Hopes rekindled for new £20m railway station
- Credit: Mike Page
Hopes have been rekindled that a new £20m railway station could be built on the edge of Norwich.
Council bosses are set to pledge to keep up the pressure to get the new station built to serve Broadland Business Park.
The idea was that the station would be a new stop on the line between Norwich, Cromer and Sheringham, but would also open up rail connections, via Norwich, to other parts of the county.
The proposals would have seen two platforms and a car park built, and the introduction of a more frequent service on the Bittern Line.
The feasibility had found a "strong" business case for the work and warranted further research, the council said.
They said it would be used by about 190,000 passengers each year and cost £6.6m, but, since then, the project has stalled.
However, the project is contained in a blueprint for infrastructure and transport schemes over the next decade, which the Conservative-controlled cabinet at Norfolk County Council will discuss next month.
That blueprint - known as the Norfolk Strategic Infrastructure Delivery Plan - includes the scheme, even though two years ago officers had recommended it be removed.
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And the document, which will be discussed by County Hall's cabinet on Monday, December 6, has an aspiration that a further feasibility study into the station will be conducted in 2022.
That study, which would cost about £250,000, would involve detailed technical work to develop the project further - and give it more chance of securing the funding the scheme would need.
Money to pay for the latest study could come from councils, out of the pool of business rates or from the rail industry.
Depending on that study, then it would be followed by a third phase of three to five years of development and, finally, construction - at a potential cost of £20m - from 2028.
But that would hinge on the Department for Transport agreeing the scheme makes financial sense and for rail companies to be keen.
Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: "I am still very keen that this should become a reality.
"We have been talking about this for some time. We know how busy Broadland Business Park is and it is still growing.
"This is a key piece of infrastructure for Norfolk's long-term future and we do have a pretty good track record of attracting funding."
When the issue was discussed at a recent meeting of the county council's infrastructure and development committee, Lana Hempsall, the council's member champion for sustainable transport welcomed the station's inclusion in the blueprint.
She said: "I think we’ve all seen just how that business park has taken off in recent years and it will just be a really good addition to the public transport connectivity of that part of Broadland to the city and beyond."
A Greater Anglia spokesperson said: "Greater Anglia has been consulted on previous studies about the potential for a new station at Broadland Business Park. We’re happy to participate in any further discussions.
"As with all proposals for new stations, the key factors to cover will include the likely demand and revenue resulting from such a station, the impact of an additional stop on journey times and performance and the funding needed for the construction and operation of a station.
"The progression of such a project will depend on all these factors, and some others, being successfully addressed.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail said: "Any new stations would need approval from the Department for Transport.
"We can support feasibility work but we don’t make the decision ultimately."
It comes as Broadland and South Norfolk councils mull over a move to the business park.
Consultants hired by the authorities, which share staff, had recommended the two councils should spend £10m to buy the Horizon building at the business park, vacated by Aviva last year, to become their new headquarters.
But a decision on that has been put on hold, with some councillors, from both authorities, not convinced of the merits of the switch.