Norfolk’s rural rail lines are tracks ahead
Norfolk's rural rail lines have been hailed as tracks ahead as figures reveal countryside services have been boosted by Brits holidaying at home.
Branch lines nationwide have seen passenger numbers rocket – with some almost doubling – over the past four years and the increase in 'staycations' is being referenced as one of the main factors for the rise.
The Bittern and Wherry lines, which run from Norwich to Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, have not seen such a sharp increase recently but despite this operators believe they are steaming ahead of similar services as their popularity continues to grow.
And the lines are now so in demand, with commuters as well as holidaymakers, calls are being made for more trains and carriages to be added to both.
Operator National Express East Anglia said passenger numbers had increased by 200pc on the Bittern line and 50pc on the Wherry line since the community partnerships that run them were set up.
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Spokesman Peter Meades said: 'Both the Bittern and Wherry lines have seen significant increases on their lines but that's more linked to the fact that we have been ahead of the game because we have established community rail partnerships.
'A lot of the work that was initially done to raise the profile and increase the numbers of people using the line has already been established in this part of the world.'
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The figures revealing the highest growing lines across the country were published by the Association of Train Operating Companies and showed numbers on the Truro to Falmouth service in Cornwall had increased the most with a rise of 22pc in the past year.
Robert Simmons, chairman of the North Norfolk Tourism Forum, said this kind of increase was being achieved by the Bittern line 'ten years ago' and thought 'staycations' were not the only factor contributing to their continued popularity.
'People are seeking more environmentally friendly means of getting about once they have arrived, and if you're staying in north Norfolk it's very handy to be able to get a train into Norwich to do shopping,' he added.
Ted Gadsden, chairman of the Bittern rail partnership, described the service as a 'lifeline'.
He said: 'I think at the moment it's limited by the fact we normally only have two carriages, we're pressing for more but there's a shortage of rolling stock.
'There's justification for expanding it. The people who use it are mainly commuters and school children and certainly the 7.45am train is always overcrowded.'