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Vision for £500m light railway connecting 24 towns and villages is revealed

PUBLISHED: 10:23 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:36 25 February 2020

The Docklands Light Railway. The proposed north Norfolk light railway could look something like this. Picture: Au Morandarte

The Docklands Light Railway. The proposed north Norfolk light railway could look something like this. Picture: Au Morandarte

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Plans have been put forward to link north Norfolk’s towns and villages via a £500 million light rail system running from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth.

Terry Wilding, former tram driver and advocate for light rail, has put forward the idea of a  £500 million light rail system across north Norfolk, connecting Peterborough with Great Yarmouth. Picture: North Norfolk Labour PartyTerry Wilding, former tram driver and advocate for light rail, has put forward the idea of a £500 million light rail system across north Norfolk, connecting Peterborough with Great Yarmouth. Picture: North Norfolk Labour Party

The rail link could revolutionise the county's transport network and mean millions in extra tourist revenue for our businesses and communities, it is hoped.

Terry Wilding, a former tram driver and light rail advocate, has been working on the plans for three years and outlined the idea at a North Norfolk Labour Party meeting in Cromer.

Mr Wilding said light railway would be particularly cost effective in Norfolk because it is relatively flat there would be no need to build expensive bridges or tunnels.

He said: "We get over five million visitors up here in summer - if that's not enough to justify a light rail system then I don't know what is.

Sheringham station as it appeared in 1897. It was part of the 
Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, which linked Peterborough to Great Yarmouth and was closed in 1959. Picture: Submitted by David BillSheringham station as it appeared in 1897. It was part of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, which linked Peterborough to Great Yarmouth and was closed in 1959. Picture: Submitted by David Bill

"HS2 is going to cost 200 times the price of a light rail system."

Mr Wilding said the route - which he has calculated would be 154 miles long and cost around £3m per mile - would cater for trains carrying 200 passengers, as well as bicycles.

He said: "Light railway trains are all stainless steel, so a three-car train would weigh around 40 tonnes. One heavy rail carriage is 90 tonnes."

The proposed route would make 24 stops between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth, with 18 in north Norfolk including Burnham Market, Holt, Cromer, North Walsham, Aylsham and Stalham.

Pre-war guests at Caister Holiday Camp with the steam locomotive that delivered them to the special stop on the long-gone 
Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway. There are hopes a future rail line could once again link Great Yarmouth with Peterborough. Picture: Submitted by David BillPre-war guests at Caister Holiday Camp with the steam locomotive that delivered them to the special stop on the long-gone Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway. There are hopes a future rail line could once again link Great Yarmouth with Peterborough. Picture: Submitted by David Bill

Mr Wilding said such a link would also tackle the issue of loneliness in isolated communities.

He said: "Some people get on the bus once a week just to meet and talk to other people, and now a lot of those bus routes have been eroded."

David Bill, director and trustee of the Norfolk Orbital Railway, which is working to link Fakenham, Dereham and Holt with the existing network of heritage and Greater Anglia services, said:

"I'm old enough to remember the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, which ran from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth.

Emma Corlett. Picture: supplied by Emma CorlettEmma Corlett. Picture: supplied by Emma Corlett

"It closed in 1959, and many people thought that was a crime.

"Some of us who were around at that time tried to save parts of it, and because of that Norfolk became one of the centres of the heritage railway industry.

Mr Bill said the Orbital Railway team wanted to offer their support and help to in any way they could to get the light railway plans off the ground

Emma Corlett, who was Labour's North Norfolk candidate at the 2019 general election, said at the meeting the idea was worth considering.

Duncan Baker. Picture: Submitted by Duncan BakerDuncan Baker. Picture: Submitted by Duncan Baker

She said: "30pc of people in Norfolk do not have a car - so a light rail system like this is a fantastic idea - light rail systems are about the best way to reduce carbon emissions and expand public transport.

"If the county council are serious about becoming carbon neutral by 2030, this is something that we should take very seriously."

The plans are based on light railways that have been developed over the past 30 years across the USA and Germany.

The trains, which are similar to new trams, run on dedicated rails with their own signalling infrastructure.

Spandrels originally from the Midland and Great Northern Railway, at the Station House at Pulham Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSpandrels originally from the Midland and Great Northern Railway, at the Station House at Pulham Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, said he welcomed the idea.

Mr Baker said: "I am a strong advocate for infrastructure and any system that can improve our connectivity is something I'd love to hear more about."

Mr Baker said the government was committed to better transport links, especially with trains, which helped decarbonise the transport sector.

He said: "I look forward to meeting Mr Wilding and understanding his vision to bring transport to our communities that need it most."

A historic map of the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway.

 Could a similar rail link once again link Great Yarmouth and Peterborough?  Picture: The William Marriott Museum, Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway SocietyA historic map of the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway. Could a similar rail link once again link Great Yarmouth and Peterborough? Picture: The William Marriott Museum, Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Society

George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP and a former government transport minister, said such a light railway had potential if it was privately financed.

Mr Freeman said: "Interesting idea. There's a massive opportunity for fast, transformational, private sector financed connectivity across places like East Anglia. Government doesn't have to fund it. It just has to enable it."

Mr Wilding plans to launch a petition so people could show their support for the idea, and a website to explain his proposal in greater detail.

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