The great rail debate picks up steam

Letters from the Fenland Citizen, fenlandcitizen.co.uk, @FenlandCit on Twitter
Letters from the Fenland Citizen, fenlandcitizen.co.uk, @FenlandCit on Twitter

First, before they go to the expense of opening the line from Wisbech to March so that people in Wisbech would be able to go to work in Cambridge – people who live in March can’t take 24/7 jobs in Cambridge.

On a Sunday you cannot get out of March until 12:09 and then you have to change at Ely and wait half-an-hour for a train to Cambridge.

So, before they go any further, they need to sort this out. It’s not just workers who need to get to Cambridge on Sunday.

Paul Evetts,

March.

RAIL LINK

Where will station be?

The railway to March and elsewhere is needed. I approached Steve Barclay on the day of the Boat House meeting to question him on where the station is to be built. He could not answer in the definitive because none of us know where it could be placed.

Yes , we all agree that it has to be sited somewhere. If it is inside the A47 boundary where is the station going ? If it is south of the A47, it is too far out of town.

A park and ride has been suggested, but that assumes every passenger has a car. Not every person wishing to go to work has that luxury.

So it brings to the fore the desperate need for adequate bus services, plural, not singular. There is talk that the bus station at the Horsefair is inadequate for more buses. I agree, but the problem is lack of space.

I am sorry to sound so negative but I cannot see an easy solution. It seems inevitable that an A47 flyover has to be built if the station is in Wisbech – even then, most people would need somewhere to park their car. A paradox wrapped up in a conundrum.

Alan Lay,

Cambridgeshire County Councillor.

RAIL LINK

Overlooked?

I and many others have campaigned for the rail link since 2004 – but there are items I fear that have been overlooked.

1: The proposed sighting of the new station is almost 3½ miles from the Waterlees Estate. For the great many here without their own transport getting to the station would be difficult.

2: Why, possibly due to the King’s Lynn link, wasn’t the station sited closer to the town? The ex-Wisbech East Goods Yard would have been an ideal site, within easy walking distance for visitors to the town.

3: Local transport, with the exception of the Stagecoach X1 service, ceases to function in Wisbech after 18:00.

4: It’s quite obvious that the station’s sight has been chosen in view of the wild plan to extend the line to King’s Lynn. That already has its own foreseeable problems.

5: It seems the support from business groups will not include those large companies along the Mount Pleasant Road district, only new businesses intending to take up sites on the new planned industrial estate?

6: No mention of freight for those manufacturing businesses – even as a means of supplying goods both in and out of Wisbech. With a now direct route into Europe by rail, it has to be more cost efficient than by road?

7: As a member of Railfuture, my wife and other members delivered 10,000 leaflets over the whole area. The interesting part here is how silent those who said it wouldn’t happen. One single comment that shows how selfish some people are is: “Who needs a railway when we all have cars.”

8: It looks as though we as a family will continue to travel by bus to King’s Lynn to travel to London and beyond with no changes en route. Or to Peterborough to travel north. I don’t think our future travel plans will change. It’s something we and many others (without cars) have got used to during the past 40-odd years.

9: I hope I’m still around to see the changes that might transpire between now and 2020. It seems plans to widen the A47 show that Governments still prioritise roads as against rail – something left over from the Marples era of the late 50s?

10: I just hope someone will give all I have mentioned some thought. I am not aware of any councillor who does not have a car. It’s time to consider that there are thousands in Wisbech who don’t.

11: My final question is, why waste so much cash on engineering and statistic investigations on a railway that already exists? Someone or company is making a fortune out of all this at the expense of the population of Wisbech. This is not HS2 we are talking about here but a branch line that accidentally closed down in 1968 since it was never on the Beeching list. It was the extremely poor service that closed it down since the car was quicker.

To all those with cars. There will come a time when age will halt your driving around. One day you will discover a much more comfortable and restful way to travel around. Be it by bus or train.

I naturally look forward to reading others’ thoughts on this important matter.

Owen Smithers,

Wisbech.

RAIL LINK

The ‘real’ rail vision?

Even if the proposed rail link betwen March-Wisbech-Cambridge is just a politically motivated pre-election pipe dream, it’s worth looking at the arguments of the experts supporting it.

Earlier this year the county council spent £54,600 on studies favouring a rail link by Atkins and engineering firm Mott MacDonald. They are most revealing.

For, whereas we have been repeatedly assured by our MP and local authorities that a railway line would generate more business, more homes, more jobs and better incomes in Wisbech, Mott MacDonald’s detailed study describes a somewhat different aim and purpose behind the project.

Having first established that around 35 per cent of Wisbech’s population of 33,000 is foreign migrants working in the agri-food industry, the study then notes the high concentration of unemployment and pockets of severe deprivation among those who have become marginalised within this self-contained low waged labour market.

It also refers to the continual leakage of skilled and semi-skilled school leavers quitting Wisbech in search of jobs elsewhere. The study therefore concludes that a rail link to Cambridge will encourage business investment and growth, thereby reducing local unemployment and drift. But is this a realistic scenario?

If the multinational industries in Wisbech have prospered over the past decade through paying a pittance, then any amount of business expansion will only mean more of the same – but on an even larger scale.

However, there is apparently, one overriding need for a rail link to Wisbech – but again it is not primarily for the benefit of the local populace. Let Mott MacDonald explain:

“The key assumptions in this study is that given the housing challenges for Cambridge where there is a lack of supply and continued house price increases, towns such as Wisbech (if better connected) can market themselves to the labour force serving the key growth hubs.

“A rail link would make Wisbech a more attractive housing development prospect. In the future, given the pressure on the Cambridge housing market, it is feasible for Wisbech to increase its housing offer towards workers from Cambridge, who would consider it as a location to commute from.

This would be particularly true of workers within the median salary band bracket who are likely to be squeezed out of the Cambridge housing market.

“There is a substantial growth pressure on the area, particularly in terms of providing enough housing to support the economic expansion of Cambridge.

“A commuter service from Wisbech direct to Cambridge would bring Wisbech into the area of search for Cambridge workers looking for places to live.”

So there you have it. A Railway Vision of Wisbech as a dormitory town for migrant workers and Cambridge commuters. Better for local people and businesses if they just build us proper roads and dualled the A47.

Victoria Gillick,

Wisbech.

POPPY APPEAL

Proud effort

May I take this opportunity to thank the citizens of Wisbech for their generosity in contributing to this year’s Centenary Poppy Appeal.

For such a small town to generate over £24,000 is something to be proud of.

Of course this could not have been achieved without the dozens of helpers, from teenage cadets to 90-year-old pensioners.

Jim Wharrier,

Secretary, Wisbech branch, Royal British Legion