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Hunstanton Civic Society hears national rail network reconnection case

Last Thursday evening it was a real pleasure to hear rail enthusiast Howard Johnston making the case for Hunstanton to be reconnected to the national rail network.

He had been invited to the Heritage Centre, in the former NatWest bank, by Hunstanton & District Civic Society.

When thanking the society for the invitation, Howard also congratulated members on having such a fine railway room, which contained no factual errors! He said he loved history, and railways, but his day job was to argue the case for better local transport, be it rail, bus, or car.

Hunstanton rail signal.
Hunstanton rail signal.

He then asked how many members of the audience lived in Hunstanton before the town lost its railway in May 1969. This was to make the point that the stations on the line from Lynn had been deliberately run down, thereby making rail travel much less attractive than buying a car!

After giving a concise account of just how profitable the railway had been in the first 50 years of its existence, Howard pointed out that as late as 1960, 200,000 tickets were collected at Hunstanton station, but this was when it all went wrong.

British Railways closed the direct line to Leicester, and then cancelled through trains to and from London.

It was also decided at head office that only the 45,000 local tickets counted as income, meaning that revenue from 150,000 tickets simply disappeared. This was clearly a case of fiddling the books to justify subsequent closure.

In spite of this, Dr Beeching thought the line had a future and it was never on his closure list!

Moving on 50 years, Howard thought that global warming and the need to save energy strengthened the case for railways instead of building more dual carriageways. Eighteen months ago he had made this point to Norfolk’s county councillors and had a surprisingly warm reception from most of them, although he wondered if some of them knew where Hunstanton was!

Howard suggested that Cambridge is going to be more significant than Norwich in terms of employment opportunities in the future.

It is the fastest growing city economy in the country and leads the way in wireless technology, display technology, and mobile telecommunications. This was just one aspect of the talk that was taken up by an enthusiastic audience in question time.

Afterwards, Andrew Murray thanked Howard for keeping alive the aspirations of Brian Holmes, responsible for many of the exhibits in the railway room.

He also thanked Brian for the temporary exhibitions he had staged in various locations before Hunstanton had its own permanent Heritage Centre. It was due to Brian’s efforts that we have ten feet of track and a signal next to the Coal Shed Gallery, close to the site of the former railway station.

John Maiden

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