Campaigners behind the fight to re-open the Wisbech rail link have given an update on the progress of the campaign and petition, which has over 2,500 signatures so far.
Peter Wakefield, of Railfuture East Anglia, said: “It is well known in Wisbech and district that there have been several attempts to re-establish a national railway link back into the town. It should not be difficult, the thinking of most people goes, to get a service up and running over just seven miles of existing track!”
“The present campaign comes about in a time when there seems to be at long last a realisation that good public transport links are essential to the quality of life, for enabling economic growth and reducing the impact of travel on the environment. There is a realisation that rail, in particular, has the unique ability to offer fast and efficient connectivity for businesses and communities.
“The County Council took the lead in recognising that Wisbech needed to be better connected by undertaking, through its Local Transport Plan 3, to conduct a feasibility study into reviving the mothballed seven miles of railway from the centre of Wisbech to March, allowing direct access to the national railway network.
“The County Council is currently doing just that. There has also been clear support for the concept from Wisbech Town Council, the Member of Parliament Stephen Barclay and positive references in various documents from the district council. Railfuture East Anglia has spoken to all these authorities and is convinced of the goodwill now current to see the project through to a positive conclusion. We very much hope the current political consensus will prevail. Members of the County Council from all parties are in favour and we hope they will work together to achieve this project for the good of the town.
“Nationally there is consensus within all the mainstream political parties of the need to rebuild and enhance our railway network, which is now carrying more passengers than any time in its history.
“Railfuture East Anglia is part of a national, strictly non-political, voluntary group of several thousand members, who entirely self-fund the organisation. Local members have always been active in trying to get the route reopened since the ‘70s. It has been a campaign priority.
“With so many words being spoken about reopening the route at several levels of late, and after meetings with the MP, the town council and county council officials, we decided to pull all the strands together and let every household in Wisbech know what is happening, as is their democratic right.
“We had 10,000 leaflets printed at our own expense, and undertook to deliver one to each house as far as possible in Wisbech. This has been completed by a team local Railfuture members. At the same time we set up the www.wisbechrail.org.uk website, which contains an online petition which can be signed. The leaflet referred to this petition and asked recipients to sign it as way of demonstrating their support for the railway reopening concept and a through train service to Cambridge initially.
“The petition has generated extraordinary interest in Wisbech and district, with active support from individuals, schools and businesses. To date, over 2500 people have signed it. Remember, the process is read the leaflet then go to the website, read the material there and then sign. This is intended to be informative as well as simply gathering names for the petition. For those people not online we have left a paper copy of the petition at the library, members have been spreading the word and gathering signatures in the town centre, and several non-members have gone out of their way to collect signatures from their local community and posted the completed forms back to us. We have posted petition forms to people
on request, and these forms can also be downloaded from our website to print out.
“2,500 and climbing is an excellent indication to our politicians that Wisbech wants a railway. If they could read the positive comments on Facebook and twitter it would open tomorrow. Delivering 10,000 leaflets have proven to be a huge task. This task has reinforced to us just how big Wisbech is. Its population is 33,000 when all those who live in the town, the adjacent joined up villages in Cambridgeshire and in Norfolk are added together. It is one of the largest towns in the nation without a railway station. There is a huge demand for the railway station and the service out to the fast growing economy of our county town.
“We have urged the County Council to assess the demand for a new hourly service along the whole route between Wisbech and Cambridge. This would provide an additional hourly service from March to Cambridge doubling the current service and growing usage from March. It would generate new to rail usage from the growing village of Manea and may even be attractive for some commuters currently driving from Chatteris into Cambridge for work. The new service would provide valuable relief to the severely overloaded peak train services between Ely, Waterbeach and Cambridge as well as providing good connections into fast London trains at Cambridge. A Cambridge to March and Wisbech service would also meet the needs of local people by providing later trains in the evening compared to the current timetable which is based on the needs of long distance passengers.
“The final service from Cambridge to March is currently a full 3 hours before the final service from
Cambridge to King’s Lynn. We also note that the current hourly March to Cambridge and return service is full with long distance travellers all day long.
“Join all those people who have signed the petition to keep the new County Council focussed on re-opening the railway. We hope to present the petition to the new County Council once it has been established in May.”