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More, longer, and electric trains called for on Sheringham to Norwich rail line

The Bittern Line at Worstead - there are calls for improvements on the line launched today. Picture: BILL SMITH

The Bittern Line at Worstead - there are calls for improvements on the line launched today. Picture: BILL SMITH

Archant © 2008

Longer trains at peak times, half hourly services, and electrification of the Sheringham to Norwich rail line are on a wish-list being unveiled today.

The calls are part of a blueprint for desperately-needed improvements to the railways in Norfolk.

MPs, councillors and businesses have drawn up the Norfolk Rail Prospectus to make the case to the government and the rail industry that Norfolk has been stuck in the sidings for too long.

They hope the document, which they insist is not a wish list but has genuinely achievable goals, can be used to put pressure on Network Rail and the companies which will be bidding to take on the franchises for the Greater Anglia and East Midlands two years from now.

The draft prospectus will be unveiled at a meeting today, but it includes calls for:

●Longer trains between Norwich and Sheringham at peak times.

● A target over the longer term for half hourly services on the Bittern Line and Wherry Lines.

● Electrification of Norwich to Cambridge, Bittern and Wherry Lines.

● New stations at Postwick, Broadland Business Park and possibly at Rackheath

● New or fully refurbished train carriages.

● Trains which get from Norwich to London in 90 minutes.

● Services from Norwich to London, Norwich to Cambridge and King’s Lynn to London, via Cambridge, at least every half hour.

● Later last trains from London and Cambridge.

● All stations to be made fully accessible.

● Extending the Norwich to Cambridge service to Stansted.

● Continuing support for an East-West rail link, connecting Cambridge to Oxford.

● Possible freight interchanges at King’s Lynn, Snetterton and Great Yarmouth.

The launch of the prospectus comes after a campaign by MPs, business bosses and council leaders, which led to the East Anglian Rail Prospectus earlier this year.

That document looked at the wider picture for East Anglia and the economic benefits which better train services would bring, but the Norfolk blueprint drills down into further detail.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, said: “For too long Norfolk has been at the end of the line for rail investment, despite it being clear that improvements are needed to boost the county’s economic prospects.”

“Our prospectus will feed into ongoing government decision-making over the next few months. Crucial decisions will be taken about the five-year spending programme on track infrastructure, and government will be re-letting the franchises to decide which train companies run the services in and out of the county.

“These are major, important decisions that will shape the quality and frequency of train services for a number of years to come.”

The document suggests it might be possible to tap into a £300m pot available from the government to fund journey time and performance improvements, to help speed up the trains between Norwich and London.

The Norfolk prospectus will go out for consultation following today’s launch at the King’s Centre in King Street, Norwich. It is expected to be rubber-stamped by the county council early next year. Council leaders say that will then enable them to work with the government, the rail industry and others to deliver the schemes outlined in it.


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