session. She called 999.

Mr Harpur said: “I think it was pretty early stages by then but you could see some smoke coming from the building and we could smell it in the village. The fire service arrived pretty quickly to deal with it.”

Firefighters tackle the fire in buildings by the railway line at  Higham early on Saturday morningFirefighters tackle the fire in buildings by the railway line at Higham early on Saturday morning

Until recently the former rail shed had been used a lighting gallery and shop. It is currently home to Aran Services, a leading energy effi­ciency and property improvement company.

In total 18 vehicles were sent, including two from Cambridge, one Long Melford, two from Clare, one from Wickhambrook, three each from Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket, two from Ixworth, and one each from Elmswell, Brandon and Mildenhall.

Abellio Greater Anglia said passengers travelling between Ipswich and Cambridge/Peterborough were advised to travel via Norwich for Abellio Greater Anglia services to Norwich, East Midlands services between Norwich and Peterborough and Cross Country services between Peterborough and Cambridge.

Abellio greater Anglia tickets will be accepted on these routes. People should allow an extended journey time of two hours.

A limited Rail Replacement Bus service will run between Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds and between Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds.

Higham railway station was opened by the Great Eastern Railway in 1854 when the railway was extended from Newmarket to Bury St Edmunds. It ran passenger trains until 1967 when it was closed.

Firefighters prevented whole complex going up in flames

The site, which consists of the old station, the now severely damaged goods shed, new business units and the old station master’s house, could have all gone up in flames if not for the efforts of fire crews.

Area Commander Ian Bowell said: “When crews arrived there was thick black smoke pouring from the building and the windows were heated up. A significant fire had taken hold.

“There was concern that the fire would spread to neighbouring buildings, as there is just a small two metre gap between them.

“Our efforts concentrated on making a break to protect those buildings and we have been successful.”

Station Commander Nigel Vincent, from the Bury station, added: “We have managed to save the other buildings from suffering any damage.

“Our crews worked hard to stop the spread of the fire and it is now under control. Unfortunately the affected unit has suffered severe damage.”

An investigation team are on site and working to discover the cause of the fire. There was no one in the building when the fire started.

James Brown has lived around 90 yards away from the station for 11 years. He said: “We woke up this morning and there was smoke everywhere. We thought the whole complex was going to go up.

“The firefighters have done a great job to save the rest of the buildings. But it is really sad, it was an old building and part of the history.

“It does not look good, it is just awful really and I do not know if they will be able to keep it or if it will be knocked down.”

Peter Jackson is a director of Lakenbrook Ltd, which owns the building and the surrounding complex.

Up until February 2015 he ran a lighting retail shop from the site and rented out the goods hall to Aran Services after they closed down.

“I have owned the building since 1999,” he said. “I am very sad about the building. I had quite a sentimental attachment to it and I don’t know if it will now end up being demolished.

“The roof has come down but the walls look to be okay – if they have to knock down the wall along the railway side, I don’t know if it will stay up.

“It is not listed but it was an attractive and interesting Victorian building, it was part of the history of the place.

“There are so many firefighters here, it is an enormous operation. There are several buildings down there very close together, the old station master’s house has been saved and the newer units have not been damaged, I am very grateful to the firefighters.

“It seems the fire had already taken a hold before it was discovered, so saving the goods shed was not possible.

“It would only be wild speculation at the moment to say what could have caused it. Just 12 hours ago they [Aran Services] locked up the building as usual, the last person left at 6pm.”

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