Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer has vowed to do everything he can to support a bid to allow eight-car trains to run between Cambridge, Ely and King’s Lynn, after Network Rail announced progress with plans to reduce overcrowding on the route at peak periods.
The Great Northern service connecting King’s Lynn with London, which includes stops at Littleport, Ely, Waterbeach, Cambridge North and Cambridge stations, is hugely popular with commuters, but current infrastructure limits it to a four-car train between Cambridge and King’s Lynn and so is frequently overcrowded at peak times.
Recognising the desire among train users, local representatives and Great Northern to increase capacity, Network Rail has been working on a scheme called the King’s Lynn Service Enhancement Project that will allow eight-car trains to operate between Cambridge and King’s Lynn at peak times.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has now authorised Network Rail to allow contractor Volker Fitzpatrick to complete a detailed design on the scheme, which in terms of delivering new railway infrastructure, is the fifth stage of an eight-stage framework, known as the GRIP process.
The proposed scheme includes extending the platforms at Littleport and Waterbeach, as well as involving sidings work at King’s Lynn, in order to accommodate eight-car trains.
Network Rail said it anticipates that it will be able to submit the design to the DfT for a final investment decision – which would enable the scheme’s construction - in February 2019. Subject to the costs and programme being acceptable to Network Rail and the DfT, an announcement on the expected delivery date would also be given.
It is intended that the scheme will be delivered ahead of the proposed programme of improvements to ease the rail bottleneck around Ely.
In the meantime, Mayor James Palmer has written to Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP
, to stress his strong support for the bid, and has asked to meet with him early in the new year to make further representations for the scheme, as well as discuss other rail matters across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
The Mayor said the scheme would support the Combined Authority’s aim of reducing overcrowding on transport infrastructure, while also helping better connect people to economic opportunities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Mayor James Palmer said: “To say that it can be standing room only on the service between Cambridge and Ely at peak times would be a significant understatement.
“The case for eight-car trains between Cambridge and King’s Lynn at peak times is extremely clear and I will be looking to meet with the Rail Minister in the early part of the New Year to make the case to him that the Department for Transport needs to be supportive of the bid that Network Rail plans to submit in February.
“I know that a great many people who commute to either Cambridge or London from Ely, Waterbeach or Littleport will have been greatly inconvenienced by the fact that there are only four-car trains between Cambridge and King’s Lynn. There is significant growth planned for both Ely and Waterbeach and it is imperative that eight-car trains are provided as soon as possible.
“I am a regular user of the service myself and know that often the journey between London and Cambridge on the eight-car trains is far more comfortable and civilized than the journey onward from Cambridge on the four-car trains.”
A copy of the letter to Andrew Jones MP can be found here