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Trams and trains should form part of Norwich city centre’s future, report will claim

PUBLISHED: 12:50 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:50 11 October 2018

A tram on Unthank Road, Norwich. Photo: Archant Library

A tram on Unthank Road, Norwich. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

A “provocative” vision for how Norwich city centre needs to adapt to keep up with the changing times is to be published.

Tramlines are laid in St Stephen's, Norwich. The tram service began in 1900 and lasted until 1935. Pic: Archant Library.Tramlines are laid in St Stephen's, Norwich. The tram service began in 1900 and lasted until 1935. Pic: Archant Library.

Trams, trains, live music, shops, offices and tourism will all feature in the Norwich Society’s major ‘Future of the city centre’ report.

The society says, with the decline in retailing in the face of online shopping, other changes in consumer behaviour, and the move away from offices in the heart of Norwich, the city centre is facing some major challenges.

They hope the report, due to be published next month, will generate discussion and ideas for what the future should hold.

The report is likely to put forward suggestions such as a revival of trams, with a route connecting the railway station to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and University of East Anglia.

The Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra at St Andrews Hall.
 There have long been calls for a purpose-built concert hall  in Norwich.  Pic: Bill Smith.The Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra at St Andrews Hall. There have long been calls for a purpose-built concert hall in Norwich. Pic: Bill Smith.

It will also consider where a concert hall could be built and what could be done to keep the High Street healthy in the wake of competition from online shopping.

Paul Burall, vice-chairman of the Norwich Society, said: “We’ve looked at issues in the city before, but we wanted to bring some of those together and, more crucially, it was triggered by the clear decline in retailing.

“The city centre has done very well up until now, but I think there needs to be a discussion on how it deals with consumer changes, particularly when you look at the difficulties of big stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser.

“There are significant things being done by the Norwich Business Improvement District, but it’s important to have this discussion about retail.

Norwich Society vice-chairman Paul Burall. Pic: Sonya Duncan
.Norwich Society vice-chairman Paul Burall. Pic: Sonya Duncan .

“The second main issue is what to do with empty buildings, particularly office space and the third issue is how do we make Norwich a more attractive place for people to come to.

“And the fourth is about transport. We have got to get people in, so exploration of the feasibility of trams and extra train stops should be explored.”

Mr Burall said the report was intended to be “provocative”.

He said: “We know we don’t have the solutions and we know some of this would require considerable investment, but it is a debate which needs to be had.”

Norwich City Council has been working, with other organisations, on a strategy or the future of the city - known as the 2040 Norwich city vision.

Reviving rail and trams

It was a mode of transport which served the city for 35 years - and the Norwich Society report will say there’s a case to explore reviving trams.

The Norwich Tramway system opened on Monday, July 30, 1900 and the initial 15-mile network was extended into the suburbs, with 17.5 miles of connections.

But the rise of buses saw the system closed down, with the final tram entering the Silver Road depot on Tuesday, December 10, 1935, with passengers, staff and gathering crowds singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

The Norwich Society report will suggest a tram route from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, through the city centre and to the railway station, should be appraised.

But it is also likely to call for the possibility of new railway stations at one or more new or expanded park and ride sites on the edge of the city, possibly at Dussindale, Postwick or Forncett.

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