Mayor James Palmer has given his full backing to a recommendation to fund and immediately start all the work necessary to build Soham Rail Station ahead of time.
The Mayoral Combined Authority Board’s September 25 meeting will be asked to approve a final funding package and contract that will fast-track the work, significantly bringing forward the start date.
In a major milestone for the keenly-awaited project, the Mayor’s focus on speeding up delivery means construction will start ahead of schedule – now beginning on 21 September 2020.
Work so far is on target. The third stage of the ‘GRIP’ process – Network Rail’s eight-stage sequence for putting in rail infrastructure - has been completed on time and has been evaluated and signed off.
But instead of working through the GRIP 4-8 stages sequentially, the Mayor’s proposal asks the Board to fund GRIP stages 4-8 – which cover detailed design and actual construction to handover – as one compressed package. By cutting through the conventional delivery timetable, the Mayor has made it possible for work that would not usually begin until GRIP Stage 5 to be started immediately.
The Mayor’s challenging approach also means the project will come in under the budget previously set.
Board members will be asked to approve £18,636,889 of funding for the remaining phases.
The campaign to reinstate the Soham railway link, closed to passengers in 1965, has been going on locally for years, but was frustrated by delays before the project was taken over by the Mayoral Combined Authority.
Mayor James Palmer said:
“It’s great news that we’ve pushed work on Soham station ahead. One of my top priorities as Mayor was to get shovels on site, cracking on with the work. I previously challenged Network Rail to look again at this project because the original timescales were unacceptable. We have worked closely with them and I’m delighted we are now at the stage where we can sign off the necessary budget and permissions to make this happen.
“People have campaigned long and hard to see this station up and running and it’s got huge support from the community it will serve. Plugging Soham back into the national rail network will bring the town huge advantages, smoothing the path for greater investment, better access to jobs for people who live there, and helping to make the planned economic and housing growth sustainable.
“This is a major milestone, but I will not rest until this station is delivered.”
The Phase 1 station will have a footbridge, car park, station forecourt, drop-off point and ticket machines. The proposed platform would be 102 metres long, and include waiting shelters, lighting, a public address system and information screens.
The completed station will serve 1,665 planned new homes in Soham by 2031 as well as helping drive the town’s economic growth. It will connect people to employment areas like Ely and Bury St Edmunds, also reducing pressure on the A142 and the whole local road network.
The Board will also be asked to authorise continued ‘Phase 2’ negotiation with Network Rail, the Department of Transport and the Freight Operating Companies for ‘Phase 2’ – which would, at a later date, see a second track (Ely to Soham) and a second platform at Soham.