Highway England plans to demolish or infill rail bridges.

Highways England, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the Historical Railways Estate. The structures that form part of the estate includes, 3, 800 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Many of these structures are decommissioned and are on disused railway lines and plans have been put forward by Highways England to demolish or infill 134 of theHighways England, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the Historical Railways Estate. The structures that form part of the estate includes, 3, 800 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Many of these structures are decommissioned and are on disused railway lines and plans have been put forward by Highways England to demolish or infill 134 of these.

Highways England, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the Historical Railways Estate. The structures that form part of the estate includes, 3, 800 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Many of these structures are decommissioned and are on disused railway lines and plans have been put forward by Highways England to demolish or infill 134 of these.

This is only the first phase and it is understood that as many as 480 could be demolished. A significant number of the structures proposed for demolition are currently used by walkers and many of the routes have been identified as possibly being reopened again for rail use along with being used for cycling and walking.

Bridge 1711 crosses the protected railway route running from County School on the Mid Norfolk Railway through to Fakenham and is one of those listed in the first phase for demolition. The track bed through Great Ryburgh and into Fakenham is safeguarded under North Norfolk’s Policy CT7 for Sustainable Transport Uses. We have shared our concerns with Norfolk County Council, local MP’s, District and Parish Councils in order that we can deal with this threat.

Contact will also be made with the Railway Heritage Trust whose objectives are: to assist operational railway companies in the preservation and upkeep of listed buildings and structures. They also offer help to facilitate the transfer of non-operational premises and structures to outside bodies willing to undertake their preservation.

We are members of the Norfolk Rail Policy Group and a representative of the Highways England Historic Railways Estates will be contacted and invited to attend the next meeting in February 2021.

The section of track bed between County School and Fakenham is a vital part of the route which we need to secure for future rail use. If you would like to help us in any way then please go to our support page or get in touch with us through our contact page.

The New Civil Engineer covers the demolition threat in this article.

Audio: Wally Webb

The popular BBC Radio Norfolk Presenter Wally Webb retired on the 2nd January 2021 after 40 years on air. He was one of the first presenters on Radio Norfolk when it launched and his first show was on the 14th September 1980. The first track he played was an AC/DC hit! Since then he has presented a number of shows including a Sunday Rock show and the early morning Breakfast show.

Wally is well known by many listeners as the roving reporter who travelled all over Norfolk interviewing local people and covering events in the region. On the 8th September 2017 he visited our section of railway land at Fakenham and interviewed Project Officer Paul Young after a recent spate of vandalism, here is that article. https://norfolk-orbital-railway.co.uk/newly-restored-fakenham-railway-bridge-1715-vandalised/

Once the interview was finished, our Project Officer Paul, who at the time worked for a local community radio station interviewed Wally as they were back along the track bed to their cars.

Listen here to the interview:

The Fakenham Area Conservation Team

The Melton Constable Trust own a section of the former Great Eastern Railway trackbed at Fakenham. Trains would travel from Wells-next-the-Sea through to the Fakenham East station and then onto Dereham and Wymondham which was the main line connection to Norwich and beyond.

The trackbed at Fakenham is now a Permissive path and we are continually grateful to the Fakenham Area Conservation Team that help maintain the vegetation and keep the path clear ensuring that members of the public can enjoy this heritage walk.

Members of the Fakenham area Conservation Team at Bridge 1715

Chris Yardley who manages the Fakenham Area Conservation Team, with the help of Tracey is always looking for new volunteers:

The Fakenham Area Conservation Team works in the Fakenham area to do practical conservation tasks with a team of volunteers. Our work mostly concentrates on managing different habitats for wildlife and public amenity, together with maintaining access along some of the many rural rights of way and permissive paths in and around the Town.

We always welcome people to the group and actively seek new members who want to come to join us. There is no joining fee or expectation to donate anything apart from your time to enjoy working with us. There are no commitments over coming to tasks and we are happy if people just drop in and out as the time they have allows. 

The Permissive Path at Fakenham between Bridge 1714 and the Three Brick Arches over the River Wensum Bridge 1714.

We have a full inclusiveness policy and will try to accommodate people from all backgrounds, ages (children need to be accompanied by an adult) and abilities, although the tasks tend to require some walking and some physical activity depending on what they are (we do things such as path cutting / levelling, tree planting, grassland and scrub cutting / management)

We have a Health and Safety policy, inclusiveness policy and child safety policy. We are fully insured for public liability through The Conservation Trust – which covers all volunteers for any conservation management task that they are doing whilst with us.

Clearing Rubbish from the area around Morrisons and Enterprise Way Fakenham – together with cutting brambles and habitat management March 2019

FACT was formed in 1989 by the then Wensum Valley Project (County Council sponsored) and has been going continuously since then. We work with a variety of partner organisations such as The Melton Constable Trust, Fakenham Town Council, Sculthorpe Church to provide management of their sites. The Melton Constable Trust and Town Council have been extremely supportive of FACT over the years and provided us with funding and equipment together with shared help on projects and publicity.

Helping Stibbard Primary School to restore its pond and wildlife area March 2018

If you would like to join us please contact Tracey Yardley or Chris Yardley on 07748 135422 / 07931 434162 –  or tracey.white15@hotmail.co.uk; we would love to hear from you.

Audio: Railway memories County School

Trevor Bailey at County School

Trevor Bailey, a Trustee of the Melton Constable Trust talks about some of his memories of the railway between Wymondham and Wells-next-the-Sea in 1961. The interview was one of a number carried out as part of the National Lottery Railway Project

County School Railway Station in 1961
Listen here to Trevor Bailey talking to Paul Young
A J17 at Fakenham East

The Melton Constable Trust would like to thank the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust, Fakenham Town Council, The Ernest Cook Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support on this project.

Fakenham East 1960’s Music and memories

Photographs courtesy of Fakenham & District Community Archive.

As part of the lottery funded project, April 2017, the Melton Constable Trust interviewed a number of local people who had memories of Fakenham East Railway Station.

You can listen here to that recording along with a selection of music from the 1960’s.

Fakenham East 1960’s Music and memories

The Melton Constable Trust would like to thank the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust, Fakenham Town Council, The Ernest Cook Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support on this project.

Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP)

Broadland District Council, Norwich City Council and South Norfolk Council, working with Norfolk County Council, have agreed to work together to prepare the Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP), which, once adopted, will set out where development of new housing should be provided up to 2036.  The plan also covers a range of other topics, such as how the area should plan for transport, infrastructure, the environment, employment and climate change.

Information has been widely promoted with in the Council areas and the GNLP state that they “can only succeed if the views of the public, developers, services and infrastructure providers are understood”. A series of consultations were held from Monday January 8th 2018 until it closed on Thursday 22nd March where comments and views could be made. The next step is the “Regulation 19” stage which is scheduled to happen in summer of 2019. This is when a draft plan will be published and there will be an opportunity to provide comment for consideration by a planning inspector.

The consultation provoked considerable discussion and views. In March we were sent a letter from Gail Mayhew who wanted to share her views and you can read it here.

If you have any comments then you can email our Project officer, Paul Young: projectofficernor@yahoo.co.uk

King’s Lynn Hunstanton Railway Project – Open Day 2nd December 2017

The King’s Lynn Hunstanton Railway Project Open Day in Hunstanton on 2nd December 2017 was a resounding success. Over 200 visitors attended the event, both families with young children, young adults, empty nesters and the ‘not-so-young’.

Visitors came from all over the country; a few former residents of Hunstanton now living overseas also attended. 138 petitions for a new railway to reconnect King’s Lynn with Hunstanton were signed. Signatories hailed from:

  • King’s Lynn Hunstanton Area – 82 petitions (58% of total)
  • Home Counties – 19 petitions (18% of total)
  • Further afield, ranging from Derby to Bournemouth – 9 petitions (6% of total)
  • Overseas; Italy, Germany, Canada – 3 petitions (2% of total)
  • Petitions signed but without postcode – 25 petitions (16% of total)

Two presentations were made on the day by Bob Edwards, a rail expert on the project team. Railway experts from the team also circulated amongst the visitors throughout the day, explaining technical issues, answering questions about potential rail track routes, car parking for passengers, feasibility studies to be undertaken, funding and the type of railway which will ultimately link properly with the national rail network.

Hunstanton August 1959

Anglia TV were present during the day and conducted 3 on-camera interviews with members of the Project Team. Later in the day, BBC Radio Norfolk attended the event and recorded three more interviews for broadcast. Elaine Bird took photographs for publication in January Town & Around. The event was also attended by Councillors: Andrew Jamieson, Michael de Chenery of Horsburgh and Richard Bird.

Rigil Kent (Chairman) said “I am overwhelmed with the extremely positive response from the public who attended our open day; everybody that I spoke to on the day was in support of our aim to re-establish a line through to Kings Lynn.

The aim of the day was to launch the project to the public officially and to answer any queries that people have to the best of our ability at this stage of the project. The next steps are to raise funds to organise a properly conducted feasibility study to officially ascertain the need, the viability, funding, operation, route and management of the project going forward.”

Next Steps: The Railway Project Group has already set up a bank account and the immediate next steps are to raise funding for a full Feasibility Study to examine all aspects of the proposal including route and rail station options, the provision of car parking, overall costs of the tender and consultancy process, build costs of line options, and its long-term financial viability. The economic benefits to local area businesses and to the communities served by the new rail service will also be examined and quantified.

A petition is also running and if you wish to sign it then please click here: Reinstate train line from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton

For more information please contact Georgina Turner: le_strange_railway@outlook.com

Useful Weblinks:

King’s Lynn Railway

The first season of the Swanage to Wareham service

Earlier in the year we published an article on the new Swanage to Wareham service The 2017 trial diesel service between Swanage and Wareham finished on Sunday 3rd September 2017 and here is a statement from Mark Wooley, Director at the Swanage Railway Company.

“The full reinstatement of this fine branch line has been a 45 year struggle. The culmination of this effort – by many dedicated people – has only been possible through capital grant aid in recent years totalling £5.56m received through the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership (PCRP) from local authorities, the Department for Communities & Local Government’s Coastal Communities Fund and from oil giant BP.

No. 6695 leaving Swanage station

A sizeable proportion of this (£3.2m) was invested by Dorset County Council and Purbeck District Council in Network Rail’s recent Poole to Wool re-signalling scheme which ensured passenger train access to and from the Swanage branch at Worgret Junction, and avoided prohibitive standalone project costs at a later date.

This level of investment represents a great act of faith in the long-standing project to reinstate a Swanage to Wareham train service and is very welcome. However, whilst the sum involved is large by heritage railway standards, it is something of an exceptional case and also far below the levels of investment required to implement a full service in the short term; a situation that, by coincidence, Christian Wolmar laments in his article in the same edition of RAIL.

It is also important to bear in mind that, vital though this grant aid has been to the Swanage Railway and the PCRP, the new service is being operated without any revenue support. Under the terms of a recently signed 99-year lease with Dorset County Council (owners of the freehold of most of the Swanage branch), the Swanage Railway has been obliged to operate a two-year trial service on 60 selected days in year one and 90 selected days in year two.

In year one, the service comprised four return trips a day at two-hourly intervals and was delivered as cost-effectively as possible by utilising a single staff shift and an integrated fare structure. Mindful of the need to avoid fare abstraction, the latter has been well received by many passengers because it allowed the ability to break a journey at Corfe Castle before travelling on to Swanage by heritage steam service. The fare, which for many was discountable, never attracted serious concerns.

The new Swanage to Wareham service is by definition a limited trial and will therefore not be optimal from the outset. We are very pleased with the first year of the trial service and our official footfall figures indicate a total passenger figure of over 13,000 for the 60 days of operation. This compares well with the PCRP’s target of 12,000 passengers.  Surveys indicate that a high proportion of our passengers arrived and/or departed from Wareham by rail.  Feedback received from South Western Railway tells us that Wareham station ‘entries and exits’ data for the 12-week period of the trial shows a significant increase over the same period in 2016.  This was a key objective of the new service and is something to be proud of.

We look forward to delivering a 90 selected day trial service in 2018 and it is likely that there will be changes to the timetable and additional discount schemes made available for this.”

Useful weblinks:

Swanage Railway