‘Give East Anglia proper rail infrastructure - not heritage railways’

Train on the Norwich to Cambridge route via Ely. Photo: Bill Smith

Train on the Norwich to Cambridge route via Ely. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

East Anglia needs an improved infrastructure – and I would love to see both major capital projects and better services on our railways.

Top of my list would be a rail link between Wisbech and Cambridge, followed by a revived line between Wisbech and King's Lynn.

That twin development would rescue the recessed Fenland economy.

Then let's restore direct train services between Liverpool Street and Lowestoft.

It was great when, only recently, trains from London to Halesworth were met by buses for the onward journey to Southwold.

But spare us more theme-parking (and car-parking).

Our natural attractions beat new developments pretending to bring back little bits of history.

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And the – in my view – silly project that won't go away is the bid to 'revive the Southwold railway'.

This little band has puff-puff-puffed for a decade or more among the communities of the Blyth Valley.

They will not take no for an answer in their drive to despoil a lovely landscape by building a 'heritage' railway.

To recap, a Halesworth to Southwold twig line ran for 50 years from 1879.

But even on the opening day the first train failed to complete the nine-mile journey.

Drivers faced jail if breaking an 18-mph speed limit, but in reality there was never any danger of that.

The loss-making line had a mercy killing four decades before Dr Beeching murdered our useful rural rail network.

Heading from Blythburgh's White Hart to Walberswick, you can follow the former line in one of the great walks of East Anglia.

But theses campaigners have sought to restore lengths of track at all points along the old line and even to parts way off it.

They see their plan as environmentally-friendly – even forming a wildlife corridor across nature reserves!

Walberswick railed against them.

In Southwold they claimed that protesters filling the Market Square (with placards such as You've Bitten Off More Than You Can Choo Choo) left them unable to (narrow) gauge public opinion.

Holton called a halt. Blythburgh did too.

Arriving late for the packed public meeting at Reydon, I had to face the sea of concerned locals that two campaigners simply dismissed.

A show of hands found five or six for the railway and more than 100 against.

But lately the poor folk of Wenhaston have been harried.

The bid to build a first half-mile of track has been rejected once again on appeal.

Now the campaigners 'unfazed by any temporary setbacks' have just mustered a volunteer force of 14 diehards to keep this misguided proposal on track.

High time they left us all in peace.

•The views above are those of Ian Collins. Read more from our columnists each day in the EDP.

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