The future development of Fenland’s rail network is steaming ahead after new plans and studies were revealed.
Firstly, hopes to re-open the Wisbech to March rail line were bolstered when, according to a study published last week, the £70-£110 million cost of the project would represent better value for money than first thought.
And in another development, the government has announced plans to turn the 29-mile route between Peterborough and Ely into a community rail service.
The move would give passengers a greater say on how the line is run, and what services they want to see – such as a later train running from March to Cambridge and Stansted Airport.
The business case study into the re-opening of the Wisbech to March line, published by Cambridgeshire County Council, revealed the economic benefits to Wisbech and the wider area if it were to go ahead.
Fenland MP and project campaigner Steve Barclay explained that before the study was carried out, the government set a minimum benefit to cost ratio of £1.50 for every £1 invested.
But the study showed a benefit of £2.27 to £1, representing “high value for money” and, when wider economic benefits are taken into account, the benefit to cost ratio rises to £4.41.
It means the county council now unlocks around £400,000 of funding to progress to the next stage of the project. The money will come from a £10.5 million fund already awarded to the local enterprise partnership to improve transport links in Wisbech.
Mr Barclay said: “Whilst there is still much work to be done, the study shows that the scheme is viable and represents value for money.”
The next stage of the project is Governance for Railway Investment Projects (GRIP) 3, which looks at the business case in much further detail.
Plans to make the Peterborough to Ely line a community rail service are now being consulted on, with members of the public having until September 25 to have a say.
Announcing the plan, rail minister Claire Perry said: “We know how important this line is to communities in the Fenland area, and it’s right that passengers have a bigger say in shaping its future.”