Use of West Norfolk’s rail network is still rising, but much more slowly than in recent years, new figures have shown.
More than 1.62 million people are estimated to have accessed the borough’s three stations during the year to the end of March, according to latest data from the Office for Rail and Road.
But the total, which is based on the numbers entering or exiting a station, only rose by one per cent on the previous year.
Last year’s figures showed a seven per cent rise from the 2013-14 total.
The biggest increase this time was at Watlington, where numbers were up 3.5 per cent to 148.928.
At Downham, the total topped half a million, thanks to an increase of 1.8 per cent on the previous year.
But Lynn’s figure was only up by 0.3 per cent to 973,660.
Labour activist Peter Smith said the figures reflecting the faster rate of new home construction around Downham and Watlington, compared to Lynn.
But he also claimed the slowdown in growth slowdown should remind politicians and rail industry bosses about the urgent need for service improvements.
He said: “If you’re starting your journey at Lynn, you’ll probably get a seat. If you get on at Downham or Ely, you haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance.”
Colin Sampson, chairman of the Fen Line Users Association, said political and business leaders were keeping up the pressure to secure better services.
But he played down suggestions that the slower rate of growth may be due to frustration with the service as it currently is.
Instead, he suggested that demand may have begun to reach its peak until major new housing developments, such as those envisaged on the edge of Lynn, begin to be built.
He said: “We’ve had our boom years. As long as we keep them all travelling, we can still make the case (for more frequent services).
“I don’t see it dropping off to the point where we start going backwards.”
He also pointed out that, while West Norfolk’s figures were still rising, totals for other Norfolk stations, including Norwich, Diss and Yarmouth, were all falling.
The figures were published only days after it was revealed that rail fares will rise by an average of 2.3 per cent in January.
Fares on services run by Great Northern, the main operator serving West Norfolk, will go up by an average of 1.8 per cent.
Action for Rail campaigners are planning to hold demonstrations outside dozens of stations across the country, including Lynn and Downham, on January 3, when the increases come into force.
They want to see the network renationalised, a move which they claim could substantially reduce fares and provide a better service to the public.
But industry bosses say they are already investing 97 pence of every pound spent on tickets back into the network.