Mayor James Palmer has said the delivery of Soham railway station will act as a platform for better, more regular rail services for the area it will serve.
The Combined Authority today granted the funding and approvals necessary to bring the station to completion, with building work starting in September 2020.
The Mayor said the completion of the ‘phase 1’ station, which will include a platform, footbridge, car park, waiting shelters, information screens and ticket machines, marks just the start of a series of opportunities for rail in the area.
This month the Mayor visited Newmarket to meet with town and district councillor Amy Starkey who is also a Regional Director at The Jockey Club, and representatives of West Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council, to talk about the importance of improved rail services for the whole area. On the agenda was the reopening of the Snailwell loop, a piece of rail infrastructure that would unlock a direct service from Ely to Soham and Cambridge, via Newmarket.
Additionally, train operator Greater Anglia, which will serve the new Soham station on its Ipswich to Peterborough service, has already committed within its franchising agreement to increase the frequency of trains from two-hourly to hourly.
Mayor James Palmer said:
“Getting Soham connected back into the rail network was one of my earliest priorities and I’m pleased we are now in a position to sign off the necessary funding to get it built and operational.
“But the significance of Soham station goes further. We know that rural parts of Cambridgeshire have been historically underfunded, and that its public transport offering falls way short of what is needed in the 21st Century if we genuinely want to connect people with more jobs and opportunities for study.
“The delivery of Soham station gives us a much stronger case to go to Government and Network Rail and lobby for the reinstating of the Snailwell loop which will provide a direct service between Ely, Soham, Newmarket and Cambridge. It would support the local economy, make growth sustainable, and significantly reduce congestion on local roads.
“Our approach has been to challenge Network Rail to do better when it comes to the delivery of relatively simple projects like Soham Station. We have cut through the usual bureaucratic processes and ended up with a project where building work will start significantly ahead of schedule while also bringing the scheme in under budget.
“When I next meet with the transport minister, I will be raising Soham as prime example of not just the importance of the speedy delivery of public transport infrastructure for a community, but also its potential as a springboard for enhancing rail services for an entire area.”
Mayor Palmer is also calling on Government to give Combined Authorities sign-off rights in the awarding of new rail franchises, so that services can be matched and integrated with wider transport strategies in a local region.
The Combined Authority Board also agreed ongoing work towards a ‘phase 2’ of Soham station which would include a second platform when the ‘double tracking’ of the line to Ely is complete.