The prospect of restoring Hunstanton's rail link has been handed a boost, with Norfolk County Council set to explore whether it would be viable to reopen it.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour councillor Jess Barnard. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Labour councillor Jess Barnard. Pic: Norfolk County Council. (Image: Norfolk County Council)

The King's Lynn to Hunstanton Railway Campaign, formed last year, says re-opening the line would help cut congestion on the A149 and bring economic benefits.

Some 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for the return of the railway - although there is not currently funding to do it.

Howard Johnston, a railway expert and advisor to the campaign group, addressed members of the council's infrastructure and development committee today.

He said a revived railway service would mean people could get from Hunstanton to King's Lynn in 29 minutes and to Cambridge in 82 minutes.

He warned that without such links, the Hunstanton area could struggle in the years ahead.

He said: "Hunstanton and villages around The Wash coast face serious problems if connectivity to King's Lynn and Cambridge is not improved in the next decade.

"It will become totally impossible to retain young people."

Mr Johnston said putting the railway back would keep people in the town, allowing commutes to Cambridge.

Mr Johnston asked the committee to agree to put the line in its transport policy, saying that could put it in the "front seat" at securing funding.

Officers recommended that councillors stop short of that at the moment.

They are, however, commissioning high level technical work to assess current evidence on the likely merits of a business case for reopening - a move which was welcomed by councillors.

Labour councillor Jess Barnard said: "I fully support this campaign. I'm from King's Lynn myself and now live in Norwich.

"I know a lot of young people do not have the finances to pay for driving lessons and that's a huge barrier."

Conservative councillor Graham Middleton said: "I am really pleased to be part of a council that will support something like this.

"We need to do what we can to get some sort of feasibility study in place, do our part to lobby the powers that be and lobby for where the money is."

Much of the original track bed, where the line ran via Wolferton, Snettisham and Heacham, remains undeveloped.

Originally built in the 1860s, the line was closed down in May, 1969.

The council said the money for the study would come from existing budgets.