Rail link revival 'still alive'

RAILWAY enthusiasts' dreams of reviving an historic rail link between Halesworth and Southwold are still alive, it has emerged.Southwold Railway Society first proposed recreating the rail link between the two towns – which originally operated between 1859 and 1929 – nearly two years ago.

By David Lennard

RAILWAY enthusiasts' dreams of reviving an historic rail link between Halesworth and Southwold are still alive, it has emerged.

Southwold Railway Society first proposed recreating the rail link between the two towns - which originally operated between 1859 and 1929 - nearly two years ago.

It divided opinion in the area, with an EADT ballot showing 66% of people opposed the idea and 34% backed it.

But since the ballot results were returned in October 2003, the railway society has continued asking for views on the plan in a consultation booklet it publishes - and many people have returned a questionnaire backing the heritage railway link's revival.

Now Southwold Railway Society members will be meeting in the coming weeks to decide what action to take.

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Chairman John Bennett, of Southwold, said: "I have to say we have been very encouraged by the responses we have received and are still receiving.

"So far there has been at least 80% of people who have read the consultation booklet responding positively to the idea of a heritage rail link between Southwold and Halesworth.

"Certainly the dream of reviving the historic rail link between Southwold and Halesworth is far from over."

Unlike the original narrow gauge rail link the modern version being proposed would have to follow a new route via Reydon on the stretch between Southwold and Blythburgh.

Since the original idea was first published there have been a number of suggested changes that could address some of the concerns of objectors.

These include moving a park and ride site from the Toby's Walk area of Blythburgh to Henham and avoiding the internationally important Hen Reedbeds at Reydon as much as possible.

If a revised proposal is published there is certain to be considerable opposition from those who view a possible rail link through the Blyth Valley with horror.

At least 20 landowners in the area have said they would not sell their land on the proposed route to enable the proposal to go ahead.

The railway society has not submitted a planning application for its proposal and is continuing to gather public opinion.

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