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REVEALED: Most and least used stations in region as Great Yarmouth loses 20pc of passengers

PUBLISHED: 17:16 12 December 2018

Great Yarmouth station has lost 20pc of its passengers since 2012. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Great Yarmouth station has lost 20pc of its passengers since 2012. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

Sky-high fares, an unreliable service, and cheaper alternative transport options are all being blamed for a significant drop in rail passengers in Great Yarmouth over the last five years.

Sky-high fares, an unreliable service, and cheaper alternative transport options are all being blamed for a significant drop in rail passengers in Great Yarmouth over the last five years.

Despite overall passenger numbers in the region rising by seven percent since 2012/13, the coastal resort suffered a drop of 20pc in people using the railway.

Statistics from the Office of Road and Rail, who use ticket sales to estimate the number of people using each of the UK’s 2,563 stations, also show growth in Downham Market, Beccles, and Ely.

Buckenham, a request stop on the Norwich to Great Yarmouth line between Brundall and Cantley was the lowest in the region for the second year running ahead of Shippea Hill, between Brandon and Ely, which has gone from only 12 passengers in 2015/16 to 276 this year.

A replacement buses outside Great Yarmouth train station. Picture: Jacob MasseyA replacement buses outside Great Yarmouth train station. Picture: Jacob Massey

Council leaders and passenger groups slammed the branch line’s unreliable service and ticket prices but said they hoped new trains, due to come into service in 2019, would improve reliability.

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council and leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council said the unreliability of the Norwich to Great Yarmouth line is contributing.

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council and leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Pic: Neil PerryGraham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council and leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Mr Plant said: “If you have to be at work at a certain time which you are unable to do because of cancellations, eventually you will stop using the trains and get in a car. People expect to get on at a certain time and off at a certain time.

“I would suggest over the last year or two the service has declined quite a bit and that is really disappointing because as East Anglia’s premiere holiday destination and a commute from Norwich, we really need to have a reliable service.

Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee on the NDR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMartin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee on the NDR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“The traffic jams on the A47 go on for miles and some of those drivers could have been on a train and have not got on it because of the cancellations.”
He added: “Our tourism numbers are up year-on-year so the only thing that I could think of to explain the drop is commuters not getting a reliable service.

“I would hope that next year, once they get they new trains running and do a bit of advertising about reliability, we can get some cars off the road and people in trains and some regular commuters back again.

“It is disappointing, obviously, because we don’t want to lose the train service to Great Yarmouth and unfortunately people do have a alternative method of transport if they can’t get a regular service from the train.”

Concerns over rising fares being unable to compete with alternative forms of transport were also raised by Steve Hewitt, a spokesman for passenger group, the East Norfolk Transport Users Association.

Mr Hewitt said: “Another issue is the X1 and X11 bus services, especially when you consider you get a bus every 10 or 15 minutes from the centre of Norwich to the centre of Great Yarmouth for £6.

“A peak fare on the train is £10.60. Who is going to pay £4 more when their train might be dropped?”

He added: “There is no encouragement to travel on the railway. We would like to see a cheap off-peak train that you can travel on for the same price as the bus.

“You just have these one-hourly trains going up and down between Norwich and Great Yarmouth between Acle and this is it.”

However, most of the region’s bigger stations saw increases in numbers, with Norwich, Downham Market, and Kings Lynn showing steady growth, with Ely gaining almost half a million passengers in 2017/18 as compared to 2012/13.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for transport, said the need for a “first class railway service” is “massive” for Norfolk, but said he was “disappointed” with the Great Yarmouth figures.

He said: “We have got new trains being rolled out from May and the service across the whole of the county on all of the lines will be greatly improved.

“Much better service and possibly among the best trains in the UK. The future looks really good.”

He added: “The railway is massive. We have a large amount of people who commute daily on our mainline and we need a first class railway service including the mainline into our cities and the smaller lines into our towns across the region.”

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