Over the August Bank Holiday, Network Rail completed the final section of infrastructure works on the £29 million upgrade of the rail line between Cambridge and King’s Lynn.
Over the last 11 months, works championed by Mayor James Palmer and funded by the Department for Transport have delivered a new siding outside King’s Lynn station, and lengthened platforms at Littleport and Waterbeach.
This means that from December, longer eight-carriage trains will be able to run on the line, adding thousands of extra seats for Great Northern passengers, reducing overcrowding, especially for busy commuter services.
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, said:
“I couldn’t be more delighted that Network Rail has delivered this upgrade, despite the challenge of Covid. I’ve brokered a number of meetings with rail officials and government ministers to push this scheme and I know this news will please thousands of travellers who’ve put up with standing-room-only for so very long”.
“I have used the service at peak time myself and I know just how bad the overcrowding has been, with hard-working commuters and tired school children standing squashed together all through the train.
“I’m extremely happy that this problem has been sorted. It’s very, very good news for people travelling in Cambridgeshire and all eyes are now on the train companies to make good on delivering the promised eight-car service in December.”
Between now and December, essential track, safety and train testing will take place, alongside driver training.
The new siding at King’s Lynn allows for the longer trains to be parked ready for the first and last services of the day. The project has included an extension of Platform 2 at Littleport and both platforms at Waterbeach station, allowing longer trains to call at these stops from December. Littleport station has also had new stairs and a ramp built on the southbound Platform 1 to improve accessibility and safety for passengers.
The Covid pandemic has produced unavoidable challenges, including the need to invest an extra £1.7 million to ensure completion. However, Network Rail and Great Northern have been working closely together to deliver the project and will now focus on the final stages to prepare for the longer trains to be introduced at the end of the year.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This is an important investment and one that will deliver on our promise to passengers to modernise, upgrade and uplift services and infrastructure.
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the teams at Network Rail, this final piece of the project has been completed despite restrictions imposed by Covid-19. I look forward to seeing the new-look upgraded Fen Line ready for passengers soon.”
Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia said: “Our teams have been working hard to ensure that the new siding at King’s Lynn was completed this August bank holiday.
“With this milestone achieved, we can now focus on ensuring the new infrastructure is ready for Great Northern’s longer trains to begin running in December and delivering on our promise to provide a better journey experience for passengers using the Fen line.”
Keith Jipps, Infrastructure Director at Govia Thameslink Railway which runs Great Northern services, said: “Longer trains are desperately needed on the Fen Line and it’s really good news that Network Rail has been able to complete this work. This siding will enable us to store an eight-carriage train overnight to start the improved service each day.
"The finished work now paves the way for us to begin our infrastructure testing and driver-training programme. Time is tight, because the coronavirus pandemic has delayed this milestone by several months, but I am confident we will be seeing the longer trains introduced this December which will be great news for our passengers and stakeholders.”