Longer trains, more seats, but no improved service for Fenland rail passengers
Improvements to passenger services announced this week by train operator CrossCountry does nothing to help Fenland commuters.
In a scathing attack Cambridgeshire Mayor James Palmer said he was "deeply disappointed" at the "lack of ambition" in the plans announced on Tuesday for longer trains and more seats for CrossCountry passengers across the Midlands.
Mayor Palmer said neither longer trains or more seats would help improve the Fenland rail service.
He said: "Talk of levelling up and putting passengers at the heart of the railway is just not reflected in the announcement today.
“The CrossCountry service would be the easiest and cheapest way to improve the rail service to Fenland Stations at Manea, March and Whittlesey where currently almost all the services do not stop at Whittlesea and Manea stations or do not run with enough frequency or late enough in the evenings.
“This announcement focuses on only one of the five recommendations made by myself when I met with operators directly, when responding to both the official consultation for the new CrossCountry franchise last summer and repeated at the subsequent Williams Rail Review.
“Longer trains and more seats for passengers across the Midlands will do nothing for the Fenland service. An ambitious plan is needed to take advantage of the potential for CrossCountry services to support Fenland commuters to Cambridge or even London, would support increasing public transport use, reducing congestion on the roads and helping the environment.
Councillor Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Whilst we acknowledge the CrossCountry train investment announcement from the government today, it is not enough.
“We have been campaigning for investment in our rail network for many years and we were instrumental in orchestrating Cambridge North.
“We want to see more stopping train services between Whittlesey, March, Manea and Cambridge North from early in the morning to late at night. This is critical to allow people from outside Cambridge to access jobs and housing more easily and spread the wealth being created by Cambridge.
“Myself and Mayor Palmer acknowledge, after all the effort we’ve invested into this, that phase two – Birmingham to Stansted – will increase capacity on existing trains by two or three carriages by May 2021. However, we are disappointed we have to wait a year and it still doesn’t go far enough in providing the services that the people in Fenland towns deserve. We will continue to speak to government about what more can be done.”
Mayor Palmer and Coun Count have been pushing for CrossCountry’s Stansted to Birmingham service, which runs trains between Peterborough, Fenland and Cambridge, and on to Stanstead, to improve Fenland services via the CrossCountry Birmingham to Stanstead line. The Mayor is trying to secure, stops at all Fenland stations, Whittlesea and Manea, not just March, with additional services particularly at peak commuting times in the early morning and evening
They want a doubling in frequency of services between Stansted, Cambridge, Peterborough (and vice versa) from hourly to half-hourly and an increase from two-carriage to four-carriage services to increase capacity and comfort
Additionally they are calling for later services from Monday to Saturday so people can have confidence in working in Cambridge and London and commuting via rail. Later trains will also open up the potential for people in Fenland to enjoy evenings out in Cambridge and Peterborough and catch late flights at Stansted, using public transport
Stops at Cambridge North station to access job opportunities in the area, including at Cambridge Science Park would also benefit Fenland people.
The Combined Authority is continuing to invest in the local rail network with plans for new stations at Soham and Cambridge South and putting a new rail link in to Wisbech. It is also delivering a series of improvements to upgrade facilities at Fenland stations and has just announced the first public consultations for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) a modern metro service conn
More by this authorSarah Cliss