This week in parliament I met representatives from Cambridgeshire County Council and train consultancy Atkins in Parliament this week to discuss the next phase of exciting plans to re-open the railway line from Wisbech to March.
I enjoyed a really productive meeting the house of commons with Jeremy Smith, Transport and Infrastructure Manager for Cambridgeshire County Council and Adil Chaudhery, a senior consultant working on a study of plans to re-instate the rail line and open a new station in Wisbech.
The second phase of the study into regenerating the line is due to start in a matter of weeks and consultancy firm Atkins plan to report their findings into the cost implications of the project by the summer.
The building of a new station at Cambridge Science Park, coupled with the massive increase nationally in rail usage in recent years, as well as significant population growth in Fenland, all mean the business case for reopening the line to Wisbech has improved significantly from when this issue was last looked at. Opening up the rail line and developing commuter travel and freight usage would bring great economic benefits to our area.
It is welcome news that the detailed assessment into the Wisbech to March Rail Line is now moving into the second phase, to provide a detailed estimate of the capital costs for reopening the line. I am impressed with the level of detail in the first phase report which focussed on the potential revenue and passenger usage for the line. After so many years talking about re-activating this line, it is good news that the Wisbech 2020 programme is now driving this programme forward as part of the area’s regeneration.
The development of the Wisbech to March line should also build on the case for increasing the frequency of trains between Ipswich and Peterborough. This increased frequency would not only be beneficial for passengers at Whittlesey, March and Manea who would benefit from more trains, but would also strengthen the passenger levels feeding into the business case for Wisbech. It cannot make sense that Whittlesey, which is just one stop from the East Coast main line, still only has a service for passengers every two hours. This needs to change.
The local community has done a great job coming together behind these plans and I believe the second phase of planning by Atkins will give us the positive data we now need to make the case to Ministers. A railway line for Wisbech is key to addressing the imbalance within the County, as is a more frequent service between Ipswich and Peterborough.
The petition organized by Railfuture at has so far produced over 1000 signatures in support of the work the County Council is undertaking in its plans to re-introduce rail services into the area.
To lend your support to the campaign, log on and sign the petition at Wisbechrail.org.uk.