Mayor’s Blog: Platform for the Future
They say that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive but this week, as I joined the happy crowd alighting at Soham’s shiny new station, I was aware that it really is a destination in itself – as well as a waypoint in the Combined Authority’s journey to get us all connected, by one means or another.
I am grateful for and acknowledge all the hard work, planning and campaigning that started long before my Mayoral arrival. Such an inclusive community event acts as a perfect symbol of the Combined Authority’s new direction, to bring us all together with good transport links, across the whole region
I grew up in a rural area, thankfully with a station, and I know how much it meant to me, my mates, and the rest of the community, broadening our horizons and keeping us in touch with the outside world.
That memory made the trip from Ely to Soham extra personal and moving for me. Getting off that first passenger train for 56 years – longer than I’ve been alive – to see a brass band and so many people gathering to celebrate a life-changing investment in their market town was fantastic.
Especially for young Soham. It was a joy to see the turnout of families because this station has been built with tomorrow in mind, not merely today.
Children and near-adults will be among the first to benefit – a welter of courses and jobs brought suddenly within their grasp, say nothing of the horizons massively expanded to include them in a new landscape of social, cultural and leisure life.
That Soham platform is a launchpad for the future, from isolation to freedom and fun – the adventure of meeting new people, joining groups, sharing in everything the region offers, from the bright lights, cafes, gigs and sheer fizz of our great cities, to the wild places of our countryside, and the cultural jigsaw of our many marvellous towns.
And the world beyond.
But Soham’s new station is about far more than getting out and about without the car! It will magnetize as it mobilises. Businesses and tourists are drawn to well-connected and happening places, easy for people to get in and out of, and Soham is now on the map in big letters, no longer somewhere that trains would whistle past, on the way to other places.
Soham travelled hopefully, campaigned for years to get its station, and now it has arrived. But it’s a marker on the Combined Authority’s journey; our aspiration, our ambition, and our destination remains improved connectivity, not just for Soham, but for everyone.
This is what the Combined Authority is for, to exercise leadership and harness the power of partners to push through vital projects like this.
Let’s keep up the momentum. Our revamped station in March will shortly reopen, plans for Cambridge South are evolving, we’re actioning a solution for Wisbech, have schemes to widen the Ely rail bottleneck, and we’re working on plans for Alconbury, for Waterbeach, on plans for cycling and walking, and on major reforms of bus services across the county.
It’s a lot but it’s never going to be one-size-fits-all. We’re here to create a clean, green transport network that works for everyone, interlocking the best modes of transport for the terrain and the people it serves.
So let’s keep up the momentum – and that means getting an hourly train service for Soham and its shiny new station.
After all, to travel hopefully is great – but to travel hourly is better!