Village roadtrain bid is 'plain loco'

Campaigners are hoping to derail a controversial road train scheme ferrying trippers from Great Yarmouth's seafront to Caister's Haven holiday park.They say Debra Lord's proposal would add to traffic problems and hamper emergency vehicles in the busy village which is home to an ambulance station and schools.

Campaigners are hoping to derail a controversial road train scheme ferrying trippers from Great Yarmouth's seafront to Caister's Haven holiday park.

They say Debra Lord's proposal would add to traffic problems and hamper emergency vehicles in the busy village which is home to an ambulance station and schools.

Chairman of the parish council Tony Overill tagged the scheme a non-starter that made a mockery of traffic calming measures including three mini roundabouts put in to ease flows through the village.

But police say the scheme might cut congestion and could work.

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Mrs Lord, whose company Choo Choo owns a fleet of four trains and operates the existing seafront service, said the new route would benefit tourism and offer a green transport option for holidaymakers hopping aboard her all-weather Italian-made LPG-run train.

She said the service had been running smoothly on a trial basis but was suspended amid local anxiety.

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“I would not have them out there if I though there would be any problem. I respect everyone views.” she added.

The trains travel at up to 20mph.

Mr Overill said people were queuing up to oppose the prospect of a slow moving long vehicle causing tailbacks through the village.

“This is dreadful,” said Mr Overill. “Everybody is against this. You have only got to think about it. By law it has got to stay in the inside lane and by the time it comes into the village it will have a great tail back of traffic behind it. Nobody will be able to pass. Also what happens if we have an emergency like a call for the lifeboat or a heart attack or a fire in the village?

And borough councillor for Caister, Marie Field, said: “It is a great idea to have extra public transport, but not this way. The road between the church in Caister and Tesco will be a nightmare. It is far too narrow.”

But police traffic management officer David Law said traffic moved slowly through the village in summer anyway and that the road train could cut congestion.

“There are some arguments for and against. If you have 40 people on that road train, that could be perceived as 10 vehicles not on the road. The route is direct and not stopping anywhere.

“It's almost the same as a bus route. In the holiday period, traffic does not move that fast anyway and from a police point of view we have not got any firm grounds to say no.

“Some people would argue that 20mph is fast enough through Caister anyway. There was a lot of opposition to the Cromer road train and now they would not be without it. It's a case of working together.”

Mr Law added rumour was rife locally over the possibility of opening a new road train route and cycle way from Seashore to Caister's Haven camp northwards passed the golf course and not touching roads at all.

He stressed that if allowed the police would have the power to suspend the service if it caused problems.

Mrs Lord said she welcomed open debate and would respect everyone's views. She had yet to hear back from invited passengers aboard a trial run organised to alleviate concerns.

“I am just waiting to see if they say yay or nay. It's a tourism thing but we occasionally get locals and people going to work at Seashore.” She said that families and elderly people on day trips with limited mobility would benefit most, helping them to see the sights. She added the train had kept pace with other vehicles in Caister and that other drivers were generally courteous, helping its passage.

Mr Overill has sent his report of the trial run to county hall as part of the consultation process. It notes no problems on the Caister Road section, a “precarious” turn and tail backs of up to 13 cars some of whom possibly tried to outmanoeuvre the train via “rat run” routes, he suggests.

Deputy mayor Paul Garrod whose ward includes Jellicoe Road, said: “As ward councillor it would cause congestion around Jellicoe Road which would not be ideal. Then as you go along into the village I have to think about it as chairman of Caister lifeboat - a lot of the crew work in Yarmouth and vital seconds cost lives.”

Graham Plant, the borough councillor responsible for tourism, said he was unhappy about sending a road train through Caister, adding the route was well provided for with buses and cycle ways.

Choo Choo will be given a licence for the new route from the Department of Transport only if the county council is consulted and police approve the scheme. County councillors will discuss the road train plan in December at the earliest.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Would a road train through Caister cut or cause congestion or should we let it run and wait and see? Write to Letters at the Mercury, 169 King Street, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2PA.

MEANWHILE a separate bid to operate seasonal routes around Great Yarmouth linking the river and sea via the Market Place and the museums is finding favour.

John Birchall, county council spokesman, said the heritage route taking in St George's Park, the Time and Tide, town centre, Pleasure Beach and seafront had been in discussion for some time but were overshadowed by larger schemes.

“It is something we have been keen to see, to open up some of these links between the river and the sea. There is general support for the town route because it would help move people from the seafront to the town centre.

“At Caister they would need a licence and that has to come from the Department of Transport. We are a consultee on that and so are the police. But obviously the parish council has its views.

“In town what we have to do is allow the use of the bus lanes and that would require a traffic regulation order. I do not know if there is a separate licence issue.”

The new town route will be on a hop on/hop off basis with the aim of allowing people to move between attractions at their leisure.

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