Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership awarded prestigious charter mark

5th August 2020

Supporting rural lines in Norfolk and North Suffolk

We are thrilled to announce that Community Rail Norfolk, the parent organisation of the Bittern Line and Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnerships, which work hard to support rural lines in Norfolk and North Suffolk have been awarded a prestigious new charter mark recognising our past efforts and future plans.

Although we received notification of our accreditation in March, it coincided with the lockdown introduced as part of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We have been bursting to share this good news, therefore now that, volunteer station adoption activity has officially re-commenced, we are delighted to share this with you all.

Through Community Rail Norfolk we aim to build links with passengers, the wider community, stakeholders and train operator Greater Anglia in promoting rail travel and tourism, in addition to making improvements to infrastructure and the appearance of stations for the railways running between Norwich and Cromer, Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

Our accreditation is formal recognition by the Department for Transport that our Community Rail Partnerships operate to a high standard and that our objectives and activities address local community needs and support the Government’s Community Rail Strategy and is a good representative of the local community.

Our Chair, Peter Mayne said, “This is a great achievement which recognises the professional way in which we work and our past achievements. “Furthermore, it endorses our plans for the future and our coming of age.”

Over the past year a number of initiatives have included new signage schemes promoting the local economy and tourism, restoration and repurposing of derelict station buildings and a major education initiative in partnership with the Water, Mills & Marshes Landscape Project in which over two hundred pupils from six primary schools participated.

Greater Anglia’s Customer and Community Engagement Manager, Alan Neville, said, “I’d like to congratulate Community Rail Norfolk on this achievement, which is testament to numerous activities including the superb Art on the Line education project and the integral role they have played in the ongoing rejuvenation of Lowestoft Station in addition to working with us to improve rail services and station facilities, encouraging rail travel and supporting the local economy.”

The Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership worked closely with Network Rail to support community engagement activity during the £60m modernisation of the signalling system, as part of which it was able to facilitate a series of public open days at Lowestoft Signal Box last September, and supported efforts to save and find new locations for redundant equipment.

The Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership has undertaken initiatives including hosting Dementia Awareness training for volunteers, renewed station signage in support of the local tourism economy, and provided support to Greater Anglia during its construction of a new, extended length station platform at Sheringham.

The organisation has also been a key supporter of the award winning Lowestoft Central Project which has brought a host of improvements to the town’s station including the creation of a new public exhibition space housed in the former Parcels Office.

Which are the Community Rail lines in Norfolk and North Suffolk?

The Bittern Line runs from Norwich through the Broads National Park via the historic market town of North Walsham to the North Norfolk coast at Cromer and Sheringham, with the Wherry Lines running east from Norwich through the Broads National Park to Great Yarmouth and across the county border to Lowestoft.

What is Community Rail?

Community Rail works by engaging positively with passengers, the wider community and stakeholders in the two active and successful Community Rail Partnerships. The partnerships bring together local authorities, transport user groups, volunteers and the train operator Greater Anglia, to promote rail travel on Norfolk’s community rail lines and, through connections, beyond.

Today rail travel is seen by residents, visitors and employers/local businesses as convenient, reliable and environmentally friendly.

The Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership, one of the first in the UK celebrated its 21st Birthday in 2018, the Wherry Lines Partnership has operated for twenty years.

What have we achieved?

· Improvements to station environments and facilities including being a key supporter of the award-winning Lowestoft Central Project, which has seen over 100K of investment in the UK’s most easterly station including the restoration and repurposing of the former Parcels Office into a new public exhibition space, opening of a new station shop and tourist information office, re-opening of doorways from the station concourse, better connecting the station with the town centre and cosmetically improving the former station buffet building, derelict for over five decades.

· Signage refreshed and renewed to promote the local economy and tourism – including the North Norfolk’s Deep History Coast, North Walsham and at stations throughout the Broads National Park

· Worked with Greater Anglia and Network Rail to cosmetically improve stations and their surrounds helping to reduce anti-social behaviour and trespass issues

· Undertook a major education project, Art on the Line in association with the Water, Mills and Marshes Landscape Project which saw 220 children from six primary schools situated along the Wherry Lines visit their local environment, creating their own artwork subsequently displayed in a public exhibition.

· Keeping the community informed about Network Rail’s £60m project to modernise signalling on the Wherry Lines which was completed in February 2020, subsequently supporting efforts to preserve historic assets.

· Produced a critically acclaimed photographic exhibition, “Departures”, documenting the railway scene with images taken over the last five decades and held in the former Parcels Office at Lowestoft station which has been restored and repurposed as a public exhibition space.

· Celebrations during 2019 to mark 175 years since the first railway in Norfolk was built including a touring exhibition, family fun day and station open event.

· Dementia Awareness training for volunteers on the Bittern Line

· Provided community information, support and liaison during the construction of a new, longer platform at Sheringham.

· Supported numerous station tea parties, including at Reedham and West Runton which raised money for local charities and the hugely popular Reedham Station carol concert.

· Support to numerous events where travel by rail is encouraged including festivals and carnivals.

· A programme of free to join guided walks linking railway stations and the natural environment

· Planting schemes to make stations more attractive and encourage wildlife.

· Support to various initiatives and projects via a network of volunteer station adopters.

· Held various engagement activities including stands promoting local tourism in London and Norwich.

Our sincere thanks to all our stakeholders and volunteers that make our work both enjoyable and rewarding.