The Trust Council of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust is aware that there are some confusing comments online about the current state of the Railway south of Thuxton. We would like to set the record straight for our members and customers:
Firstly, the track has not been condemned south of Thuxton. Over the winter months we embarked on a programme of sleeper replacement which has already seen a large number of sleepers replaced between Dereham and Yaxham. At the same time, some issues were identified with the temporary platform structure at Wymondham Abbey which needed attention.
With the Platform structure work continuing at Wymondham and the need to replace a number of sleepers between Thuxton & Hardingham, the Trustees took the decision to keep the section between Thuxton and Wymondham under engineers’ possession allowing almost uninterrupted access. While we have not run regular passenger trains on this section, some other trains have run beyond Thuxton, just this afternoon (Monday) a works train ventured south delivering sleepers to site and we have also had trains to Kimberley sidings and beyond.
We have never stated no trains will run south of Thuxton and all the work currently planned south of Thuxton was identified three years ago by our then Head of Permanent Way. This work had been factored into our works schedule.
Our current Head of Permanent Way is now resolving these issues and, had we not had to cancel the last fifteen Polar Express trains due to Covid, it is expected these works would already have been completed. As the owner of a large railway infrastructure company himself, we are incredibly fortunate that our current Head supplies the MNR with plant and machinery free of charge and labour at cost which enables us to complete projects in weeks which would previously have taken us months if not years. As a fully licensed mainline operator, there is absolutely no doubting the competency and expertise he brings us, with confidence that the work carried out would pass the rigours of an ORR inspection.
Regarding changes to the running season, with the rising costs of coal and diesel fuel (the price of coal alone has risen by 148% since January), and not running through to Wymondham, the Trustees reviewed the operating plan and made some alterations. This has resulted in an overall reduction of steam running but it is hoped to add some back in as and when the cost of coal and other factors improves. This has, however, resulted in the first scheduled passenger trains to run on our Northern Section to Hoe which is a very welcome achievement.
To finish with some very encouraging news, the repairs to Wymondham Abbey platform are now nearing completion and it is expected that a sleeper changing programme south of Thuxton will commence next week. The Standard Tank will be returning to Dereham after its winter overhaul and a brief visit to the Epping & Ongar Railway and we are now looking forward to the line fully reopening this summer.