Call for forgotten train stations to be opened up to make the most of Norwich to Thetford train route

Flashback to 1966 and porter Walter Kidd watches a diesel rail car pull out of the platform at Hethe

Flashback to 1966 and porter Walter Kidd watches a diesel rail car pull out of the platform at Hethersett station. Calls have been made for stations like this to be re-opened.

Long-forgotten railway stations should be opened up and new ones built to maximise the potential of the train route from Norwich to Thetford, councillors have claimed.

At a meeting of Norfolk County Council's economic development sub-committee this week, the route came under the spotlight.

Bev Spratt, chairman of the committee and Conservative councillor for West Depwade, said it was a 'no-brainer'to him that more should be made of the route, given the corridor between Norwich and Thetford is seen as a growth area for homes and jobs.

He said: 'The railway line runs through the middle of the growth area. It's great that the A11 is being dualled, but when we are talking about saving CO2 emissions and getting people out of their cars, we should be looking at the railways.

'There's this line which runs from Thetford to Norwich and it seems to me to be common sense that we could do more with it.'

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He said people could use the line to get to work and suggested there could be rich potential in reopening the station at Hethersett, which shut in 1966.

A number of the stations on the route, such as Spooner Row and Harling Road, are only sporadically served.

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Andrew Boswell, Green county councillor for Norwich's Nelson division said the line's potential was not being realised.

He said: 'There really is an opportunity here, such as opening up a station at Cringleford.

'I know a number of people where you have one partner who works at the UEA or the research park in Norwich and another who works at Cambridge.

'They live somewhere between the two and I think there's a real opportunity to use this line to get people to and from work.'

But David Cumming, from the county council's infrastructure and economic growth team, said rail operators were more interested in providing faster services over longer distances.

He said: 'While it might be nice to think about extra stops on the line, buses are probably better at that sort of short distance trip.

'Another point is the huge cost of bringing forward infrastructure in terms of stations, trains and rolling stock.

'We know that companies will only do that if the services are going to be profitable.'

And Fiona McDiarmid, assistant director of economic development and strategy at Norfolk County Council, said that focusing on shorter trips on that line could undermine the Norfolk Rail Prospectus.

She said: 'Our focus is on the Norwich to Cambridge route, but on whether that can be sped up and made more frequent.

'There's a tension between those who want to get from A to B and those who want to get from A to C, D and E.

'It's not that we are being negative, but we have to be realistic.'

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

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