Plans to reinstate historic railway line

PLANS have been unveiled to reinstate an historic railway line between two north Suffolk towns.Members of the Southwold Railway Society hope to submit a planning application next month for the first phase of their proposal to restore the narrow gauge railway that ran between the seaside town and Halesworth from 1879 to 1929.

PLANS have been unveiled to reinstate an historic railway line between two north Suffolk towns.

Members of the Southwold Railway Society hope to submit a planning application next month for the first phase of their proposal to restore the narrow gauge railway that ran between the seaside town and Halesworth from 1879 to 1929.

When the plans were mooted three years ago, they were met with a wave of opposition from residents and environmentalists.

But members of the railway society have taken on board the views of both supporters and opponents, changed the route and drawn up a two-phase plan.


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The first phase, the one hoped to be submitted next month, will run from a park-and-ride facility at Henham Park to Southwold Pier via Wangford and Reydon using a new route.

The second phase will be from Henham Park to Halesworth via Wenhaston using much of the original late-19th Century route.

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John Bennett, railway society board member, said: “The old railway was always loved and it was part of the culture of the town so it would be nice to get some of that back.”

He said that the steam train would not be just for visitors to the town but would provide year-round public transport for the people who live in the area.

“The railway works for local people and kids can go to school on it and if tourists want to use it that's fine and if they want to use the park and ride then that will keep their cars out of the town,” he said.

It is hoped the multi-million pound project will have three 3ft gauge locomotives that will be steam powered but fuelled by biodiesel.

The stations will also have natural energy features such as photovoltaic roofs generating electricity from the sun, mini wind turbines and green roofs.

Society chairman Geoffrey Crabb said: “There's a lot of these steam railways run by train enthusiasts but as far as I'm aware we are the only ones that have started off from scratch. That's why it's such a big project for us and if we get it, we will be the first.”

Although there are a number of heritage railways over the borders in Norfolk and Essex, there is only the Mid Suffolk Light Railway, at Wetheringsett, in Suffolk.

Ideas have been modelled on the award-winning Swanage Railway in Dorset which has park-and-ride facilities at Norden to keep cars out of the town.

Hektor Rous, who manages Henham Park, said: “I'm a big fan and it would be nice to alleviate some of the parking problems in Southwold.

“It would be good fun and quite an icon for the area - the guys have done their homework and have made some massive inroads and I support it 100% and would be very keen to get on it and go into town.”

Halesworth Town Council originally supported the idea in principle but did raise concerns about land ownership, environmental impact and parking issues.

Council chairman Alan Holzer said: “I don't know what the council would say this time. The idea of little trains puffing along is lovely but I think complications such as health and safety regulations at this end would be a problem.”

Southwold deputy mayor Ann Betts said the new route did not really go into to the town boundary and although she could not speak on behalf of the town council she said it was a nice idea.

Dr Simone Bullion, senior conservation officer for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “We will look in detail at the planning application when it's been released and will comment accordingly on the impact to wildlife.”

kate.scotter@eadt.co.uk

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