Rail season ticket re-launch bid to ease strain for train travellers to Norwich City FC games

The strain of packed match-day trains is set to be eased with the re-launch of rail season tickets for Norwich City FC fans.

James Steward, area manager for National Express East Anglia's rural routes, said they were planning to promote the train travel football season ticket in readiness for the 2012/13 football season.

Chiefs hope it will cut long waiting times for fans from across the region arriving and leaving Norwich rail station for home games.

The move coincides with a plea for action by the Canaries' supporters' trust which has written to the club about the problem, according to trustee Phil Harris.

Mr Harris, who does not usually take the train to matches, recalled his experience when he travelled on a two-coach Bittern Line train from his home in Cromer to watch the pre-season game against Parma last August.

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'It was packed. The guard physically couldn't get from one end of the train to the other to collect fares and by the time we left North Walsham it was heaving,' said Mr Harris, 57, of Bernard Road.

At Norwich all those who had not been able to buy a ticket on board had to join a long queue to pay two members of rail staff manning the barriers.

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Mr Harris said it had taken him 45 minutes to get out of the station and he had arrived at the ground just five or 10 minutes before kick-off.

'I'm fit, but anyone with a disability could have missed the start of the match,' he added.

'There were people in the queue saying: 'If it's going to be like this, I'm not catching the train again' and I've heard people say since that it's usually like that.'

He was surprised to learn that season tickets already existed and urged rail chiefs to promote them far more effectively, including pre-season posters on prominent display at all stations serving Norwich.

A spokesman for National Express East Anglia said they had been offering football season tickets for a number of years, covering all their lines.

They were available to Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and Tottenham fans for their teams' home games but take-up had been 'relatively low' and there would be a re-launch in the summer.

They tried very hard to ensure that any outstanding fares were sold at the ticket barrier in Norwich as quickly as possible to ensure that passengers were not unnecessarily delayed.

The company did its best to run enough trains and with enough carriages within available resources and operating requirements.

'With this season in particular seeing a number of variances of kick-off times this is something that we keep under review and for example, for a recent Sunday match we operated an additional service to North Walsham because of a different kick-off time,' said the spokesman.

He expected the season tickets initiative to continue with Sunday's switch of the East Anglia rail franchise to new operators, Abellio.

Joe Ferrari, for NCFC, said with 27,000 people descending on the same place at the same time for home matches, they were always keen to encourage fans to use public transport where possible.

'The club is committed to working with all the relevant transport agencies and local authorities to continue to look at ways of getting supporters to and from our games,' he said. 'It's an important issue which we are working hard on with our partners.'

? Are you travelling to tomorrow's match by train? Send us your photos and videos. Visit www.edp24.co.uk and click on the iwitness24 link.

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