|Rolling stock||Class 755|
|Line length||30 miles 22 chains (48.7 km)|
|Number of tracks||1-2|
The Bittern Line is a railway branch line in Norfolk, England, that links Norwich to Sheringham. It passes through the Broads on its route to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the north Norfolk coast. It is named after the bittern, a rare bird found in the reedy wetlands of Norfolk.
Passenger services are operated by Greater Anglia, which also manages all of the stations.
The line was granted permission in 1864 and the first stretch was opened between Norwich and North Walsham in 1874 by the East Norfolk Railway. It was extended to Cromer by 1877 before being extended to Sheringham in 1877, using a section of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line. From the early twentieth century until the end of steam services, in 1962, the Great Eastern Railway operated coastal holiday services from London Liverpool Street under names such as the Norfolk Coast Express and The Broadsman.
Following the closure of the majority of the Midland and Great Northern network, the line operated as a single branch between Norwich and Melton Constable before the section between Sheringham and Melton Constable was closed in 1964. The remainder of the line was listed for closure in 1967 but survived the proposal after being declined by the Secretary of State for Transport.
The section of the line between Sheringham and Holt which was closed in the 1960s remains in use as a heritage railway line operated as the North Norfolk Railway. After a period of 36 years, the link between the Bittern line and the North Norfolk Railway was reinstated in 2010 with the opening of a new level crossing at Sheringham.
The following table summarises the line's 10 stations, their distance measured from Norwich, and estimated number of passenger entries/exits in 2018/19:
|Norwich||Norwich||City of Norwich||0||4,250,834|
|Hoveton & Wroxham||Hoveton/Wroxham||North Norfolk||||136,414|
|North Walsham||North Walsham||North Norfolk||16||265,400|
|Gunton||Thorpe Market/Lower Street||North Norfolk||||19,188|
|Roughton Road||Cromer/Roughton||North Norfolk||24||21,766|
|West Runton||West Runton||North Norfolk||||27,212|
Passenger services are operated by Greater Anglia. The typical service is one train per hour in each direction between Norwich and Sheringham. Calling patterns are varied, with some trains stopping at all stations while others omit some of the lesser-used stations along the line, such as Salhouse, Gunton and Roughton Road.
The line is double-track from Norwich to Hoveton & Wroxham, where it becomes single-track with a passing loop at North Walsham, and two platforms at Cromer also allowing passing. The line is not electrified; it has a loading gauge of W8 between Norwich and Roughton Road and W6 from Roughton Road to Sheringham. The maximum speed is 75 miles per hour (121 km/h).
The line was re-signalled in 2000, leading to the closure of a number of mechanical signal boxes and control moving to a panel at the Trowse Swing Bridge control room. This saw the end of one of the few remaining sections of single-track main line controlled by tokens. The Cromer signal box has been preserved.
A new station is proposed as part of the Rackheath eco-town. The building of the town may also mean a short freight spur being built to transport fuel to fire an on-site power station. The plans for the settlement received approval from the government in 2009.