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Norwich could get a new railway station on the Bittern Line

PUBLISHED: 09:08 11 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:16 11 March 2015

A Bittern Line train at Gunton station on the Sheringham to Norwich line. Picture; RICHARD BATSON

A Bittern Line train at Gunton station on the Sheringham to Norwich line. Picture; RICHARD BATSON

Archant

A new railway station could be built on the edge of Norwich under a bold vision to improve transport links between the city and the coast.

About the Bittern Line

The Bittern Line is deemed one of the most picturesque routes in region, leaving mediaeval Norwich, passing through the Norfolk Broads and on to north Norfolk.

It is named after the Bittern, a rare bird found in the reedy wetlands of Norfolk and was opened between Norwich and North Walsham in 1874 by the East Norfolk Railway.

It reached Cromer by 1877.

The rest of the line, between Cromer and Sheringham, was opened in 1887 using a section of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line.

Passenger numbers are increasing, and the route has seen a number of service improvements in recent years meaning a boost for the region’s economy.

Now the Bittern line rail route is running its high-season hourly Sunday services through the winter for the first time.

Click here to view The Bittern Line graphic

The new stop – at either the Broadland Business Park, or in Rackheath – is part of plans to dramatically upgrade the Bittern Line, which runs between the city and Cromer and Sheringham.

Such a move see the creation of the first new station in Norfolk for more than 25 years, when Roughton Road, on the outskirts of Cromer, was added to the same line.

Relocation of Reedham station

Broadland District Council has responded to Network Rail’s Route Connectivity Study on the Wherry Line which runs between Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

A key proposal in the national agency’s paper looks at the reintroduction of a direct hourly service between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

This would bring back a service which last ran between the two resorts in 1970, albeit on a different route.

The study points out in order for the route to reopen, Reedham Station would need to be relocated approximately 1,250 yards to the east.

Broadland said: “Relocating Reedham station and reopening the

north/south spur would obviously need public consultation, but as presented the advantages appear to outweigh the disadvantages.”

The name ‘Wherry Line’ recognises the important role once played by the Norfolk Wherries, the former transport around the broads before road or rail developments.

The new scheme would also see more services, faster trains and other upgrades along the route.

The vision has been outlined in a study, commissioned by Broadland District Council, examining the needs of the city’s northern and eastern outskirts, which are undergoing rapid growth.

It has been conducted in readiness for Abellio Greater Anglia’s contract with the region’s railways expiring in October next year.

Phil Courtier, head of planning at Broadland, said the ideas are in early stages but that the document can be used to lobby other agencies to back the vision.

Norwich railway workers.  Conductor-guard, Mr N E Adcock on the Sheringham to Norwich line. Date: Jan 1967. Picture: EDP LibraryNorwich railway workers. Conductor-guard, Mr N E Adcock on the Sheringham to Norwich line. Date: Jan 1967. Picture: EDP Library

“Our belief is a strong economic and social case can be made for upgrading the Bittern Line, and that a feasibility study could become a powerful bidding document to agencies such as the New Anglia Enterprise Partnership,” he said.

“What we are seeking to do is through this piece of work is look at the feasibility of upgrading the Bittern Line and draw attention to it.”

The authority’s rationale is that as the district grows, so will demand for transport.

Its ‘Growth Triangle’ sets out a plan to build 7,000 houses in the district by 2026, rising to 10,000 after that – a population rise of 22,000.

The area covered includes Spixworth, Old Catton, Sprowston, Rackheath and Thorpe St Andrew, Postwick, Great and Little Plumstead, Salhouse and Beeston.

According to documents sent to Network Rail, and approved by the Broadland cabinet meeting yesterday, the council says it has reserved land for a new station at Broadland Business Park and that services to Rackheath – where about 3,000 new homes are planned – could be improved.

Other ideas for the Bittern Line include alterations to Whitlingham junction, changes to the passing loop, which allows two trains to pass at once, at North Walsham, timetabling changes to less-used stations, and the remodelling of Cromer station.

The Bittern service currently runs hourly every day – but proposals could also see half-hourly services on it as well as the Wherry Lines – which covers Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft – by 2043.

A spokesman for a Norfolk-based passenger group, East Norfolk Transport Users Association, Steve Hewitt, welcomed the chance to both improve the region’s railways and encourage people to use the trains.

What do you think? Write (giving your full details) to Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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