Town hopes to resurrect railway line

By David LennardCOUNCILORS in Halesworth have welcomed a proposal to revive the town's historic rail link to Southwold.Members of the Southwold Railway Society announced earlier this year a £6.

By David Lennard

COUNCILORS in Halesworth have welcomed a proposal to revive the town's historic rail link to Southwold.

Members of the Southwold Railway Society announced earlier this year a £6.5million plan to reinstate the rail link between the two towns.

The original line operated from 1879 to 1929 and was the only 3ft gauge public line in England.

The society's proposal follows an earlier scheme to revive part of the railway from Southwold to Walberswick.

Society chairman, John Bennett, said: “It became clear that members of the public wanted the whole line revived or nothing at all.

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“We took a long and hard look at the situation and decided the way forward was to develop a heritage railway linking Southwold and Halesworth.”

Mr Bennett and David Negus, who designed the proposed new railway, have now presented their plan to members of Halesworth Town Council.

“This is not some sort of tourist attraction, but is a fully operational, practical transport scheme that will bring benefits to both Southwold and Halesworth along with the villages along the route,” said Mr Bennett.

Mr Negus told town councillors there would be a number of problems to overcome, but felt it was a practical proposition.

“If our proposals win public support, we will then be in a position to tackle things like land ownership in more detail. So far the landowners we have contacted about our proposal are very supportive,” he said.

Mr Negus explained £4.5m would be needed for the construction of the line and station buildings, with an additional sum of almost £2m for the steam locomotives and rolling stock.

He added funds could be obtained from railway enthusiasts across the world and from various grant schemes.

“Heritage railways like this have proved a success in other parts of the country and there is no reason we should not be successful here in north Suffolk,” said Mr Negus.

All the town councillors who spoke during the session were in favour of the scheme going ahead.

Dr Bill Pagan, chairman of Halesworth Town Council, said: “We are all very enthusiastic supports of the scheme and wish the Southwold Railway Society every success.”

While there is strong support for the scheme in Halesworth, the situation is rather more complicated in Southwold.

A number of residents are opposed to the scheme with concerns on environmental grounds and fears about traffic congestion with a level crossing proposed for the main road into the town close to Mights Bridge.

Mr Bennett believed the environmental concerns could be overcome as the railway society was keen to work alongside environmentalists at all stages of the project.

“We also believe that the scheme will improve traffic congestion in Southwold as we would operate a park-and-ride system into the town from the A12 at Blythburgh,” he said.

Southwold Town Council will discuss the proposal later this month and councillors have already received numerous letters from residents opposing the scheme.

Mr Bennett said the society would only proceed with the scheme if it had support from members of the public.

“We think that this project would be of real benefit to this east Suffolk coastal area,” he added.

“If there is public support for the project, then it can probably be achieved. If there is not, then we would not want to pursue it.”

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