Railway to Wisbech in the Local Transport Plan

It is sometime since we have posted something, even though a lot has been going on in the background in various offices around the County. But now there is something to report that we can all have a part in influencing. Bear in mind the many responses to previous consultations from all those interested in getting this project up and running have had a huge effect.

Between that last study and now, the Mott McDonald consultancy has been appointed by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to produce a report based on Network Rail’s “Governance for Railway Investment Projects”, acronym “GRIP”. There are 8 reference points and the current state of project is at GRIP3b. Typically a GRIP 3B study carries out ground investigation, topographical surveys, asset assessment, capacity analysis, environmental assessment, design and level crossing risk assessments, as well as the development of the economic case, that in this case is also linked into the development of the proposed Wisbech Garden Town, which would deliver an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 homes over 25 years from 2020. Improving transport connections in Wisbech is seen as vital to bringing forward the garden town scheme. The work on Wisbech to March railway restoration will also need to complement other infrastructure projects, including the Combined Authority’s work to dual the A47 in Cambridgeshire from east of Peterborough to east of Wisbech. The proposed rail infrastructure upgrade at Ely, which is aimed at increasing capacity on the network, has also to be factored in.

Should this economic case prove to be sufficiently positive and the capital cost estimated to be affordable, the project goes onto GRIP 4 and delivery options.

It was estimated the consultants would take nine months to complete the study so it should have completed it by now. However we assume from the following extracts, below, taken from the new Local Transport Plan, its findings are positive for Wisbech Rail.

The Combined Authority has taken over from the County Council the statutory obligation to establish a Local Transport Plan, which must set out the Combined Authority’s “plans and strategies for maintaining and improving all aspects of the local transport system over a set period.” To that end the Combined Authority recently published a series of policies leading to the establishment of the Local Transport Plan and for Wisbech it states under:

Policy 1.1.1: Deliver strategic transport and complementary connectivity infrastructure

1.10 The Combined Authority is promoting a programme of key transport schemes to provide a step-change in transport capacity and connectivity to enable development and a higher and accelerated rate of delivery. This includes nine priority transport schemes: (Including)

Wisbech Rail Link, integrated with the Wisbech Access Package and Wisbech Garden Town proposals

Policy 2.2.2: Improve the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport links to expand our labour market catchments

reopening of the rail line from March to Wisbech, significantly widening employment prospects for residents with the introduction of direct services from Wisbech to Cambridge and Ely, supported by the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement (EACE) upgrades at Ely North rail junction;

Policy 3.3.1: Invest in our rail and highway networks to allow our firms, organisations and workers to trade and travel easily across the country and abroad
…..
Rail connectivity is also particularly important for facilitating business travel: nationally, 9% of rail journey are for business purposes, and our region’s rail links to London in particular are heavily used by business travellers. We will therefore continue to work with our rail industry partners: the Department for Transport, Network Rail and operators, to improve the rail network, as outlined in policy theme 17 (Travelling by train), including through:
…..
exploring options to expand the rail network to link to new settlements, corridors and growth areas, such as a new rail link to Wisbech, a new station at Soham and a travel hub at Alconbury Weald.

Policy 17.3: Explore options to expand the rail network to link to new settlements, corridors and growth areas
…..
Policy 11.146 Wisbech is one of the largest towns in the country without direct access to the railway network, with the nearest station – March – a twenty-minute drive away and difficult to access by bus. Direct rail services to the town would support future development, including the Wisbech Garden Town, and open up new employment opportunities for residents of Wisbech in Cambridge by rail. The Combined Authority is exploring how to better integrate
Wisbech into the rail network, including how a new service to March, Ely and Cambridge could support the town’s future growth and prosperity.

Strategic Alternative 4 – Blended Strategic Alternative 4: ‘Blended’ includes a combination of policies and projects from the strategic alternatives above, including new highway capacity where most required to support growth, significant public transport, walking and cycling investment (including in CAM and Wisbech Rail Link to support social inclusion, access to employment and sustainable development), together with demand management where transport capacity is most constrained. In doing so, it seeks to combine the benefits of the alternatives above to create a balanced, multi-modal transport strategy for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

7.4 Projects
Rail Services The LTP includes new railway stations at Soham, Waterbeach and south Cambridge and is exploring the feasibility of providing new stations south of Peterborough as well as connecting Wisbech. The east-west rail arc between Cambridge and Oxford will connect communities along this route with direct rail services. Improvements to the existing rail system will encourage fewer car journeys, improving air quality. It is considered reasonable to assume no likely significant effect on any European site from this project.

Now it is up to us to influence the Combined Authority as it is organising a exhibition and consultation about its priorities at a range of locations across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in June, July and September as follows:

Sawston, Tue 18 Jun, 3pm-8pm, Sawston Village College
Peterborough, Sat 22 Jun, 10am-3pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Soham, Tue 25 Jun, 3pm-8pm, Soham Pavilion
St Neots, Wed 26 Jun, 2pm-7pm, St Neots Library
Wisbech, Thy 27 Jun, 3pm-8pm, Rose and Crown Hotel
Cambridge, Sat 29 Jun, 10am-3pm, Littleport Library
Peterborough, Thu 04 Jul, 3pm-8pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Cambourne, Sat 06 Jul, Cambourne Library
Cambridge, Thy 11 Jul, 1pm-6pm, Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard
Whittlesey, Fri 12 Jul, 3pm-8pm, Whittlesey Library
Huntingdon, Sat 13 Jul, 10am-3pm, Huntingdon Library
Peterborough, Tue 16 Jul, 3pm-8pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Cottenham, Thu 18 Jul, 3pm-7.30pm, Cottenham Community Centre Coffee Shop
Ely, Sat 20 Jul, 10am-3pm, Ely Library
Cambridge, Wed 24 Jul, 2pm-7pm, Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard
St Ives, Thy 25 Jul, 3pm-8pm, St Ives Free Church
March, Sat 27 Jul, 10am-3pm, March Library
Peterborough, Sat 07 Sep, 10am-3pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Chatteris, Wed 11 Sep, 3pm-8pm, Chatteris Council Chambers
Cambridge, Sat 14 Sep, 10am-3pm, Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard

We hope that you will be able to attend one of these events and write and comment positively about the need to restore the railway to Wisbech.

Here is a link to information about the Local Transport Plan (LTP) and the consultation form:
cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/about-us/programmes/transport/ltp/

We will post additional information as we receive it.

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