Leading the Wisbech Rail Reopening Campaign
Don’t short change us on the location of the site of a new Wisbech railway station
The Wisbech to March Railway crosses the Wisbech A47 bypass at grade about 2 miles towards March. Eventually this level crossing will have to be replaced by an road over-bridge. To avoid that cost some authorities have stated that Wisbech station should be at the A47 bypass, 2 miles from the town centre.
Here we explain why locating the station in the town centre station is important.
Please support us achieving this aim.
Download the document here:
Railfuture East Anglia has joined together with local people, rail planning experts and influential local business leaders to progress Wisbechrail through a new group they have set up called the Wisbech Consultative Group. This will harness peoples’ ideas about where the station should be, what facilities it should have and other issues to do with a new train service.
As you know the project has widespread political support throughout the County not least because the strong business case shows just what benefits will accrue to the town. Steve Barclay MP and James Palmer, newly elected Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, have many times enthusiastically spoken about the need for the link.
“Now is the time to deliver Wisbechrail” comes just 50 years after the last passenger train ran to Wisbech. We say there should be a definite plan that shows us when services will be running by the end of this milestone year.
The paper below sums up the progress made to date and shows how Wisbechrail will not just benefit Wisbech but the whole of the County too. The indicative timetable shows how Wisbechrail will revolutionise connectivity for Wisbech and the Fens.
Use of Rail is growing by 4.5% year on year in East Anglia. For example, Ely station now has footfall of 2.2 million per year. Use of a station in Wisbech will be equally strong.
Download the document here wisbechrail.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/wisbech-rail-consultative-group1.pdf
Steve Barclay MP warns in CambsTimes that an unammended Wisbech Access Strategy could jeopardise the reopening of the rail link from Wisbech to March.
“Mr Barclay says the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the county council and Fenland Council have all ignored a Government directive that part of the £10.5 million can be used to progress the rail link.”
Mr Barclay added: “This is a flawed consultation in a whole host of ways. It is flawed because it says take it or leave it. It is flawed because it covers only roads.
“And it is flawed because it closes off further consultation on Wisbech rail and in a leading way since the Department of Transport has given higher benefits cost scores to those rail stations in town rather than on the edge of town.
This backs the Wisbech Rail Reopening Campaign’s call for everyone who supports the reinstatement of the railway to respond to the consultation saying they strongly object to the severing of the railway by the Southern Access Road.
More information about how to respond to the consultation here:
A joint statement from Cambridgeshire County Council, Fenland District Council and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has just been published, but it fails to explain why the “comprehensive package of both road and rail infrastructure projects for Wisbech” includes the next feasibility study for the railway, but also includes highway improvements which cut through the route of the railway jeopardising the reopening of the line to the town centre.
Please respond to the consultation saying you strongly object to the severing of the railway by the Southern Access Road.
More information about how to respond to the consultation here:
Please take part in this consultation response.
Fenland District Council are consulting on their Wisbech Access Strategy which describes road improvements crossing the route of the railway which would prevent the railway reopening into the centre of the town:
This has come out of work done by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.
The railway is mentioned in the ‘Links to other projects’ document which says the reopening is:
- supported by Cambridgeshire Country Council’s Long Term Transport Strategy, and has also been
- In June 2017 the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority approved a grant of £6.5million towards the WisbechGarden Town Project. This funding includes £3.2milion to deliver the next stage of the WisbechMarch railway line project.
However the ‘preferred package’ page:
states “By linking Boleness Road and New Bridge Lane, the new road will permanently cut the railway line in this location. This means that it will not be possible for the Wisbech Rail Line and the new railway station to be north of the A47. The new station will have to be south of the A47, probably in the Redmoor Lane area.”
We ask everyone who supports the reopening of the railway to fill in the simple On-Line survey by Monday 27th November:
and indicate they don’t support the draft strategy because there is no mention of rail in the preferred package options, but involves upgrading the road at the point which could obstruct a reopened railway from reaching the town centre.
You can also back this up in the section by stating you “Disagree strongly” with the “Southern Access Road” and “Strongly disagree” with the recommendation for the short-term package.
The survey forces you to select a level of agreement for each part of the plan, so we can only suggest answering ‘Neutral’ to any others which you don’t have a view on.
We hope that large number of people doing this will wake up the District Council and LEP into putting rail into the strategy.
July 2017 Good News
Wisbechrail has taken a significant step forward to become reality.
One of the first initiatives of the Cambridgeshire Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) at its first meeting has been to fund the vital GRIP 3 process which looks at all the engineering options and their cost by assessing potential options and selects the most appropriate one to deliver stakeholders’ requirements.
The project has already completed to GRIP 2 which established the feasibility of the project by defining the investment goals and identifying constraints to ensure that they can be achieved both economically and strategically.
All of this is a part of a rigorous, necessary but long winded and expensive process called by the acronym GRIP which stands for “Governance of Railway Investment Projects which is essential in managing the risks and costs of a project. There are 8 stages:
1. Output definition
3. Option Selection
4. Single option development
5. Detailed design
6. Construction, test and commission
7. Scheme hand back
8. Project close out
So, behind the scenes a lot of effort has been put into getting funding to move the project into the next stage. Our Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise refused the funding in spite of the enormous local economic benefits but as stated above, the very good news is that the new Mayor of the Cambridgeshire Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) recognised the importance of Wisbechrail to the town and made the restoration central plank of his manifesto.
Through the good work of the Fenland DC ‘Wisbech 2020’ grouping, the concept of a Wisbech Garden Town has been carefully constructed in conjunction with consultants URBED. To make this exciting extension to to Wisbech work, Wisbechrail is essential. So, Wisbechrail is being progressed through the Garden Town planning, but importantly, it still is feasible without it. The Garden Town on the other hand, is not without the rail link.
The first meeting of the CPCA held in Ely on 28June, agreed the allocation of funding of £6.2m to further develop the Garden Town concept and the essential railway plan. £3.2m is allocated to the GRIP 3 process . The work will be be put out to tender and we understand several companies are interested in the work. We would hope that the GRIP 3 work will lead directly into GRIP 4, for much of the work for that will already been completed. The CPCA states it wants the railway work completed in 2 years but companies involved would want to expedite that.
Various railway projects in other parts of the country are being funded privately once they get through the expensive GRIP process. For example the East West Railway between Oxford and Cambridge seems to be going that way. We hope this will happen with the Wisbech-March ‘Wisbechrail’ project to expedite it. At the end of the build the route will be handed over to a Network Rail, with cost of the project being recouped from the fare box over 60 years.
If Wisbechrail is constructed in this way it could be ready for use in three or four years time, at the same time hopefully as all the railway works necessary around Ely. These are are necessary as the various junctions around the town are at full capacity now, especially that at Queen Adelaide, called Ely North. The business case for Wisbechrail is based on through trains to Cambridge so this work is essential for Wisbech. If the work at Ely is not completed in time for Wisbechrail we may have to accept the staging of our railway service. In first instance this may have to be a shuttle to a March and a change of trains on to the overcrowded long distance Birmingham-Stansted service.
We see the service from Wisbech being a Cambridgeshire local service calling at March, Manea, Ely, Waterbeach, Cambridge North and Cambridge, leaving the Birmingham to Stansted trains to be an express service.
Next our thoughts must turn to the site if a Wisbech station. To us it must be near the town centre so that must people can access it on foot and by bike. Any ideas?
Below are key points from the CPCA meeting and agenda:
Multi millions agreed to progress key projects
A multi-million pound package of investment aiming to deliver the future development of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, to include long-term benefits for Fenland, has been approved.
A multi-million pound package of investment aiming to deliver the future development of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, to include long-term benefits for Fenland, has been approved.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) agreed almost £16 million of funding to drive economic growth to the area and overcome long-standing infrastructure needs at its meeting on Wednesday, June 28.
It means ambitious projects supporting the delivery of thousands of new homes, more jobs, better transport links and improved education opportunities can now progress to their next stages of development.
Among the funding approved by the CPCA included:
A total of £6.5 million for the Wisbech Garden Town project, which plans to regenerate Wisbech with 10,000-12,000 homes over the next 40 years. The money will fund feasibility studies over the next two years to investigate issues such as flood risk, transportation and land acquisition, as well as the next stage of the Wisbech Rail study.
A £500,000 contribution towards the business case development for the dualling of the A47, which, along with the Wisbech Rail link, is considered a “fundamental part of bringing about significant change to the area” by improving connectivity and unlocking many wider economic benefits.
Funding of £1.25 million to investigate the feasibility, benefits and impacts of connecting the M11 in Cambridge to the A47 in the Wisbech/Guyhirn area, along with £500,000 to upgrade works on the A10.
A total of £6.5 million to accelerate the establishment of a University of Peterborough. The funding will be used to help increase student numbers at the University Centre Peterborough (UCP) and turn it into a fully independent university by 2020; providing an opportunity for Fenland residents to study for a degree nearby.
A bid for £25,000 to fund a feasibility study into the use of modular homes. The work will consider the benefits of using off-site housing manufacturing, including the associated benefits of new skills and employment as well as the acceleration of housing delivery.
An allocation of £145,000 to establish an independent Economic Commission, which will complete an economic review of the CPCA area. The review will give unbiased evidence about the area’s economic performance, demonstrating potential for growth and helping to influence high-level national decisions.
Furthermore, the Board approved four schemes to be submitted to the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) run by the Department for Transport. The go-ahead was given for Cambridgeshire County Council to enter bids for A47 junction improvements, junction improvements in March to address congestion problems, further Wisbech access study work and A605 access improvements between Whittlesey and Stanground.
Welcoming the funding, Fenland District Council leader John Clark said: “The devolution deal to devolve central government spending to local areas has started to produce real cash investment that should hopefully lead to tangible outcomes for Fenland and its residents.
“This vital support from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority means numerous projects can now progress to the next stage and bring them a step closer to making a huge difference to our area.”
Included in the bid is £3.2 million to carry out the next stage of the Wisbech Rail study. The report says the reopening of the rail link is seen as a “fundamental part of bringing about significant change to the area” by improving connectivity and unlocking many wider economic benefits.
In addition to asking the CPCA to support the funding bid, Fenland District Council will recommend that the Garden Town activity integrates with the Wisbech 2020 Vision programme to ensure “a holistic approach to the economic, social and environmental aspirations for the town”.
Page 147. Wisbech rail is a fundamental part of bringing about significant change to the area by improving sub-regional and regional connectivity and helping to improve the economic function of the place. Tying into the wider Cambridgeshire and East of England economy will serve as a significant benefit to attracting new economies to the area.
The work required is the GRIP3 study.
However,The team will test these assumptions and seek an alternative provider to Network Rail in fulfilling the requirements of GRIP3.
Options to either public run or private run operations will be reported back thus ensuring options have appropriate consideration before undertaking significant capital investment if required.
The CA approved the allocation of the full £6.5m for Wisbech Garden Town feasibility work, which includes the GRIP3 rail study. This work will take 2 years and will be progressed in an incremental way to prove the relevant cases with regular gateway reviews to assess progress and approve continuation.
Railfuture East Anglia have produced a leaflet which highlights some of the rail projects needed to meet the future growth in rail use for both passengers and freight in Cambridgeshire.
This has been sent to the candidates for the Cambridgeshire Combined Authority Mayor asking them to work with the Government and rail industry to ensure an early delivery of these schemes which includes the reopening of the line to Wisbech.
The issue: The restoration of passenger services linking Wisbech to March and Cambridge is needed to support major new development of 10,000 to 12,000 homes in Wisbech . A recent survey by Fenland Council showed that 94% considered the new railway essential to any new development. Over 4000 people have signed a Railfuture petition calling for the rail link. A through service to Cambridge has the best business case but will require work at Ely North Junction.
Current Status: The County Council has commissioned feasibility studies on the rail re-opening. Fenland Council has submitted a £2m funding bid to develop the new garden village plans including new transport links.
Action required: The new Mayor will need to keep development of the rail scheme moving and project costs under control.
The complete document can be downloaded here.
Most of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayoral candidates have shown a very good understanding of the transport problems and solutions needed for our County and in particular regarding Wisbech.
However, Railfuture East Anglia and Wisbechrail are puzzled by this local newspaper story that quotes one candidate, Peter Dawes, as saying: “What you’ve been told about the advantages of Wisbech to March rail appears to have been highly exaggerated.”
He said that according to RailFutures (sic) – a pressure group for improved services- March had only 51 commuters who use the rail link to Cambridge.” All this under the heading of “you have been sold a pup.”
This figure is from the census several years ago but bears no relationship to the potential of rail, as even at that time Littleport with a third of March’s population had triple the number of commuters to Cambridge. This difference is down to the rail service as at March there is only one very overcrowded train an hour at travel to work times to Cambridge, whereas Littleport and Kings Lynn have a half hourly electric service, and returning in the evening March’s last service leaves Cambridge at 21:01 whereas Littleport and Kings Lynn have a service beyond midnight.
The proposed half hourly service to Wisbech would rapidly transform rail travel in the area, bringing these kinds of service level and passenger usage to March and Wisbech.
Road based commuting will not achieve the speed, safety and productivity of a rail service to major employment areas such as Cambridge, and rail will also give businesses the confidence to invest in Wisbech.
The work carried out by the County Council’s consultants at a cost of approaching £640k shows that there is a very good business case for the Wisbech to March and Cambridge railway service restoration. The consultation is online. Last year March station had an annual footfall of 386,610 and Kings Lynn, at the end of the line like Wisbech will be, had a footfall of 973,660. This is around 3000 entries and exits a day, so over 1500 individual passengers travelling to and from the station. It can be confidently expected that a railway service to Wisbech will quickly approach this figure.
The restoration of the railway from Wisbech will provide the town and its region with a quality fixed transport link that residents, both existing and future, can plan their lives around with confidence.
We would urge the many thousands of individuals who signed the Wisbechrail petition, follow Wisbechrail website and Wisbechrail Facebook page to read the pledges the candidates make about linking Wisbech to Cambridge by railway very carefully.
If you feel restoration of the passenger train service to Wisbech is your priority, use your vote for the candidate you feel has the integrity and best pledge to be honoured.
The WisbechRail reopening project has been progressing for a relatively short time. It started when the Association of Train Operating Companies issued a report called Connecting Communities. This listed every significant community of 15000 people and over in the UK that did not have a railway station and ways in which they could be linked to the national network. Wisbech is on that list; indeed with a population of over 30000 the town is one of the largest in the country without a station. With a mothballed railway already leading into the heart of the town, the project should be one of the simpler one to achieve success with.
So far WisbechRail has been a project that has been developed by Cambridgeshire County Council (County Council’s are one of the few organisations apart from the devolved governments, the Department for Transport and Network Rail that are allowed to develop rail projects).
To enable the Council to go forward the project had to be adopted by its Local Transport Plan 3, a legal document. After that the people of Wisbech and district signed a petition in great numbers organised by Railfuture members who delivered a leaflet to each house in the district.
In 2014 the petition, that expressed the desire of many thousands of people in Wisbech to have a railway reconnection to the national network, was formally delivered to the full County Council. Since then the County Council and its consultants have exhaustively studied the project with the conclusion that the project is viable with a good business case.
In the meantime the project has gathered support from the Member of Parliament for NE Cambridge Mr Steve Barclay, all other local authorities as expressed through the “Wisbech 2020” project, Cambridge City Council and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.
The business case is that the railway will deliver great benefits to the Wisbech economy and that by providing a service directly to Cambridge it will hugely benefit the economy of that city too, along with Ely and March. March has just one overcrowded service to Cambridge an hour. The extra two trains an hour the business case for the Wisbech line is predicated on will give March a massive lift in capacity towards Cambridge.
The next step towards the reopening could become clear with the announcement of the East Anglia Railway franchise winning bid in mid-June. The three companies in the competition for the East Anglia Railway franchise are Abellio, First Group and National Express. The process is long and exhaustive. All the three bid teams met Railfuture East Anglia, the local authorities and Wisbech 2020. Informal word back from the bid teams is that case they heard for reinstating the railway to Wisbech is impressive, and there is scope in the bidding process to embrace projects such as this reopening.
We expect the shortage trains will be addressed with the franchisee announcing a new and larger fleet. If the trend being set by other franchises in the country, these could well include “bi-modes”. These are trains that can draw electrical power from overhead electric wires where they exist say between Cambridge and Ely and use under-carriage Diesel engines where there are no wires say between Ely March and Wisbech, hence “bi-mode”.
In the mean time the new Cambridge North station, serving the massive north Cambridge hi tech business area, is due to open in May next year (2017). It is well under construction. A second new station in Cambridge will soon be approved. This will serve the equally vast bio-medical research centres around Addenbrookes Hospital. Wisbech could be just 35/40 minutes by train from Cambridge North, 3 minutes longer from Cambridge Central and just 2 more from Cambridge Bio-Medical-Addenbrookes station!
Additionally Network Rail will soon start resignalling the railway from Ely through to March Whittlesea and Peterborough. This will allow an increase in line speeds and the state of the art signal system will allow more trains to be operated. However, the very real problem of dealing with remodelling of Ely North Junction to allow more capacity has yet to be addressed.
The cost of the Wisbech project is said to be in the region of £70m-£100m, a lot more than originally expected. However these figures do include a government imposed ‘contingency’ which can be up to 60%. The project does now include double tracking all the way to Wisbech and reinstatement of disused platforms at March. These are sensible provisions as a single track section would be operationally a hazard in that it could cause increased delays and cancellations right across the network. The network is now incredibly busy in a way not envisaged even when the project first began. The Kings Lynn – Ely railway has long single line sections that cause delays all the way to London when the timetable is perturbed.
Recently there has been a flurry of activity based on the realisation in government of what the railway can achieve even before it is built, hence the new town proposals. It has been made clear that the railway will go ahead without the new town but the new town cannot go ahead without the railway. Lessons have been learned about how the velocity and volume attributes of the railway together with its absolute safety, cannot be matched by other modes.
Government Minister Mr Greg Clark visited Wisbech on March 30th and went on a somewhat spectacular walkabout of the town.
This is how the local press reported some of his comments:
Local Government Secretary of State Greg Clark pledged on a visit to Wisbech today that support for garden town status and the prospect of re-opening the rail line to March did not depend on Cambridgeshire signing up to the Chancellor’s devolution deal.
He was asked whether Wisbech deserved to be regarded as a special case for the Government and was it fair for local councils and the MP to press for that outcome.
“Every place is unique and part of my approach is to get to know places and to recognise the issues,” he said. “You need to understand them to do something about them.”
And he argued that people should see the rail link “as an investment not as a special favour to Wisbech. It is an opportunity to invest in the prosperity of our country”.
Mr Clark said he very much hoped the current feasibility study and underwritten by the local growth funding “will be positive”.
On the prospect for the rail re-opening, he said the link to March would “make more jobs available, a greater choice of jobs, higher paid jobs, and would help people who may want to work in Cambridge to live in Wisbech.”
Newcomers would bring “vitality and spending power” to the area and create investment opportunities.
A little earlier this year the Transport Minister the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin spoke to a conference in London about the Government’s commitment to expanding the railway. Here is an extract of his speech, with its reference to Wisbech. The full speech can found at the DfT website.
…….“Working, too, with powerful city regions that can take the responsibility of shaping their transport systems far more effectively than Whitehall ever could.
That’s the way, for instance, that we have seen a reversal of some of the Beeching cuts.
Finding ways to bring trains back to towns that should never have lost them and whose growth requires them.
Like the Chase Line project did for Rugeley, Cannock and Hednesford.
Or for places such as Tavistock and Wisbech, which have well-advanced plans.”