£250k funding announcement for Network Rail Engineering Study

wisbech_funding

The Wisbech to March railway reopening campaign received the strongest indication yet that the line will be reopened with the announcement that £250k of funding is being made available by the government for a Network Rail detailed engineering study. This level of funding would not have been announced if there wasn’t a strong chance of the line being reopened. There is much work still to be done, but today is a milestone for the project and time to reflect on just how far things have moved in the last 18 months and certainly something for our supporters to celebrate. We feel sure that Wisbech is heading unstoppably towards being reconnected to the rail network; the task now is to make sure this is done as quickly as possible.

The news as it was reported:

Wisbech Standard
www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/government_agrees_500_000_to_fund_studies_into_wisbech_to_march_rail_line_and_to_look_at_options_for_dualling_a47_to_guyhirn_1_3672796
The Government has agreed to spend £500,000 split between funding studies into re-opening the Wisbech to March rail line and dualling the A47 from the town to Guyhirn.

Of the money for Wisbech, Mr Barclay said: “This is the breakthrough we have been waiting for. “For years people of Wisbech have felt forgotten with a disgraceful transport infrastructure situation where the people of Wisbech have had no train station and less than two miles of dual carriageway in the whole district.”

Norwich Evening News
www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/pot_of_gold_norfolk_suffolk_and_cambridgeshire_receive_60m_for_roads_rail_education_and_broadband_improvements_1_3672621
The long-awaited re-opening of Wisbech railway station took a step closer with the announcement of £500,000 which will go towards work to look at reopening the line between the town and March.
The money, which will be available in April 2015, is for two feasibility studies, which could see transport improvements on both road and rail in Fenland.
The first £250,000 is for a detailed engineering study, known as a GRIP 2 study, which will determine how Network Rail can deliver the project to re-open Wisbech railway station and re-instate the rail link between Wisbech and March. The other is for detailed feasibility work into dualling the Wisbech to Guyhirn stretch of the A47.

Steve Barclay
http://stevebarclay.net/double-delight-as-funding-is-approved-for-wisbech-transport-studies/
The long-awaited re-opening of Wisbech railway station took a step closer today with the announcement of… government funding.
….
The first £250,000 is for a detailed engineering study, known as GRIP 2 study, which will determine how Network Rail can deliver the project to re-open Wisbech railway station and re-instate the rail link between Wisbech and March.
….
Today’s announcement is the breakthrough we have been waiting for. Now we need either Cambridgeshire County Council or Fenland District Council to agree to spend the money from their reserves on the understanding the funding will be forthcoming in April.
I am awaiting written Ministerial confirmation for either or both of the councils to use their reserves to enable the studies to be carried out this year on the understanding the money will be coming next year.

Wisbech Market Town Transport Strategy survey

wisbech_survey

Cambridgeshire County Council are carrying out a consultation on the Draft Wisbech Market Town Transport Strategy which is an important opportunity to express your support for the reopening of the railway from Wisbech to March.

There are details here including an on-line survey which is open until 11 July 2014; you can fill in as much or as little of the survey as it relevant to you:
http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20006/travel_roads_and_parking/66/transport_plans_and_policies/3

The second page of the survey is for Wisbech with a question and free form text box relevant to the rail reopening; “Do you support the public transport/community transport schemes in the strategy?” and “Do you have anything further you would like to add?”. Although the first question sweeps all public transport into a single question, the text box can be used to express particular support for the rail reopening. Your own words will make the most impact and be most useful for the council in understanding why the line should be reopened. Here is an example for inspiration “A railway should be reinstated to enable residents to easily access Cambridge, London and the rest of the country for education, employment and leisure activities, and to bring people to the town for the same reasons”.

For background information there is a consultation leaflet which gives a high level overview of the plan, although the railway reopening is only shown on the map as “Study work on the possible re-opening of the Wisbech to March Railway Line”:
http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/2829/wisbech_consultation_leafletpdf

The full strategy is here, with the reopening proposals detailed in section 6.6:
http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/2830/wisbech_market_town_transport_strategypdf

6.6 Major schemes – March to Wisbech Rail

6.6.1 The Wisbech to March Railway Line, known locally as the Bramley line, was in operation for passenger services between 1847 and 1968. The line continued to be used for freight purposes until 2000. There is currently no rail service of any form operating to/from Wisbech. There has been a desire expressed over a number of years to see the railway line reopened with passenger services available direct from Wisbech.

6.6.2 One of the key drivers for wanting to see the reintroduction of the railway is development growth. Wisbech has seen growth in recent years that has led to increased volumes of traffic, and it is considered that the  reopening of the railway may offer a solution to some local road transport issues, and help significantly in terms of accessibility and regeneration of the town.

6.6.3 Investigations into the case for reopening the railway between March and Wisbech have been carried out. The work to date has been divided into three separate studies.

6.6.4 Stage 1 investigated the potential patronage and revenue generated by a rail service between March and Wisbech. This Study concluded that a conventional rail service between March and Wisbech would be expected to generate net revenue of £1.07m over an appraisal period of 2016 to 2029. The light rail scenario appears the stronger performing option, due to the significantly lower operating costs and is forecast to deliver cumulative net operating revenue over the appraisal period of over £15m.

6.6.5 Stage 2 considered the capital costs of reinstating the line and providing a new station and included an outline assessment of the key benefits. This study concluded that the estimated capital costs including optimism bias of reinstatement of the line for passenger services, overhaul of the signalling and level crossings is in the range of £50-75 million depending on station location and whether or not an over bridge for the A47 is included or not. These costs are an early central cost estimate with a high degree of uncertainty. The overall Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of the scheme is in the range of 0.99 to 1.43 excluding revenue clawback. The scenario without the A47 bridge allied to the station in Wisbech performed the strongest.

6.6.6 Stage 3 looked into the wider economic benefits that a station would bring to Wisbech and the surrounding area. The primary indirect benefits have been calculated to be £39.7m (over a 60 year appraisal period) which increase to £56.7m if a direct service could be provided between Wisbech and Cambridge. Secondary indirect benefits through further land utilisation (than already allocated in the Fenland Local Plan) due to higher economic growth with the rail service than without leads to the following benefits:

  • 392 additional houses built over the core strategy period
  • £39.2m of capital expenditure associated with the house building
  • 161 additional full time employee jobs over the core strategy period
  • £9m of additional GVA benefits per annum once all jobs come forward

6.6.7 Analysis shows significant value is placed by residents on having access to both social and economic opportunities through the rail service. The overall value could be in the region of £19.3m -£41.5m over a 60 year period.

6.6.8 Overall benefit cost ratio when the results of stage 2 and 3 studies are combined the BCR of the scheme looks to be in the range 2.3-3 excluding revenue clawback. The scenario without the A47 bridge allied to the station in Wisbech performed the strongest.

6.6.9 The next stage is expected to involve a Level 2 (GRIP2) Feasibility study subject to securing funding to undertake this work. This work would look in more detail at the options and their relative costs and benefits, however funding is needed in order to progress this work further. Updated information will be available at: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20051/transport_projects/68/transport_funding_bids_and_studies/3

 

Making the case for Wisbech

Stephen Barclay, the MP for North East Cambridgeshire, talked to Chris Austin about making the case for Wisbech in the latest edition of Railfuture’s national magazine “Railwatch”.

The desire to improve prospects for his constituents is the main factor that convinced MP Stephen Barclay of the need for better links between the two parts of the county. The 4,000 signatures on the reopening petition served to underline his judgement here. Restoration of the line has been proposed several times before but has never got anywhere. The first problem was that it had no business case and that previous studies had shown little benefit in return for the capital cost of restoration. Looking more closely at the scheme, Stephen Barclay saw that earlier analysis had focused on the transport case, but not evaluated the wider economic benefits.

In addition, the scheme had no champion, partly because of the poor economic case, and partly because the local authority had run into difficulties with previous major transport schemes, including the notorious St Ives busway. Stephen Barclay pays tribute to Martin Curtis, the leader of Cambridgeshire, for supporting the wider benefits study which transformed the case for the line.

Now the project has a sound business case and full support from the county council and the LEP as a priority. In political terms, Stephen Barclay has built a strong case for the line, not primarily to link Wisbech to the national network, but in support of the Government’s £1 billion Cambridge City Deal, designed to develop the potential of this internationally renowned city.
….
Stephen Barclay’s thoughtful and strategic approach has built a strong case for Wisbech, and we will see passenger trains there, perhaps as early as control period six (2019-24). This is a textbook case on how to tackle reopenings, but you cannot take anything for granted and we all need to continue to make the case until the trains start running.

Download the full article here (PDF download):
Page 1: https://wisbechrail.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/railwatch_wisbech1.pdf
Page 2: https://wisbechrail.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/railwatch_wisbech2.pdf

View this (July 2014) and earlier editions of Railwatch here:
http://www.railwatch.org.uk/backtrack/

MP Steve Barclay pushing for government funding for Wisbech rail link study

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Cambs Times 15th April 2014
http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/news/mp_barclay_pushing_for_government_funding_for_wisbech_rail_link_study_1_3560664

A series of meetings have been held to discuss funding for a study into a train line between March and Wisbech.

MP Steve Barclay met with Cabinet Minister Greg Clark to discuss government funding for a study to see how Network Rail could deliver the project.

He also met with the special adviser to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to discuss funding options from the Department for Transport.

Mr Barclay said: “Mr Clark was supportive of the scheme and thought it was a very interesting and positive project”.

Wider economic benefits study shows strong case for Wisbech Rail reopening

March to Cambridge MapThe Wisbech Rail Reopening scheme has jumped another step towards certainty today, with the news that the  wider economic benefits study has calculated that there would be £3 of benefits for every £1 spent on the scheme giving huge additional strength for the case to reopen the line.

The local MP Steve Barclay describes the development here:
http://stevebarclay.net/game-changing-wisbech-rail-line-study-published/

“There were many other potential benefits, which through excellent work by officials at Cambridgeshire County Council in Graham Hughes’s team, we have together been able to identify. On the back of this, County Council leader Martin Curtis commissioned a study on the wider economic benefits, which was carried out by Mott MacDonald.
As a consequence the BCR is now 3, which is higher even than that of HS2, which stands at 2.3. This means that every £1 spent is expected to return £3 in benefits, giving the reopening a strong value-for-money case. I would particularly like to pay tribute to Councillor Curtis for his vision in commissioning this game changing report.
The next step in building on this positive report is a meeting today with Cabinet Minister Greg Clark MP to discuss funding for the next, more detailed study to be carried out by Network Rail.
I see the joint report published today as a real game changer. For the first time in four decades we have an independent report which shows the wider economic benefits to Cambridgeshire from reopening the Wisbech line. We must ensure momentum is maintained, and move forward from this report with a detailed cost assessment by Network Rail to be done in July, and today’s report will help us to progress this.”

Steve Barclay’s video describing the progress is here:
http://stevebarclay.net/game-changing-wisbech-rail-line-study-published/
“Game-changing Wisbech Rail Line Study published”

The news is reflected in the local press:
http://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/mp_says_new_study_showing_benefits_that_re_opening_of_wisbech_to_march_rail_line_would_bring_is_a_game_changer_1_3532780
“A direct line would take 48 minutes between Wisbech and Cambridge for example compared to the one hour 10 minutes it takes at off peak times by road”
The line closed for passenger services in 1968 but continued to operate for freight until 2000.
Network Rail says a feasibility study, if agreed, cold begin in July and take six months to complete.
If funding becomes available work on restoring the line could begin as early as 2016/17.

Wisbech Rail Reopening Parliamentary Summit

wisbech_summit

The profile of the Wisbech Rail Reopening scheme has been raised to a national level by Steve Barclay hosting a summit in parliament with Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond and a host of political leaders and rail experts. The transport minister descibed the reopening as “a strategic priority”. This is another very significant step towards the reopening.

Here are a collection of reports and quotes about the summit.

Reopening the railway line to Wisbech is “a strategic priority”, the transport minister Stephen Hammond told a special rail summit held in Westminster.
BBC Look East reports http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-26545969

Martin Curtis Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council talking to Chris Mann on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
Chris Mann: Why is this so important?
Martin Curtis: Well first of all we all know that we’ve got within the Cambridgeshire area, and if you include Peterborough with that, we’ve got two of the fastest growing cities in the country. And what we need to be doing now is finding a way of connecting up the rest of the County to see that they benefit from that, and in fact the wider economic area as well. So the Wisbech to March rail link, one of the things that it will do is as we have that growing Cambridge economy, it will pull Wisbech into the travel-to-work area for Cambridge. But also the reverse side is true as well. It will unlock the tourism potential of Wisbech as well. So that’s why it’s important.
http://www.newlistener.co.uk/home/martin-curtis-wisbech-rail-summit-progress-update/

Video: Progress on Wisbech line with Parliamentary Rail Summit
http://stevebarclay.net/progress-on-wisbech-line-with-parliamentary-rail-summit/
Yesterday marked an important step forward in the campaign to reconnect Wisbech to the rail network with a meeting in Parliament with Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond and a host of political leaders and rail experts.
The most positive aspect of the meeting was the clear indication from Mr Hammond that he ‘recognised reopening this line is considered a strategic priority.’ He made clear that transport schemes can be accelerated where there is strong political and business will to do so.
Mr Hammond also signalled that he particularly valued a bottom-up approach where local expertise informs rail priorities and that he was keen to work with the promoters of this scheme moving forward.
It is extremely positive following the enhanced work undertaken by Cambridgeshire County Council on the wider economic benefits case, to now have such a clear steer from the Minister that the Wisbech line could be prioritised with a view to starting in 2017 if locally we are united and present a strong value for money business case.

Wisbech Standard: Most positive aspect of Wisbech to March rail summit the fact Transport Minister considered it “a strategic priority”
http://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/video_most_positive_aspect_of_wisbech_to_march_rail_summit_the_fact_transport_minister_considered_it_a_strategic_priority_1_3427572

BBC News: Hopes boosted for the reopening of the Wisbech line
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26552717

Cambs Time: At £50m could the final cost of re-opening the Wisbech to March rail line prove to be a bridge too far?
http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/news/at_50m_could_the_final_cost_of_re_opening_the_wisbech_to_march_rail_line_prove_to_be_a_bridge_too_far_1_3423798

Railfuture, who are leading the “Wisbech Rail Reopening Campign” welcomes this summit which will bring stakeholders together to form the partnership which is essential for any rail development proposal to succeed.
http://www.railfuture.org.uk/article1441-Wisbech-Rail-Summit

Parliamentary Rail Summit aims to connect Wisbech Rail Line

wisbech_logo

Steve Barclay MP has organised a summit on March 11th with an impressive lineup of stakeholders to drive this project forward. The Wisbech Rail Reopening campaign sees this opportunity to focus ideas, effort and plans as a very significant step towards the reopening.

Steve Barclay describes the background to this:
http://stevebarclay.net/parliamentarysummitwisbechrailline/

“Key to the regeneration of Wisbech is reconnecting the town to the rail network. This is also important to the County as a whole, not least as the economic growth in Cambridge risks being constrained by a shortage of housing, which Fenland can help address provided the transport infrastructure is put in place.

As part of my campaign to secure a Wisbech line, I have arranged a rail summit in the House of Commons on Tuesday 11th March, which Transport Minister Stephen Hammond MP has kindly agreed to attend.

I am delighted that all the key stakeholders invited have confirmed they will take part. These include, along with the Minister, Network Rail, Atkins Rail Consultancy, the Chief Executive of the Local Enterprise Partnership Graham Nix, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Councillor Cllr Martin Curtis, lead County Council transport official Graham Hughes, Leader of Fenland District Council Councillor Cllr Alan Melton, Jonathan Denby of train operator Greater Anglia, and other rail experts including Stephen Joseph OBE of the Campaign for Better Transport and Chris Austin OBE of the Rail Future Campaign group who was the author of the 2009 Connecting Communities report from ATOC.

This builds on a series of meetings in Parliament and locally to promote the case for the long overdue station at Wisbech. I met with the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin on 19th January, the Chief Executive of the Local Enterprise Partnership Graham Nix on 14th February, have scheduled a telephone conference call on 3rd March with Steve Knight, Infrastructure Director of Network Rail, and am meeting the Secretary of State’s special adviser on 4th March.”

…..

“the Local Enterprise Partnership’s bid due on 31st March is the best opportunity Wisbech has had for a long time to finally deliver the railway link that the town needs. I am determined not to leave any stone unturned in making the case and the rail summit is an important step forward in capitalising on the available expertise to drive this project forward.”