COUNCIL tax payers in Wisbech could be left footing a £60,000 bill to bring a rail link back to the town.
At a meeting of the Resources Committee on Monday night, town councillors voted unanimously to look in more detail at what the Bramley Line project would require and, more importantly, how much it would cost.
The first estimate stands at £60,000 – made up of £10,000 to acquire the lease and £50,000 for specialist legal fees. To pay for this, the town council would need to increase their portion of the council tax precept by around 30 per cent.
Mayor Jonathan Farmer said: “We are in a position where time is not on our side. If we do nothing, the chance of having some kind of rail link would simply evaporate. The line would be ripped up.”
Councillors were unhappy with the initial cost estimates, which would see taxpayers having to bear the cost.
Cllrs Carol Cox and Samantha Hoy both expressed their unwillingness to raise the precept by such a large amount and said more investigation was needed to find out how much it would cost as the amount seemed excessive.
Their thoughts were backed up at a full council meeting that followed the Resources Committee meeting.
Geoffrey Walker, who first presented a rail project to councillors 15 years ago, returned to speak to councillors and share his experience. He disagreed with the estimated cost to acquire the line.
Mr Walker worked on the railways for 42 years and has a wealth of knowledge. He made several suggestions, such as making sure the council have someone who knows railways to speak with Network Rail.
While the plan is to run the Bramley Line as a heritage railway – accessing the possibility of Heritage Lottery funding – Mr Walker said if the council are serious about using it as a proper rail link, they need to look at laying a double track straight away.
It now falls to a working committee to get the ball rolling and speak to Network Rail to find out if this is possible. Any talk of costing will go to October’s budget meeting when councillors should have a more accurate picture of how much it will cost the town.