�250,000 campaign to buy land at Holt for latest stage of Norfolk Orbital Railway is launched

Plans for a Norfolk Orbital Railway took a big leap forward this weekend as campaigners launched a �250,000 fundraising appeal to allow them to buy vital plots of land in Holt.

It marks the latest stage of the project which eventually aims to restore mainline rail links around the county and create a circular route taking in Norwich, Cromer, Sheringham, Fakenham, Dereham and Wymondham.

While the Bittern line, North Norfolk Railway and Mid Norfolk Railway have already gone some way to restoring the loop, missing links remain between High Kelling and North Elmham. But in March 2010, plans for the 84-mile orbital railway were given a major boost after 100 yards of track was laid at Sheringham to connect the heritage North Norfolk Railway with the commuter service between Norwich and Cromer.

Derek Haynes, chairman of the Holt, Melton Constable and Fakenham Railway, said that had given everyone more hope. He said: 'There were loads of doubters who said that would never happen – it was too expensive, not enough support – well now the crossing is back in. That has opened people's eyes – this can be achieved.'

The next stage in the major plan is to take the line from its current stop a mile outside Holt into the town centre, alongside the A148 bypass and over to Common Hill.

At a meeting called by the Holt, Melton Constable and Fakenham Railway Company on Saturday, rail enthusiasts were at last able to reveal the results of talks about plots of land in Holt vital to the plans.

Trevor Bailey, one of the company's directors, said: 'We have real practical progress to report, but it needs your help and the help of a lot of other people if it's going to bear fruit. If you want to build a railway, you need land to build it on.

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'The upshot is that we now have signed an agreement which will allow us to purchase the privately-owned land – if we can raise the money – and the county council would like to sell their portion of the land to us.'

It is expected to cost between �200,000 and �250,000 to secure the land which would pave the way to re-instating the track.

The group would then begin looking at how to take the line through Melton Constable and along to Fakenham, where it could meet up with the proposed extension of the Mid Norfolk Railway.

Rail enthusiast David Bill said the events of the past week, where motorists began panic-buying fuel, proved the need for a better rail service in Norfolk.

To support the appeal, send donations to The Holt, Melton Constablt and Fakenham Railway Co., The Railway Institute, Melton Constable, Norfolk, NR24 2DA.