Full steam ahead as minister signals major boost for Wisbech rail and Fenland’s future prosperity
MP Steve Barclay says Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has finally turned the key to unlocking essential transport schemes in Fenland and bringing economic growth to the area.
The North East Cambridgeshire MP welcomed Mr Grayling’s commitment for a multi-million pound upgrade to Ely North rail junction and says it is the scheme Fenland has been waiting for.
It will, he says, be the key to unlocking Wisbech rail, enabling a direct link between the Fenland town and Cambridge, additional train services for March, Manea and Whittlesey, and a late night service, too, from Cambridge to the Fenland stations.
It will also help boost the economy, allowing Fenland to cash in on Cambridge’s prosperity and he believes it could help solve other issues such as recruiting more teachers and GPs to the area.
The Conservative MP is confident the scheme, which is included in the next round of government spending for 2019 to 2024, will go-ahead sooner rather than later.
“Obviously we have a strong preference for it starting early in the control period, and I feel confident that will happen as there is so much ministerial support for it. We have both the economic secretary and the transport secretary backing it, plus support of a treasury minister, and four MPs all pushing for this to happen. This is hugely significant, both for the scheme and for Fenland.
“Frankly it is the key we have been waiting for. Ely North junction is a bottleneck – a major blockage to improving rail services across Fenland. The upgrade will remove that blockage and will strengthen the business case for the Wisbech to Cambridge service and will also allow improved services to the other Fenland stations.”
Mr Grayling’s commitment was announced following a meeting with the area’s MPs and rail campaigners on Wednesday. The upgrade is also critical in enabling a half-hourly service between King’s Lynn and London’s King’s Cross.
Earlier this year, the region’s two local enterprise partnerships joined forces with rail industry bosses to commit almost £9 million of funding for a feasibility study into the project.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who led the delegation to meet Mr Grayling, said he had assured them he wanted the project to proceed in the next spending round, which runs from 2019 to 2024.
She said: “This is fantastic news, we have been campaigning for years for this and it will definitely be going ahead.
“I am delighted that the Transport Secretary fully understood all the points we raised and that he has given this commitment today.”
Her North West Norfolk counterpart, Sir Henry Bellingham, said it had been “one of the most successful meetings” he has had with a senior minister during his Parliamentary career.
n See also page 6.