New group opposes railway revival
By Jenni DixonA SCATHING attack has been launched on the £6.5million plan for a railway line linking Southwold and Halesworth.Southwold Harbour and River Protection group (SHARP) branded the proposed railway a "seasonal plaything" as its committee unanimously agreed to oppose the plan on environmental, health and safety grounds.
By Jenni Dixon
A SCATHING attack has been launched on the £6.5million plan for a railway line linking Southwold and Halesworth.
Southwold Harbour and River Protection group (SHARP) branded the proposed railway a "seasonal plaything" as its committee unanimously agreed to oppose the plan on environmental, health and safety grounds.
Opinion has been split over Southwold Railway Society's proposal to link the two towns with an oil-fired steam engine running along an 8.5-mile narrow gauge line through the Blyth Valley.
The East Anglian Daily Times has launched a ballot on the issue and more than 1,000 readers are estimated to have cast their votes so far, with dozens more taking part in the poll every day.
Announcing its opposition, a statement from SHARP said: "The proposal is said to be going to replicate the idea of the old Southwold Railway. Have the proposers thought of the difference that exists in 2003 compared with the original railway?
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"Health and safety requirements barely existed and it ran as an open track without fencing. A new railway would need to be fenced throughout and become a permanent eyesore."
It added: "It will be a seasonal plaything, totally not viable and aesthetically will be a disaster. Have the proposers thought of the environmental damage associated with the construction of the railway – piling foundations through the marshes, bridge or tunnel works?
"Aesthetically, a fenced track railway for limited summer use spoiling an outstandingly beautiful area is simply not on."
SHARP was formed in 1988 to protect Southwold, Walberswick and the River Blyth from development and to keep the area as it is.
Its chairman, Brian Morton, a civil engineer who lives in Walberswick, said: "We will fight anything that will ruin the environment of Southwold, Walberswick and the River Blyth.
"People come here because it's beautiful and quiet and the problem with this is we could easily become a Clacton-on-Sea where people come for a ride on the railway and not for the scenery."
Southwold Railway Society has already seen a number of groups and individuals speaking out against its proposal, including an group of landowners around Holton, Adnams Brewery chairman, Simon Loftus, and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
John Bennett, chairman of Southwold Railway Society, said he did not want to comment on SHARP's opposition, but added it would be releasing a statement on the society's current position during the week.
Meanwhile, readers wanting to have their say on the possible revival of the Southwold to Halesworth railway link can still vote in the EADT ballot.
With so many readers wanting to take part, the poll is being kept open to give as many people as possible a chance to vote.
The narrow gauge steam railway would largely follow the original route from Halesworth to Blythburgh used from 1879 to 1929.
But from Blythburgh it would reach Southwold in a different direction by crossing the River Blyth close to the present A12 road bridge before turning under the A145 and A12.
The route to Southwold would then pass through Reydon Marshes and include a level crossing at Mights Bridge.
It is this new section of the track that has caused concern to many people, who have fears on traffic and environmental grounds.
Completed ballot papers can be handed in at: Purdys Newsagents, High Street, Southwold; Reydon Post Office; Patrick's Newsagents, Market Place, Halesworth; or the EADT editorial office, 25 Market Place, Halesworth.
Alternatively, completed coupons can be sent to Southwold Railway Ballot, EADT Newsdesk, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.