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.
Whitwell & Reepham Station was opened on the 1st July 1882 and was part of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway’s (M&GN) branch from the main line at Melton Constable to Norwich City. The line was used for passengers and freight goods bringing coal from the Midlands to Norfolk and peat, for burning, dug out of the Broads together with grain for use outside the county.
In the 1950’s with car ownership becoming more popular and affordable together with more freight being moved to the roads, rail usage started to decline. British Rail were losing money and radical decisions and cut backs were made. On the 2nd March 1959, the line was closed for passenger use however the station remained open for goods traffic until 1st May 1964. However the track through the station remained in place up until 1985 for movements of concrete products from Lenwade station, two miles away.
After the station closed faced an uncertain future, it was used for a variety of different purposes from a coach park to tree surgery. There was even talk at the time to relocate the station building and reassemble it at Holt for use by the newly formed North Norfolk Railway however Stalham Station building was used instead. Meanwhile once the track had been lifted, the track bed was used as part of the Marriott’s Way, named in memory of William Marriott who was Chief Engineer and Manager of the Midland and Great Northern Railway (M&GN) for 41 years.
In September 2007, railway enthusiast and local businessman Mike Urry bought the station site. In 2008 the Whitwell and Reepham Preservation Society was formed and phased plans were drawn up for the development of the heritage railway. Phase one is returning the station to its original layout by relaying track, running trains and restoring the station buildings. The impressive signal box has been the most recent building project and there are plans later in the year to get it operational. Phase two is to extend the line along Marriott’s Way to Lenwade and then re-create the Themelthorpe curve to Reepham station. Phase three would be linking up with either the Mid Norfolk Railway or North Norfolk Railway.
Before the relaying of the track on the trackbed can start, clarity of ownership and permissions need to be granted so a petition has been raised to provide backing and support. The Whitwell and Reepham Preservation Society are keen to progress but not at the detriment of the users of the Marriott’s Way.
The petition seeks to:
Clarify the term “Railway Land” of the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Acts 1876/81.
The Whitwell & Reepham Railway Preservation Society are a Heritage Railway and have been running for over 10 years. We would like to relay track on an old track bed running from Whitwell & Reepham Station to Lenwade Station, making sure the existing users can still use the land as well. As part of the petition process they state that:
We would like the Government to:
1) Clarify the position of the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Act of 1876 to 1881, the Eastern & Midlands Act 1883 to 1885, and the other railway almaganations up to Network Rail times, and to confirm the land under the Lynn and Fakenham Act still does in fact have an act of parliament still in force for the land to be used as a railway.
2) Clarify who actually has preference over this land if the point above is true.
3) Provide us with a written statement of the above.
Our Project Officer Paul Young visited Whitwell & Reepham station and spoke with Richard Bailey, the society’s Safety Manager. Richard has been with the group from the beginning in 2008 and has put in the petition.
Listen to the interview here:
Black and White photograph of Whitwell & Reepham Station copyright of the M&GN Circle.
The Norfolk Strategic Framework (NSF) consultation ran from the 2nd August to the 22nd September 2017 and since then then Norfolk’s Local Planning Authorities (including Norfolk County Council) have been reviewing all comments made, preparing responses and updating the document where this has been deemed necessary. In early January 2018 a new updated version of the NSF was released for public view.
In the introduction, the aim of producing the framework is outlined as follows:
Agree shared objectives and strategic priorities to improve outcomes for Norfolk and inform the preparation of future Local Plans.
Demonstrate compliance with the duty to co-operate.
Find efficiencies in the planning system through working towards the establishment of a shared evidence base.
Influence subsequent high level plans (such as the Strategic Economic Plan).
Maximise the opportunities to secure external funding to deliver against agreed objectives.
The project has been underway for over a year and four working groups have been established to pull together a shared evidence base on housing, employment, infrastructure and delivery issues. The working groups consist of Local Authority staff assisted by other organisations including the Environment Agency, Natural England, Anglian Water, UK Power Networks, Homes and Communities Agency and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
Here we have a section of the Norfolk Strategic Framework: Transport Constraints covering Rail:
Overview and Summary
The rail network serving Norfolk is sparse: few settlements are connected to the rail network, and the network serves few destinations out of the county. There are two lines from London: the Great Eastern Main Line from London Liverpool Street via Ipswich to Norwich; and the Fenline / Great Northern Route from London King’s Cross via Cambridge to King’s Lynn. (King’s Lynn also has one train per day to London Liverpool Street.) Norwich is directly connected to Cambridge, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Sheringham; and longer distance services via Peterborough to Liverpool.
Journey times by rail to major destinations outside the county are lengthy: for example it takes nearly two hours to get to London from Norwich, and four hours from Norwich to Birmingham (see Appendix, Figure A7).
Nine of the 21 Norfolk market towns are directly served by rail. Some of the larger market towns are some distance from their nearest rail connection, for example Dereham and Fakenham are both over half an hour travel time from the nearest station (see Figure 4).
Rail provides an important travel choice for commuters into the main centres, albeit only for those with a convenient service available.
Figure 4: Rail connections from market towns
Note: Journey times and distances are car journey times. Source: AA Route Planner
Existing Patterns of Usage Norfolk has a very limited rail network, meaning that few of its towns are served by rail. Also, the services offered provide a very limited range of destinations and many have only one train per hour. In particular, services to the Midlands and Home Counties are poor. Whilst rail generally provides fasterjourneys to other major centres compared to road, average rail speeds compare poorly with connections between major centres out of the county (eg York to London) (see Appendix, Figure A7).
Norwich station is by far the busiest of all Norfolk stations. Usage has almost doubled in the past ten years, to over 4 million passengers per annum. The second busiest station is King’s Lynn. The importance of the lines to London is demonstrated by Diss being the third busiest station in the county, and Downham Market the fourth. (See Appendix, Figure A8.) Patronage at Norfolk stations on the King’s Lynn to London line has increased in recent years. Conversely, at Great Yarmouth patronage fell by 5% over the last year, relegating the station to fifth busiest station with around 440,000 passengers.
Whilst station usage has increased dramatically over the last ten years there are signs of the increase levelling off in the last two years. Some lines are reaching, or are at, capacity at peak times: the Bittern Line; services to Cambridge; and London services (Norwich services tend to be full towards the southern, London, end of the route only whereas King’s Lynn services can be full north of Cambridge). In describing lines as ‘at capacity’ it should be noted that this means that the existing trains, at their existing frequencies, are full. However, operators cannot lengthen trains because they do not have rolling stock that can be used and / or the infrastructure cannot accommodate longer trains, for example the platforms are not long enough. Additional frequencies cannot be provided because of – again – rolling stock and / or infrastructure constraints.
A number of stations on rural lines have very low usage – fewer than 100 per annum in the case of Buckenham – which is a reflection of both low catchment areas as well as infrequent services.
The frequency of rail services from Norwich to Cambridge and Peterborough (for onward services to the north and the Midlands), and from King’s Lynnsouth to Cambridge and London, is limited by infrastructure at Ely. Here, the available track capacity, its layout, and the numbers and arrangement of level crossings restrict the numbers of services that can pass through. Across most of the network journey times are limited by infrastructure including the numbers of level crossings. Only the London lines (to Norwich and King’s Lynn) are electrified; all other services need to use diesel rolling stock. There is a national shortage of diesel stock, meaning that additional services – in the form of higher frequencies – or longer trains cannot be provided. Shortages of stock can also lead to disruption on existing timetabled services in the case of, for example, train breakdowns.
Known rail capacity issues: As set out above some lines are at capacity. This includes:
Bittern Line from Sheringham to Norwich in peak times. These trains can be full from south of North Walsham in the morning peak coming in to Norwich.
Cambridge to Norwich in peak times. Again, these services can be full coming in to Norwich in peak times, and also between Cambridge and Ely due to Cambridge commuters.
London to Norwich. These services are full going in to London in the mornings towards the south of the line, and again coming out of London in the evenings. Passengers can have to stand all the way to Ipswich.
Journey times and rail frequencies between main economic centres (within the county and to major destinations outside) Figure A7 in the appendix shows journey times and frequencies to a range of destinations. For business trips, business people need connections to markets and suppliers and – ideally – need to be able to get there and back in half a day (including time for the business part of the trip as well as travel time); although will accept a full day. Itcan be seen from the table that few destinations offer easy half-day connections with even trips to Cambridge involving 2 hours 40 travel time from Norwich (there and back and excluding any wait time or travel to and from the stations at either end). King’s Lynn to Cambridge, at 45m each way, is more convenient but hampered presently by a frequency of every hour outside of the peak times. Some trips, such as to Birmingham, are difficult even given a whole day (eight hours train travel time (from Norwich) alone).
Within the county out of peak times all services except Norwich to Diss have hourly frequency, which militates against use of the train for business people. Otherwise journey times are reasonable. However, the main issue is lack of connectivity. Only nine of the 21 market towns are directly served by rail. Some of the larger market towns are some distance from their nearest rail connection, for example Dereham and Fakenham are both over half an hour travel time from the nearest station (see Figure 4). Even where towns are connected to rail, there are often no direct connections. King’s Lynn to Norwich by rail for example takes 2 hours 20m because travel involves going via Ely where there is a need to change trains.
The National Travel Survey 2015 shows that the average duration of a commuter journey in the UK is 31 minutes. The following figure shows rail journey times into Norwich, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth. This illustrates that, for people living close to or having easy access to stations (and their workplace being conveniently sited for the station), rail provides an important travel choice into the main centres. Access to airports is covered below in the Access to International Hubs section.
Forecast rail passenger use:
The Anglia Route Study, Network Rail March 2016, looked ahead over the next 30 years. It forecast an increase in numbers of passengers on services into London on the Great Eastern Main Line of over 30% (or 2,200 extra passengers in the peak hour) by 2023 and 75% (or 5,100 passengers) by 2034. The study stated “passengers on these services will be travelling in crowded conditions for a long time. Without intervention, services will be over seated capacity and between 40 per cent and 100 per cent of standingcapacity taken up for well over 20 minutes. Services that start from Norwich, Stowmarket, Witham and Chelmsford tend to have the highest load factors and demand is at, or exceeds, seated capacity now.”
For cross country services, including Norwich to Cambridge, Network Rail’s study states that – although there are some issues regarding crowding presently – the main driver for improvement is better connectivity rather than accommodating peak capacity. The study recognises the need for half hourly services on the route. The study also notes that “Kings Lynn to Cambridge [is] also infrequently served; as such, the Route Study investigates the feasibility of improving the frequency of services” to half hourly.
The main barrier to additional Norwich and King’s Lynn to Cambridge services is the capacity for trains through the network at Ely.
The study also recognises the aspirations for half hourly services from Norwich to Sheringham and Great Yarmouth but concludes that there is unlikely to be a business case for these. (End of overview and summary)
It is interesting to note that in this document and indeed in the framework there seems to be no mention of reinstating former rail routes or developing new ones. Neither do we see suggestions or discussions to be had with heritage railways to look at options for linking to mainline stations or working with train operating companies. Should there be?
This document is draft. Comments on it from all those interested in the future of the County will be welcome. This will inform an amended version of the document which will be considered at the Strategic Planning Member Forum later in the year before formally being considered for adoption by each of the participating bodies thereafter.
Within the section there are also a number of contact details. If you feel you have any comments or views that you would like to make on this document then the first point of contact should be made to: NSF@norfolk.gov.uk
If you have questions on the Norfolk Orbital Railway project then it would be good to hear from you. Contact details are:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The Railway Institute in Melton Constable was built by the railway for the benefit of its workers as reading rooms, wash rooms and general recreation until the closure of the railway works in the early 1960’s. At that point a group of local people (and by then) ex-employees banded together and bought the freehold of the Railway Institute from the British Railways board, and formed a trust under the name of the Country Club that endures to this day. The Country Club offers many forms of social recreation to local people, including bar facilities, snooker, pool, a large function hall etc. Importantly we believe that the Railway Institute is one of the very last remaining in the whole country that largely operates as it was intended when it was built in the late Victorian era.
The historical importance of the building was recognised by both the Holt, Melton Constable & Fakenham Railway Company, and the Melton Constable Trust when it chose the landmark Railway Institute to be their registered offices.
Unfortunately as it is a large Victorian building with high associated running & repair costs, coupled with the nationwide downturn in the licenced trade, the building is in very real danger of having to close its doors. If this were to happen then the building would have to be sold, and would likely end up being converted into residential use – robbing the village of its only social centre and arguably the most significant building left from the era of the railway works in Melton Constable.
A concerted effort is now underway to try and save the Institute, and the renowned nine piece Mynx Soul Band have kindly agreed to do a fund raising concert at the Country Club free of charge on Saturday 28th October. Tickets in advance are £8 and are available from the Country Club, by phone on 01263 860555 or email email@example.com.
Donations are also invited to help save this unique piece of railway history, cheques should be made payable to The Country Club, and sent to the Railway Institute, 6 Briston Road, Melton Constable, Norfolk. NR24 2DA.
One of the club trustees, Adrian Loynes recently spoke with Norfolk Orbital Railways Project officer Paul Young and you can listen here:
Mr Frank Morgan was a Railwayman at Melton Constable and worked there for many years. In June 1999 when he was in his nineties, he wrote down his memories of the Railway Institute in 1927.
Built in 1896 as the Railway Institute and extended in 1912, this building was constructed for the recreation of railwaymen and for the furtherance of education for the apprentices that were employed on the works. After the extension it consisted of six rooms upstairs and 2 rooms and a dance hall and kitchen downstairs, the boiler house, 2 bathrooms and ladies and gents toilets were situated in the yard. A large cellar was situated underneath the 1912 extension.
In those days there was no demand for a lot of storage room and as Boy Scouts we were allowed to store all our camping equipment in there free of charge, until about 1930 when the Institute obtained a licence for selling alcohol. Then we had to find room in the Scout Hall for all the gear as the cellar was then needed for beer and stores. The members money was one penny per week for apprentices and two pence per week for adults. This was stopped out of your wage packet weekly. The staff employed was a caretaker and assistant…..I don’t recall anyone else. They did all the chores, serving at the counter and controlling all that went on including the letting of the baths which cost just four pence per bath. The hot water for the baths was supplied from the boiler which was situated next to the bathrooms. This boiler was also tended by the caretakers and the supply of coal was delivered by horse dray by Messers Attoe and Twiddy coal merchants, this was delivered a ton at a time and had to be carried in Cwt. sacks up the alley alongside the Institute and tipped through a hatch into the boiler house.
The reading room (now the billiard room) was very well equipped . Every daily newspaper was supplied and each was placed on the reading desks in a manner so that you could peruse the whole paper without any problem of slipping pages or any obstruction. The only snag being you had to stand up all the time. the large table in the middle of the room and the bench on the east side had all the books and periodicals of the day and all the seating in the room was of wooden but comfortable arm chairs. A notice hung on the wall stating that audible conversation was not permitted.
The next room was the Committee room, the only time the room was used was for Committee Meetings and as a gents cloak room when there was a dance on in the hall. Next came the Music Room probably so called because it housed a piano and was let to music teachers, was also used for evening classes for apprentices, at one end was a huge glass showcase which housed a large machine all made in wood and operated by a wooden handle, this was also for instructional use.
Next came the Library containing 3000 volumes, this was in the able hands of Mr. Loue Porter, it was only open on Monday evenings from 7 pm till 9 pm and members of the public were allowed to have books but I can’t remember what they had to pay for the privilege. Next came the juniors billiard room containing a 3/4 size table, this was for members 14 t0 16 years of age to learn to play on at 2d per half hour and Monday evenings the table cover was promptly put on by the librarian at 7 o-clock and cards approximately 10” x 8” laid all around the table and book numbers were printed on them from 1 to 3000 as an index and the name of the book. you made your selection from these cards and then studied the chart in the corner of the room and if the book you fancied was in the indicator showed green, if it was out it showed red.
The end room contained a full size billiard table and on reaching the age of 16 you were allowed to use this room and of course play on a full size table. The ground floor consisted of the dance hall which on Sundays was used by the “Railway Mission” and a Service was held at 11 am, Sunday School at 2.30 and another service at 6.30. During the week various organisations used it such as the Choral Society, Evening Classes etc.,
The kitchen was rather crude, containing some rather large ovens which I believe were gas fired. Next the Bar, a small counter which only covered an area of about 6’ x 6’ which only left about 4’ x 4’ for the caretaker to move around in. anyway this sufficed until about 1930 when the licence was granted and then things became a bit cramped but they soldiered on for several more years until it was eventually bought and taken over by the Country Club Committee and made into the nice club of today.
The north wall was a well upholstered seat and faced by 3 marble topped and iron framed tables, This was the only place that chess, dominoes, draughts etc. were played. Through now into the main billiard room which housed the reckoned second best billiard table in Norfolk. When we ‘became of age’ we seldom got the chance to play on it as it was mostly taken up by the ‘Nobility’.
At 10 pm everybody out, doors locked and bolted, gas lamp at the bottom of the yard extinguished, the 2 iron gates chained and locked and that’s it,
The Melton Constable Trust, the organisation behind the Norfolk Orbital Railway project, own sections of land on the former railway route between High Kelling, Holt and Fakenham. The first stage plan for the land at High Kelling, which is the section of land across the Old Cromer Road from the North Norfolk Railway station at Holt, is to put down a number of track panels, ballast and some rolling stock.
This will highlight to local people and visitors that this is railway land and rail is heading towards Holt town. Last year the track bed was raised and has now settled and is ready to receive track, however before work can start some of the trees and overhanging branches required the attention of an arboriculturist (tree surgeon). 350 (Sherwood Foresters) Field Squadron, Royal Engineers part of 33 Engineer Regiment were contacted and they agreed to assist as part of a training exercise.
On Monday 25th September 2017, the five man team arrived on site and did some undergrowth clearance work in preparation for the tree felling. The following day they arrived early in the morning with two members of the Melton Constable Trust, Derek Haynes and Joe Penfold. Some of the overhanging branches were adjacent to the Old Cromer Road and so once school traffic had passed, Derek and Joe managed the traffic with Stop/Go boards whilst felling took place. Once completed the team moved onto the trusts land to complete the operation.
Project officer Paul Young visited the site on Tuesday 26th September 2017 and spoke to Derek Haynes and Sergeant Philip Brazier, you can listen here:
Class 45 locomotives also known as the Sulzer Type 4 diesel locomotives nicknamed ‘Peaks’, were built by British Rail between 1960 and 1962. They were used mainly on the Midland Main Line replacing the steam locomotives with the advantages of having considerably more acceleration and power. They were in service for over twenty years, with the last one being withdrawn from service in 1988.
In 1986 the Class 45/1 Preservation Society was formed to preserve an example of these locomotives and in 1990, Number 45133 was purchased. It currently runs regularly at Midland Railway – Butterley however because of the locomotives popularity it has been on a number of the preserved railways in the country.
Recently 45133 has enjoyed a period of time on the Mid Norfolk Railway and the North Norfolk Railway. On Saturday 23rd September 2017, our project officer Paul Young met up with Steve Dexter, the news letter editor of the Class 45/1 Preservation Society and you listen here:
Local photographer, Andy Marrison has been following the 45133 in Norfolk and here are a selection of some taken recently on the North Norfolk Railway. A calendar for 2018 has been released and will be on sale soon.
“The police are involved and let there be no doubt, once we find who is responsible, we shall seek prosecutions.”
Those were the words of Trevor Bailey, Chairman of Norfolk charity The Melton Constable Trust in response to two vandal attacks on the Trust’s property. Two and a half years ago the Trust bought, for £24,000, a section of the old Dereham to Fakenham railway at Pudding Norton, Fakenham together with two iconic bridges; one a three arch structure over the River Wensum and the second made of steel and spanning the town’s other old rail route. This was achieved solely with donations from the community. Ultimately, the aim is to restore rail services to Fakenham by linking up with the existing Mid Norfolk Railway(MNR) and introducing principally a public transport service of modern trains together with an extension of MNR’s heritage services. Until then, the Trust wants to make the site safe for walkers and community activities.
Earlier this year, the Trust was able to announce that it had been successful in gaining grants totalling £63,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other charities and authorities. This was to be used to repair the bridges, which had received no maintenance since before 1980. It would also fund information panels explaining the history of the railway and the importance of the Wensum Valley environment, together with railway based educational materials for Fakenham Academy and a teachers’ course. This would include oral history recordings of local people who worked on or used the line before closure. Fakenham Area Conservation Group would help with maintenance of the area.
The largest task was to arrest the decay of the bridges and to make them safe for visitors to the site. The railway provides a very pleasant walk from the Norwich Road to the banks of the Wensum. The bridge restoration work was accomplished a matter of weeks ago by professional engineers who repaired masonry, repainted metalwork and crucially rebuilt the safety rails on the steel bridge.
“The state of the steel bridge over the old M & G N line was hazardous”, said Trevor Bailey. “Most of the safety rails were gone or seriously bent and corroded. Our engineers completely restored them and added in additional rails to keep visitors, and particularly children, safe. They put in a lot of strong new material. They finished this work only recently”
“Some days ago, we were told by local people who were on the spot that the steel bridge had already been the subject of an attack. One of the safety rails had been completely broken away from its supports and thrown onto the old track bed below the bridge. Another had been bent and it was clear that attempts had been made to destroy others.”
“Since then, there has been a second attack. Another safety rail has been destroyed and, from extensive damage to paintwork, it is clear that every effort was made to wreck the rest. This must have taken considerable force and determination.”
“It is heart breaking. An enormous amount of effort went into raising the money for the purchase of the land and bridges and for the work that is being done to make them useful to local people pending the restoration of the railway. All of it was done by unpaid volunteers and the site was only bought in the first place because people in the community cared about it enough to donate their own cash. The risk is that the information panels that are due to go on site will also be targets.”
The Trust is asking the public, including walkers who use the site, to keep a watch and report any sign of vandalism to both the police and to the Melton Constable Trust. If anyone thinks he knows who is responsible, the authorities will be very glad to hear.
Paul Young, the Trust’s Project Officer and local representative, said “If we are not going to see this project wrecked, we need the support of local people. We shall be very grateful for any information. It will also help enormously if members of the community can assist by patrolling the site. You can get in touch with me or one of our trustees who lives in North Norfolk, Derek Haynes to offer assistance or information.”
The police can be reached by dialling 101 or visiting their Public Enquiry Office at 30 Norwich Rd, Fakenham NR21 8BB.
“Our colleagues at the Mid Norfolk Railway have recently experienced similar vandalism”, added Paul Young. “Some of their carriages were attacked resulting in about £20,000 worth of damage. It is just possible that there is a connection. The two cases taken together certainly amount to a serious issue.”
“We are now faced with heavy additional costs to put right the damage, with the hope that it will not happen again. For a small volunteer run charity it is a quite a blow. Until repairs can be made, we ask walkers to take care and especially keep young children away from the bridge parapet”
The Trust is determined to press on with its work and to make sure that the police receive any information that is discovered about the culprits.
On the 8th September 2017, Project Officer Paul Young was interviewed by Wally Webb fromBBC Radio Norfolk, which was played out on the Nick Conran Breakfast Show and you can listen to the interview here:
Anyone who would like to donate towards the costs of repairing the damage or to the Trust’s ongoing work to acquire the remaining land needed to restore the railway to Fakenham can do so by sending contributions to the Trust’s Secretary, Adrian Loynes at The Melton Constable Trust, The Railway Institute, 6, Briston Road, Melton Constable, Norfolk, NR24 2DA. Cheques should be made out to The Melton Constable Trust or bank transfers can be made to the Trust’s account: sort code 30-94-34 account no. 00493540.