Passengers in Norfolk will benefit from a significant upgrade in reliability and safety when a digitally-enabled signalling system goes live after the Wherry lines close for planned engineering works during February 2020.

The railway lines between Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft are being upgraded to replace the mechanical Victorian semaphore signals – some of the oldest in the country – with a modern, computerised signalling system. This will be the culmination of years of planning and the final phase of work to bring this part of the rail network into the 21st century.

The goal for Network Rail is to bring all of its assets into the digital-age and create a safer environment for passengers and rail workers, improve the passenger experience, provide better live passenger information and quicker recovery if the system fails. The signalling system will be controlled from the Colchester Rail Operating Centre.

During the phased 23 days of works, the signals will be switched on and six level crossings at Brundall, Cantley, Lingwood Chapel Road, Lingwood Station Road, Oulton Broad North and Strumpshaw will be upgraded to full barriers with remotely controlled CCTV which will improve safety for level crossing users.

We have rescheduled repairs and renewals work to coincide with the closure, including a full bridge replacement at Postwick and track renewals at Lowestoft, Acle and Hassingham. The bridge at Postwick has come to the end of its life, and a new bridge structure will be installed that is designed to last 120 years.

Additional maintenance works will be carried out to Reedham and Somerleyton swing bridges to improve reliability of services by upgrading the current detection systems which have been in use since the mid-1940s.

To allow us to complete this important re-signalling and renewals programme, we are carrying out work over 23 days during three phases that start on Saturday 1 February 2020 that will affect passenger services.

During this crucial work to transform the Wherry lines, train services will not operate, instead a rail replacement bus service will operate on the following routes:

  • Saturday 1 February to Sunday 2 February – between Norwich and Great Yarmouth
  • Monday 3 February to Sunday 16 February – between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, Norwich and Lowestoft and between Beccles and Lowestoft
  • Monday 17 February to Sunday 23 February – between Norwich and Lowestoft

Anyone wishing to travel across these routes in February 2020 is advised to plan ahead and check their service with Greater Anglia before travelling.

Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said:

“We will deliver a large package of railway upgrade works for passengers across the Wherry lines during just over a three-week period in February 2020.  

“I’m sorry that 23 days of engineering works will be difficult for passengers but completing these large-scale projects and maintenance in one coordinated effort, will help reduce the overall amount of disruption and deliver a safer, modern and reliable railway for many years to come.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: ”We are sorry to customers for the inconvenience that this engineering work causes them, but we will make sure they can still complete their journeys, even if some of it is by bus.

“By carrying out the work in a 23-day block, Network Rail is able to complete the work sooner and quicker with fewer weekend works.

“Along with Network Rail, we are transforming the railway in Norfolk, and this major upgrade, combined with our new trains, is bringing it into the 21st century.

A bus replacement service will be in place to allow passengers to continue their journey. We advise anyone wishing to travel across these routes in February 2020 to plan ahead and check their service with Greater Anglia or national rail enquiries before travelling.

The work will see train services resume on the branch line between Reedham and Yarmouth (serving Berney Arms station), which has been closed since October 2018.

The introduction of this vital signalling system onto the Wherry lines follows the success at Old Oak Common depot in 2018, which is now performing well as part of the signalling system for the Crossrail depot and Shepperton in Feltham, in 2019 – both being used for passenger services.