Support for new Wisbech rail link campaign

North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay and Peter SImpson, chief executive of Anglia Water, with the Infrastrcuture for Growth document.
North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay and Peter SImpson, chief executive of Anglia Water, with the Infrastrcuture for Growth document.
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Support is growing for a new campaign to restore Wisbech’s rail links - which could boost the local economy by £13 million.

Organisations and businesses in the town are throwing their weight behind the campaign to re-open the Wisbech to March Line, which was launched in the Boathouse last week.

If the bid is successful, Wisbech could be linked to Cambridge and its new science park, which could open up a world of opportunities for the town.

A coalition of private firms and councils, including Anglian Water, are working together to lobby the Government for £50- £70 million to re-open the line.

Speaking after the launch of the Infrastructure for Growth document on Thursday, Anglian Water chief-executive Peter Simpson is calling for the local community to get behind the bid.

He said: “We will need to push for this, not just Anglian Water, not just the MP or the county or district councils, we need local businesses and the community saying ‘We want this’. That will really help and this particular Government is quite persuaded when you get local businesses joined with local authorities and the community to say it is a good thing.

“I think the railway could make a huge difference to Wisbech. I think this is a great opportunity for Wisbech.”

The coalition has put together an economic case for the rail link, which could halve the travelling time between Wisbech and Cambridge to under two hours.

Local incomes could also be raised by at least £13 million as result of employment and business expansion.

The railway could also help to bring about the building of 500 new affordable homes and the development of Wisbech Enterprise Park with 230 jobs.

But for this to come to pass, the coalition needs the support of the Government.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Simpson said that there is a strategic window.

He said: “Governments do things at the end of their term and in that is opportunity.”

Leader of Fenland District Council John Clark said the rail link could be a “game changer”.

He said: “It would bring more jobs, more homes and more business into the district. That in turn would boost local people’s incomes, raise the aspirations of our young people and create more opportunities for them in the future.”

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Steve Count, said: “We are working hard with our partners to push this forward and make a real difference to the people of Wisbech.”

North East Cambridgeshire MP Steven Barclay said: “The launch of the Wisbech Rail Infrastructure Lobby Document is an important step forward in showing both the strong business case for re-opening of the line and also the active support of major employers in the region for this to go ahead.”

The move to restore rail links has received wide support in the town.

Chairman of Wisbech Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Smith, who is also the manager of the Horsefair Shopping Centre, is backing the campaign.He said: “I cannot stress how important for the town and the local economy this would be. All of the businesses I speak to in the town would love to see the rail link reinstated.”

Chairman of Wisbech Tourism Group, Cllr Michelle Tanfield, said the railway could bring more people into the town.

She said: “I am really hopeful that we could get the railway and improve tourism and understanding of Wisbech.”

Peter Clayton, chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, said: “It can only be of great economic benefit by bringing visitors who will spend money and help with the regeneration.”

David Oliver, leader of Wisbech Town Council and district council cabinet member, said: “Everyone is very enthusiastic about the proposal and the prospect of being able to bring the railway back to Wisbech. It would considerably help the area.

“I am also a chairman of the governors at a primary school and we find it very difficult to recruit teachers. I think it is because of our remoteness. By having a quick and easy rail link, it would probably help substantially, not only just for schools but businesses as well.”

n What do you think of the railway plans? Send your views to victoria.fear@jpress.co.uk