Fresh bid to boost the Bittern Line

Worstead train station at Worstead part of the Bitten line from Norwich to Sherringham.Picture: MARK

Worstead train station at Worstead part of the Bitten line from Norwich to Sherringham.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Tourism and travel chiefs are welcoming a new wish list for major improvements to north Norfolk's popular Bittern Line rail link.

The vision to dramatically upgrade the route includes:

?More services, faster trains and other route upgrades.

? Timetabling changes at less-used stations.

?The remodelling of Cromer station.

?Changes to the passing loop, which allows two trains to pass at once, at North Walsham.

The drive for change has come from Broadland District Council ahead of a new franchise when Abellio Greater Anglia's contract with the region's railways expires in October next year.

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Another key part of their proposals is to create a new station to serve the Broadland Business Park just outside Norwich.

But the suggested improvements on the whole line, also serving North Walsham and Sheringham, have been welcomed by Ted Gadsden, chairman of the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership.

He said: 'There is considerable demand for the line. We think there is plenty of room for improvement but appreciate it cannot happen at once. There is also a shortage of rolling stock.

'I welcome that improvements are being talked about. I feel rather passionate about this because the Bittern Line is the key to improving the development of the area.

'Improvements would help the tourism economy in north Norfolk.

'I like to think of the Bittern Line as the main artery to north Norfolk and its role is to provide access to better jobs and education.'

In 2013/14 just over 600,000 passengers used the service, which is triple the number of users compared to 1996/7.

Mr Gadsden said there was not much industry in north Norfolk and jobs were not well paid so it was important for the line to provide a route into Norwich and further afield for people who lived in the area.

He added a lot of people also wanted to study in Norwich.

But Mr Gadsden said there should be more trains in the morning, for people who wanted to get to schools or colleges and work, and evening trains for people travelling back from London or Norwich nightspots.

There is currently high demand on the North Walsham station, with between 20 and 40 people waiting for morning services at a time.

Mr Gadsden added future residents at the new Hopkins Homes development on the former HL Foods, next to North Walsham station, could add increased demand on the Bittern Line.

He said there was a also need for the service further up the line towards Sheringham.

'Cromer is the jewel in the crown of north Norfolk so anything to help with that is welcome,' Mr Gadsden added.

Lucy Downing, brand manager of Visit North Norfolk, said: 'We are really happy to see talks on improving the line. It adds to the area for people who live here and improves business.'

Mrs Downing added more holidaymakers wanted to travel on more sustainable transport including trains.

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick said: 'As a council we welcome any opportunity to help improve transport links to the district, particularly rail transport, which is a vital link to Cromer, North Walsham and Sheringham in particular.

'By improving the existing the rail links this proposal could provide an economical boost by encouraging more tourists to the area and improving accessibility to jobs for many people.'

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