Not all town councillors are for rail link

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I FEEL I would like to comment on the article in the Citizen, November 16 and various letters that have been published on the subject of “The Bramley Line” (TBL).

The article gives, in my opinion, the view that every member of the Town Council supports the acquisition of the lease of TBL, this is not the case.

At the meeting of the Resources Committee (formerly finance and general purposes) that sets the budget, members had been sent two alternative budgets to discuss.

One with £30,000 allocated to this acquisition and one that didn’t.

And it was specifically mentioned that that was what the money was earmarked for.

It would have been £30,000 for each of two years.

Following some debate, a revised proposal was made that £20,000 be set aside for the next three years, under the heading of ‘asset acquisitions’.

I had spoken out against the Town Council spending a lot of money on the acquisition of TBL Lease, I felt that the alternative proposal was allocating this money ‘by the back door’ and I voted against it. One other member abstained.

I also did not think it appropriate that a pseudo referendum should be carried out by the local press, for two reasons, firstly the Citizen does not only reach those households affected by this proposal ie Wisbech Council Tax payers, but also in other Fenland towns, and this could set a precedent for a vox pop every time a contentious decision has to be made.

I am not against a rail link between Wisbech and March, but do not think that the Town Council should be spending a lot of resource both money and the time of the clerk and his staff in attempting to get this lease.

There does seem to be some confusion about what the money spent by the council would get, a minimum of £30k up to a maximum of £60K will be needed to acquire the lease to the land on where the track is laid.

It does not mean that Wisbech will have a working railway service. For that to happen, a station would need to be built, with a platform, waiting shelter, car parking and other associated infrastructure. Who will pay for this? And where will it be located?

Then a service provider would need to be found, as well as a body to maintain the fabric of the station and the track.

As no rail service provider has thought this line viable for over 40 years I can see no reason why one should not come out of the woodwork now.

Remember that this £20k a year for the next three years will be raised by raising the town’s precept (rates) at a time when many people are experiencing financial hardship. It also represents a sizeable proportion of the council’s annual budget, which is just over £320k for next year.

In my opinion, this is a potential albatross around the neck of the town, relying for success as it does on getting other, bigger, stakeholders on board, and if they don’t they town will be left with a lease on a narrow strip of land, that they must upkeep potentially for the next century.

I feel that we as a Town Council should be concentrating on things that are necessary and achievable for the good of the town, and at present that should be ensuring that the recently acquired Market Place is made to work successfully for shop keepers, shoppers and visitors.

Cllr NICK MEEKINS

Wisbebech