‘Disappointment and frustration’ at lack of progress on Wisbech Rail project
The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough voiced his “frustration” at the slow progress moving the Wisbech Rail project forward.
Other councillors have also shared their “disappointment” at the progress made, with a report assessing the various options for the route not expected to be published until next year.
The Wisbech Rail project aims to reopen the Wisbech to March rail line in some form, in order to better connect Wisbech with the rest of the county.
The project is being headed up by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which previously approved £310,000 in funding to look at the different options for what the new transport link could look like.
At a meeting of the Combined Authority’s transport and infrastructure committee this week (November 15), members were told that the options were still being assessed.
Matthew Lutz, the transport programme manager at the authority, said he recognised there was a lot of public interest in the project over the many years it had been considered.
He said Wisbech was also recognised as being one of the largest towns in England without a rail link.
He explained that the Combined Authority had asked Network Rail to undertake an options report looking at all the transport options that could be considered for the route, such as conventional heavy rail, light rail – such as trams – or even autonomous vehicles.
Rob Russell, from Network Rail, said he expected the report assessing all the options to be finished by the end of March next year, with the financial consideration report finished around a month after that.
Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said he had a “sense of frustration” about the time it was taking to move the project forward.
Councillor Chris Seaton said the momentum for the project “seems to ebb and flow”. He shared his frustration about the time the project was taking and expressed a concern the committee would still be talking about the same things in a year’s time.
Cllr Seaton asked that if a light rail option was pursued over a conventional rail line, that the Combined Authority looked at making sure it could be upgraded to a full train line in the future.
Councillor Neil Shailer said he was “quite disappointed” by the update. He added that he believed the project needed to consider the potential for moving freight along the line as well as people.
Officers at the Combined Authority said they were also looking at the options and what work they could do on the project while they waited for the Network Rail report to be completed.