Breakthrough in Bittern Line train campaign


Norman Lamb MP. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Passengers on a rural Norfolk train line look set to have won their long-running campaign for a later last service from Norwich.

Network Rail has said that it will alter its maintenance schedule so that, from next May, the final Friday and Saturday night train on the Norwich to Sheringham Bittern Line can run 20 minutes later.

The development came in an email from Network Rail to North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb who had asked for a meeting with the firm's bosses and other interested parties to press the case for a later service.

The Network Rail email included the statement: '... we will be able to make the necessary amends (sic) to the timetable to allow for later trains from May 2015 as stakeholders requested.'

Mr Lamb said it was a major breakthrough, adding: 'I am obviously very pleased that they appear to have shifted.'

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Campaigners say the current last train, which leaves Norwich at 10.45pm, means many north Norfolk passengers are forced to miss the end of shows and concerts so that they do not miss it.

Eric Seward, a member of, and North Walsham Town Council representative on, the Bittern Line Partnership, said he was very pleased at the development.

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'It's a victory for commonsense and I'm delighted,' said Mr Seward. 'It's been a long campaign, going back two years. This will be a much more convenient service for people leaving Norwich.'

He claimed sustained pressure by a whole range of groups, with the vital support of fellow Liberal Democrat Mr Lamb, had helped change Network Rail's mind.

North Norfolk Labour Party launched a petition calling for the change which has attracted more than 500 signatures.

Party chairman Denise Burke said 20 minutes was

'nowhere near good enough' and the party's campaign would continue.

'What we need are trains which run way past 11pm so that people who have a social life in Norwich, or work in London and commute, can do so,' said Mrs Burke.

'Compared with other parts of the country, where people can get home late at night on a train, Norfolk is forgotten.'

Despite the explicit email to Mr Lamb, both Network Rail and rail operators Greater Anglia were non-committal when approached to comment.

A Greater Anglia spokesman said: 'At this stage discussions are still ongoing and as soon as any plans are confirmed we will announce them.' The firm's reserve was echoed by a spokesman for Network Rail who said: 'We will be able to confirm our plans, once they are in place.'

? What do you think of the train service? Write to: EDPLetters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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