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WATCH: Keeping plans to bring back the railway on track

PUBLISHED: 09:18 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:35 30 August 2019

County School Station PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

County School Station PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

Archant

After years off the rails, a trust is aiming to link up the county's railways and put Fakenham and nearby Melton Constable back on the line. MATTHEW FARMER reports...

Trustees, councillors, land owners and volunteers at the Three Brick Arches bridge outside Fakenham, owned by the Norfolk Orbital Railway PICTURE: Matthew FarmerTrustees, councillors, land owners and volunteers at the Three Brick Arches bridge outside Fakenham, owned by the Norfolk Orbital Railway PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

On April 4, 1964, the last passenger train rolled out of a village which relied on its rail yard.

Now, a group plans to bring the railway back to Melton Constable and Fakenham.

Recently, they met to talk about how they keep their plans on track.

Landowners, councillors, volunteers and trustees gathered at County School Station in North Elmham, near Dereham, to discuss their plans to bring the railways back to Melton Constable and Fakenham.

The Norfolk Orbital Railway group received Lottery funding to restore bridges outside Fakenham, add information panels and put together education resources for schools.

Now, the group is working toward teaching students and educators about the history of the railways and the wildlife of the area around them, while continuing progress to join the Mid-Norfolk Railway with the North Norfolk Railway via new tracks.

Their ambitious plan would need at least £5m per mile to place, said project officer Paul Young.

He said: "The way I see it, you could spend as much money dualling the roads, which would cause huge disruption and pollute more, or you could return the railway, which people actually want and would probably be faster to travel to Norwich on."

Fakenham mayor Gilly Foortse aboard the vintage bus taking stakeholders to the Three Brick Arches PICTURE: Matthew FarmerFakenham mayor Gilly Foortse aboard the vintage bus taking stakeholders to the Three Brick Arches PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

At a meeting, the group discussed the wider economic benefits to central Norfolk of opening up the coast through rail. A previous assessment valued the boost as being similar to the boost given by the Bittern Line from Norwich to Sheringham.

The trustees understand the difficulty of the project, and see it as a long-term challenge. At their meeting, one said: "We're quite used to being told this is impossible, it's why we're doing it. We were told getting a level crossing at Sheringham was impossible, but look what happened."

The project faces several challenges, even if landowners on the original route reach an agreement. The route would need to skirt the Holt bypass, before tunnelling under the A148 to reach Melton Constable. The station there was built over, as were the ones at Great Ryburgh and Fakenham.

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As it nears the town, the track bed runs straight through Pensthorpe Wildlife Park, and a link between two old lines would need to be made to join the old track beds.

The Fakenham Flyer train arrives from Norwich on April 21 1979 PICTURE: ArchantThe Fakenham Flyer train arrives from Norwich on April 21 1979 PICTURE: Archant

Train can only reach Melton constable by road now, as this one stopped off there 45 years after the last servce departed. PICTURE: ArchantTrain can only reach Melton constable by road now, as this one stopped off there 45 years after the last servce departed. PICTURE: Archant

Police redirected traffic after this diesel engine came off the line while shunting at the level crossing in Fakenham, meaning the getes could not be opened, on February 10, 1961 PICTURE: ArchantPolice redirected traffic after this diesel engine came off the line while shunting at the level crossing in Fakenham, meaning the getes could not be opened, on February 10, 1961 PICTURE: Archant



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