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Teenager's ambition to get Watton to Thetford railway line back in action

James Mattock-Valentine has started a petition to get the Watton to Thetford railway back in action. Picture: Ian Burt

James Mattock-Valentine has started a petition to get the Watton to Thetford railway back in action. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A teenager who wants to reinstate a former railway line has started a petition to see if he has community support.

The cycle path at the top of Griston Road in Watton. James Mattock-Valentine would like the train station to go next to the cycle path. Picture: Ian BurtThe cycle path at the top of Griston Road in Watton. James Mattock-Valentine would like the train station to go next to the cycle path. Picture: Ian Burt

James Mattock-Valentine said a train service between Watton and Thetford would give Watton residents more access to the rest of the county.

The 19-year-old said the elderly and those with disabilities, including Mr Mattock-Valentine who has hyperanxiety and can’t drive, find it hard to get out of the town.

“I just feel like we are being punished for not living in a big community,” he said. “And it just seems unfair we have to face this. You can only live in a rural community if you can drive.”

The line was opened in October 1869 and was used by both passenger and freight trains.

The former Watton Station which was on Griston Road. Picture: Archant LibraryThe former Watton Station which was on Griston Road. Picture: Archant Library

However, it was closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching Cuts which resulted in the closure of stations and branch lines during the 1960s and 70s.

So far more than 900 people have signed the petition and the Easton and Otley College student said once it reaches 1,000 he will contact mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.

Mr Mattock-Valentine, who moved to Watton from Great Hockham in January said: “I will see if I can get funding and if not I will start a charity called the Watton and Thetford Railway Society.”

He added: “Everyone has been really supportive and I cannot believe how many signatures I have got.”

James Mattock-Valentine has started a petition to get the Watton to Thetford railway back in action. Picture: Ian BurtJames Mattock-Valentine has started a petition to get the Watton to Thetford railway back in action. Picture: Ian Burt

The horticulture student said a small station would be built close to Stan’s Walk. It would link to the former railway route.

He said the plan for the future is for the single branch line to have request stops at villages including Stow Bedon and Hockham.

He added that if it did not come to fruition he hoped it would bring awareness for the need of “improved bus services”.

David Bill, director and trustee of the Norfolk Orbital Railway, said: “We do of course support this latest initiative and wish the promoters well. My own view is that all these routes should be protected from further development incase there is an opportunity for them to reopen.

The cycle path at the top of Griston Road in Watton. In the distance the hedgerow is where the old Watton to Thetford railway line was. Picture: Ian BurtThe cycle path at the top of Griston Road in Watton. In the distance the hedgerow is where the old Watton to Thetford railway line was. Picture: Ian Burt

“Many people are now saying that these county lines should never have been closed and I have always taken that view.”

The petition can be found here.

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