There has been a lot of discussion in these pages about the merits of reopening the railway line between Lynn and Hunstanton.
Whilst I would imagine most people in West Norfolk would welcome the railway back with open arms, it’s highly unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. It would almost certainly cost upwards of £100 million and be at least ten years before any trains could run. On the other hand, much of the route has not been built on and should be the basis for a high-quality cycle route from Lynn to Hunstanton. At the moment, cyclists heading for Hunstanton, or even just to Sandringham, have to negotiate an indirect route with narrow shared paths, difficult road crossings, awkward barriers and long on-road sections where families have to dice with fast, rat-running car traffic.
A really good cycleway would be a huge boost to tourism in West Norfolk, as well as bringing places like Dersingham within cycle commuting distance of King’s Lynn. With a concerted effort from the borough and county councils it could be open within five years and would cost a fraction of what a railway would cost. The 26-mile Marriott’s Way, north of Norwich has boosted the local economy by an estimated £15 for every £1 spent on it. By contrast, most major road schemes usually benefit the community far less than they cost.
The southern section of the route between Tennyson Avenue and South Wootton is already extremely well used by cyclists and pedestrians and probably carries far more people per day than the railway ever did.
It’s heartening that the county council have recently identified the former rail line as a potential future cycleway and have allocated £350, 000 for a feasibility study, along with the Lynn to Fakenham route. It’s imperative that this moves forward as soon as possible. Pushing ahead with a Lynn to Hunstanton cycleway will also preserve the route for the future. As concerns about climate change, urban pollution and inactivity-related ill health hit the headlines, projects like this should be given utmost priority.