More trains, please!

LOCAL demand for more trains and better stations has been underlined by a big response to a district-wide consultation that ended last Friday.

About 500 residents have taken the opportunity to comment on proposals designed to improve rail services throughout Fenland.

Questionnaires were distributed throughout the district and a series of special events held in March, Whittlesey and Manea. The one in Manea attracted about 100 people – one of the biggest turnouts the village has seen for any consultation event.

The “Rail Development Strategy” has been drawn up by the Fenland Strategic Partnership Transport and Access Group (TAG), which includes Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, the Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT) and National Express East Anglia.

The document outlines three key priorities: expanded train services, better stations and greater community involvement. It also suggests various improvements to the stations at March, Whittlesey and Manea.

Councillor Kit Owen, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for transport, said: “The number of people responding both through the questionnaire and verbally has been far higher than we expected. But what is also very interesting is the quality of their responses.

“People have taken a great deal of time and trouble to get their views across and they’ve submitted a lot of positive, specific ideas and suggestions which we’ll now be taking forward.”

Concerns about rail services were particularly evident at the meeting in Manea, where currently only two trains per day stop in each direction.

The meeting was arranged by FDC with the support of Manea parish council. It included representatives from National Express East Anglia, the Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT) and Street Pride.

Councillor Mark Buckton, vice-chairman of Manea parish council, said they were delighted that local people had been given the opportunity to contribute in such an active way. The parish council was fully behind the efforts to increase the number of trains stopping at the village’s station.

“An improved rail service is absolutely essential for the future sustainability and development of Manea as a community,” he said.

“The strength of feeling within the village is evident by the number of people who came along to the consultation. We are delighted with the turnout and would like to thank all those who took part. This sends a very clear message that people want to see a return to a proper rail service for the village.”

The TAG steering group is due to meet over the next two months to review all the responses to the consultation and agree the best way forward. It is hoping to finalise revised proposals by April or May next year; those will then go to FDC and other project partners for adoption.