Bid to breathe new life into Wisbech to March rail line

Wisbech to March railway.

Wisbech to March railway. - Credit: Archant

An hourly 60mph rail shuttle between Wisbech and March with connections to Cambridge and Peterborough has moved a step closer.

A new report says it might cost up to £12m to re-open the old Bramley Line. But it predicts the line would be profitable, with an 'operating surplus' of up to £15.5m between 2014 and 2029.

'It would appear that there is a commercial operating case for re-opening the line using light rail,' says the report.

Included in capital expenditure might be:

Work at March station to cope with extra services;

Costs of building a new Wisbech station north of Weasenham Lane;

Providing level crossings between both towns;

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Work at Whitemoor sidings;

Cost of bridging the A47 as an alternative to a level crossing.

Cambridgeshire County Council last night revealed a 50-page report outlining for the first time the possibility of re-opening the rail line between the towns.

The last passenger trains used the line in 1968 – the year London Bridge was sold to America, Alec Rose sailed single handed around the world and the M1 was complete.

County councillor Simon King said: 'As chairman of the Wisbech to March Bramley Line I really welcome this report.'

The journey time would be between 12 and 14 minutes, half that of current bus times.

Engineering experts Atkins has put forward tentative usage figures, worked the likely split between business, commuter and leisure uses, and has even tried to work out how many bus passengers would switch to rail.

Peterborough is a key destination since Atkins expect few people to use the rail service to connect with Kings Lynn.

'With 131,000 rail trips between March and Peterborough, it may be expected that would be as many as 78,000 rail trips between Wisbech and Peterborough,' says the report. Half those now using the bus between March and Wisbech could switch to rail, predicts Atkin.

However the report doesn't exclude re-opening it as a heritage line only, pointing out its benefits for boosting the local economy, creating jobs and tourism but also explaining that it could cost up to £250,000 a year to do.

And, says Atkins, few heritage lines in the UK 'runs a commuter service throughout the year'.

Further work will now look at the capital costs, including those related to bringing the line back up to operational standard, and station works in Wisbech and March.

County councillor Ian Bates, cabinet member for growth and planning, said the new study would like at how the re-opened line would cross the A47.

Fenland District Council leader Alan Melton, said: 'Unlocking transport links into Fenland as well as between our communities is critical'.

Councillor Steve Tierney said the line would be a 'real jewel in the Wisbech2020 crown'.