Trains will run every half hour from a town centre station that’s the aim of a newly formed public pressure group set up to increase lobbying for the reopening of the Wisbech to March rail line.
Peter Wakefield who heads the Wisbech Rail Consultative Group set up by Railfuture East Anglia said they will be meeting with Cambridgeshire Mayor James Palmer within the next few weeks to discuss the rail project.
He said the campaign to re-open the line, which should be called the TransCambs Link, has built up momentum in the last five years largely thanks to local MP Steve Barclay but also Wisbech 2020 and now has the backing of Transport Minister Chris Grayling who has said the Wisbech scheme must be delivered.
“We want to see it deliverd within the next few years and we want it to link right through to the newly funded Cambride South station. Wisbech is vital to the whole county’s economic sustainability.
“It will improve transport connectivity by giving Wisbech and Fenland residents access to high quality jobs all along the corridor and especially in Cambridge and will be a huge benefit to the whole county.”
The group, which is backed by a prominent local business but is made up of volunteers, wants Wisbech rail ready to run trains the minute work to upgrade the Ely North rail junction is completed and have devised a possible half-hourly time table. The junction is essential for improved rail services not just in Fenland but across the eastern region.
Once the upgrade has been carried out it will enable more trains to stop at Manea and the group hopes the village station will become a rural transport hub.
“As a rural transport hub Manea station would be upgraded with a dedicated car park, better waiting room facilities, better lighting and security. It is also hoped to provide cycleways from the village to the station and a bus service linked to the train times from Chatteris,” said Peter.
He said footfall has already increased dramatically at Manea station and with a proposed half-hourly service linked to the half hour trains from Wisbech that will increase further.
In a detailed report the consultative group points out the most efficient way of working through Cambridge and in rolling stock use, would be to combine the Wisbech to Cambridge service with the Cambridge to London Liverpool Street service - giving people in Wisbech a direct link to the capital.
Peter added: “There is no doubting public support. At the outset we delivered leaflets to every household asking Wisbech people to sign a petition calling for Cambridgeshire County Counci to officially start work on a feasibility study - very rapidly we had over 5,000 responses, there are around 10,000 homes in the town, so that demonstrates the strength of feeling there is for this project.”
He also said a town centre station is vital.
“Who wants to end up on the wrong side of the A47 when they arrive in Wisbech? If the station is built south of the A47 it will be harder for people to get to and some of the wider economic benefits will be lost. There is land available for a station and we have drawn a map to show where it should go,” he said.
Finally the group wants to see some of the lengthy and expensive processes needed to be completed before work can start simplified.
“There are eight distinct stages, they are time consuming and expensive, we believe they can be simplified and we understand Mayor Palmer is also of the same view and that is one of the things we will be discussing when we meet with him in the next few weeks,” concluded Peter