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Rising demand for West Norfolk rail services shows need for continuing investment, says campaign group

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The demand for rail travel is continuing to grow in West Norfolk, despite rising ticket costs, according to new figures.

Earlier this month, Lynn-based campaigners urged commuters to demand action from their MP as an average 2.7 per cent increase in fares was implemented.

But data from the Office for Rail and Road (ORR), which regulates the rail industry, suggests there is no sign of the demand for train travel slowing down just yet.

Launch of new trains and opening of new Cambridge North Station. (3008948)
Launch of new trains and opening of new Cambridge North Station. (3008948)

The ORR has published its estimates of the number of entries and exits made at stations across the rail network during the year to March 2019.

They show that all three of West Norfolk’s stations saw increases in usage, with Watlington recording the largest jump - 5.3 per cent to a total of 153,782.

At Downham, the total was up by three per cent to 549,562 entries and exits.

But Lynn’s figure only rose by 0.3 per cent to 991,252 entries and exits, plus 131 interchanges. However, it still remains the second busiest station in Norfolk, behind Norwich.

The figures are likely to increase the pressure for long-awaited upgrades of the route to finally be delivered.

Mark Collins, secretary of the Fen Line Users Association, said the increases would come as no surprise to passengers who struggled to get seats on overcrowded services.

He added: “It is encouraging that more people are using the railway, but we need to make sure the capacity is there to cope with the demand.

“Longer trains, due to be introduced later this year, will be a help, but the train operators, Network Rail, our MPs and councillors must keep up the pressure to ensure that Department for Transport funding is made available to upgrade Ely North Junction and allow a more frequent service on the line.”

Meanwhile, passengers are being warned to expect disruption this weekend because of engineering works which mean trains to and from Lynn will only go as far as Hitchin.

And engineers working on the construction of new train sidings near Lynn’s station have announced that the Tennyson Avenue level crossing will be shut for two weekends next month.

The closures will take place from midnight on Saturday, February 1 until 4am on Monday, February 3, and from the same times on the weekend of February 22 to 24.

In a letter which was sent to nearby residents this week, Network Rail said the closure was necessary to enable engineering trains to deliver materials to the site.

Mini-buses will take pedestrians from one side of the crossing to the other.

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