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Holt land buy signals ‘vital’ step for Norfolk Orbital railway campaign

PUBLISHED: 08:23 15 August 2013

David Bill, left, & Joe Pengold from the Melton Constable Trust standing on the old Holt railway line which they have now purchased to start work on the Holt Orbital Railway.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

David Bill, left, & Joe Pengold from the Melton Constable Trust standing on the old Holt railway line which they have now purchased to start work on the Holt Orbital Railway. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

Campaigners have taken a “vital” first step to resurrecting an orbital railway through north Norfolk after buying a key stretch of land in Holt.

Holt Railway Station, where the Sheringham to Holt line stops.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYHolt Railway Station, where the Sheringham to Holt line stops. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The purchase signals a physical start to the ambitious project to extend the line into the heart of the town and beyond into the rest of the county.

Enthusiasts behind the Norfolk Orbital railway scheme are celebrating the £25,000 purchase of the 50-yard stretch of former track bed, which would take trains from Holt’s current out-of-town stop over the Cromer Road and towards the bypass.

But they are keen to keep the momentum going and have now launched a drive to raise the £85,000 needed to buy the next length of land that would extend the line across the A148.

David Bill, trustee of the Melton Constable Trust – the charity behind the project – said: “We need to press on as quickly as possible, we’re paving the way for the railway to follow.”

The trust’s eventual aim is to create a circular route taking in Norwich, Cromer, Sheringham, Fakenham, Dereham and Wymondham, by joining up missing links in the railway jigsaw.

The biggest missing stretch is between Holt and Fakenham and, while heritage lines such as the North Norfolk Railway and Mid Norfolk Railway have gone some way in restoring the loop, campaigners are working to fill in the final gaps that would see the county’s orbital line restored.

Mr Bill, whose great-grandfather was one of the first station masters on Holt’s old line before it was closed in the 1960s, acknowledged the scheme’s aim was challenging, but felt there were compelling factors for it to succeed.

“We’re trying to put back what should have never been destroyed in the first place,” he added. “We have seen the growth in the Bittern Line, it’s up to 750,000 passengers a year.

“The demand for the railways is there and we think there’s real justification for Holt, which is growing in importance all the time, being reconnected to the network.”

And despite the relative short length of the land that has been bought, campaigners have stressed it is the linchpin on which the rest of the scheme lies.

Joe Penfold, from Cley - the trust’s local representative - said: “It’s a very vital 50 yards, without it nothing goes anywhere else.

“And it will bring Holt into the equation. People say whatever you do don’t got to Holt, you won’t get parked.”

Mr Bill added: “This weekend again has seen some massive parking problems and congestion around the coast. This has to be a potential solution to that issue.”

■ Donations to support the scheme can be made to The Melton Constable Trust, The Railway Institute, 6 Briston Road, Melton Constable, NR24 2DA, or by calling Mr Bill on 07779 345437 or Mr Penfold on 01263 740044.

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