Coal shortages lead to cuts in services on heritage rail line

Charlie Robinson, chairman of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Trust

Charlie Robinson, chairman of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Trust - Credit: Archant

Shortages of coal linked to the war in Ukraine have led to services being reduced on a popular heritage railway line.

The Mid Norfolk Railway (MNR) has introduced some changes in response to ongoing supply issues, as well as soaring diesel costs.

It will now only run temporarily to Thruxton, while there will be no steam services on weekdays, to conserve supplies of coal.

Several heritage railway lines have reported problems caused by a critical shortage of coal. Supply was tight even before the invasion of Ukraine, but this has put further pressure on the global market.

A train on the Mid Norfolk Railway.

A train on the Mid Norfolk Railway. - Credit: IAN BURT

In an email sent to volunteers from the MNR chair, Charlie Robinson, members were given an update following recent closures. 

It comes following a meeting of the railway’s trust council on Wednesday, April 20, called to discuss what the railway would be offering when it reopened on Saturday, April 30.   

The information, which has been shared with this newspaper, stated that now was the time for all members to be informed of what the arrangements “actually are”.   

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It read: “As you’ve probably seen in the press, there is now a national shortage of coal and what there is has shot up in price. Diesel prices have also increased alarmingly.    

“Bearing in mind the greatly increased costs and our ability only to run temporarily to Thuxton, we have reviewed what we can offer for 2022.”

Line renewal and signalling work is set to take place at Thuxton Station on the Mid Norfolk Railway line.

Line renewal and signalling work is set to take place at Thuxton Station on the Mid Norfolk Railway line. - Credit: Mid Norfolk Railway

Currently, trains are only able to run between Dereham and Hoe and Dereham and Thuxton until further notice and a new timetable shows four departures on scheduled running days from Dereham.   

The email also stated that there will be no steam services on weekdays, in order to conserve coal supplies, and on some weekends the diesel pacer train will be in operation instead.   

Mr Robinson went on to explain that while “most events will be unaffected” - such as the Breckland Fryer Fish and Chip trains and Afternoon Tea trains - the details for those that are will be shared on the MNR’s website.   

The statement also highlighted a continuation of work to the track south of Thuxton that needs to be completed before trains can run to Wymondham Abbey again. Currently, no completion date has been specified. 

A spokesperson for the MNR added: "There is no danger of the railway closing. Yes, the railway is scaling back activities this year for a variety of reasons, but that is to make sure the railway comes back bigger and better in the future."

The UK is home to 150 heritage rail companies, operating 560 miles of track between them and connecting to 460 stations, with five in Norfolk.