Bittern Line

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Bittern Line
Roughton Road Railway station 10 Nov 2007 (6).JPG
A train has arrived at Worstead Station - - 1047310.jpg
A Class 156 train at Worstead in 2008
OwnerNetwork Rail
LocaleNorfolk, England
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)Greater Anglia
Rolling stockClass 755
Line length30 miles 22 chains (48.7 km)
Number of tracks1-2
CharacterRural line
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map
Bittern Line.png
(Click to expand)
Bittern Line
(NNR preserved station)
West Runton
Cromer Beach
Cromer High
Roughton Road
to Cromer Beach via Mundesley-on-Sea
North Walsham
former line to County School
Hoveton & Wroxham
River Yare

The Bittern Line is a railway branch line in Norfolk, England, that links Norwich to Sheringham.[1] It passes through the Broads on its route to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the north Norfolk coast.[2] It is named after the bittern, a rare bird found in the reedy wetlands of Norfolk.

The line is 30 miles 22 chains (48.7 km) in length and there are 10 stations. It is part of Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.11, and is classified as a rural line.[3]

Passenger services are operated by Greater Anglia, which also manages all of the stations.


The line was granted permission in 1864[4] and the first stretch was opened between Norwich and North Walsham in 1874 by the East Norfolk Railway. It was extended to Cromer by 1877 before being extended to Sheringham in 1877, using a section of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line. From the early twentieth century until the end of steam services, in 1962, the Great Eastern Railway operated coastal holiday services from London Liverpool Street under names such as the Norfolk Coast Express and The Broadsman.[4]

Following the closure of the majority of the Midland and Great Northern network, the line operated as a single branch between Norwich and Melton Constable before the section between Sheringham and Melton Constable was closed in 1964.[5] The remainder of the line was listed for closure in 1967[6] but survived the proposal after being declined by the Secretary of State for Transport.[7]

The Bittern Line Partnership was set up by Norfolk County Council in 1997. and was designated a community rail line by the Department for Transport in September 2007.

The section of the line between Sheringham and Holt which was closed in the 1960s remains in use as a heritage railway line operated as the North Norfolk Railway. After a period of 36 years, the link between the Bittern line and the North Norfolk Railway was reinstated in 2010 with the opening of a new level crossing at Sheringham.


The following table summarises the line's 10 stations, their distance measured from Norwich, and estimated number of passenger entries/exits in 2018/19:

Station Location Local authority Mileage Patronage
Norwich Norwich City of Norwich 034 4,250,834
Salhouse Salhouse Broadland 634 11,778
Hoveton & Wroxham Hoveton/Wroxham North Norfolk 8+34 136,414
Worstead Worstead/Sloley North Norfolk 13+14 25,650
North Walsham North Walsham North Norfolk 1634 265,400
Gunton Thorpe Market/Lower Street North Norfolk 19+34 19,188
Roughton Road Cromer/Roughton North Norfolk 2434 21,766
Cromer Cromer North Norfolk 26+34 219,244
West Runton West Runton North Norfolk 28+34 27,212
Sheringham Sheringham North Norfolk 30+14 225,894


Passenger services are operated by Greater Anglia. The typical service is one train per hour in each direction between Norwich and Sheringham. Calling patterns are varied, with some trains stopping at all stations while others omit some of the lesser-used stations along the line, such as Salhouse, Gunton and Roughton Road.

In 2019, new Class 755 bi-mode trains began to replace the previous mixture of Class 153, Class 156 and Class 170 diesel multiple units.[8]

The line is also used by freight trains which are operated by GB Railfreight. Some trains carry gas condensate from a terminal at North Walsham to Harwich International Port.


The Sheringham level crossing in use in 2010

The line is double-track from Norwich to Hoveton & Wroxham, where it becomes single-track with a passing loop at North Walsham, and two platforms at Cromer also allowing passing. The line is not electrified; it has a loading gauge of W8 between Norwich and Roughton Road and W6 from Roughton Road to Sheringham. The maximum speed is 75 miles per hour (121 km/h).[3]

The line was re-signalled in 2000, leading to the closure of a number of mechanical signal boxes and control moving to a panel at the Trowse Swing Bridge control room. This saw the end of one of the few remaining sections of single-track main line controlled by tokens.[citation needed] The Cromer signal box has been preserved.

Proposed developments[edit]

Rackheath station[edit]

A new station is proposed as part of the Rackheath eco-town.[9] The building of the town may also mean a short freight spur being built to transport fuel to fire an on-site power station. The plans for the settlement received approval from the government in 2009.[10]


  1. ^ "Home". Bittern Line.
  2. ^ OS Explorer Map 252 – Norfolk Coast East. ISBN 978-0-319-23815-8
  3. ^ a b "Route 7 - Great Eastern" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  4. ^ a b Holland, Julian; Spaven, David (2012). Britain's Scenic Railways. Fulham Palace Road, London: Times Books Group Ltd. pp. 78–81. ISBN 978-0-00-792671-8.
  5. ^ Proposed withdrawal of passenger services between Melton Constable - Sheringham. 1963-1964
  6. ^ Proposed withdrawal of passenger services between Norwich - Sheringham. 1967
  7. ^ Closures Railway World issue 354 November 1969 page 472
  8. ^ Anderson, Stuart (13 November 2019). "Greater Anglia's new bi-mode trains roll into service on Bittern Line". North Norfolk News. Eastern Daily Press. Archived from the original on 13 November 2019. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Transport". Rackheath eco-community. Archived from the original on 15 July 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  10. ^ "Airfield eco-town plan selected". BBC News. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2009.

External links[edit]