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'We fought a Second World War in fewer years than it seems to reopen a few miles of track' - MP's frustration over delayed reopening of rail line

PUBLISHED: 15:13 16 February 2018

The Bramley Line: Extract from YouTube video as part of a Rediscovering Lost Railways collection, pictured here is Wisbech East. Photo: Discovering Lost Railways

The Bramley Line: Extract from YouTube video as part of a Rediscovering Lost Railways collection, pictured here is Wisbech East. Photo: Discovering Lost Railways

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An MP has hit out at delays to reopen a Fenland rail line, accusing the local enterprise partnership of blocking progress.

Stephen Barclay, Conservative candidate for NE CambsStephen Barclay, Conservative candidate for NE Cambs

North East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay’s frustration over the delayed reopening of the Wisbech to March line spilled over this week with a fresh attack on the soon-to-be wound up Cambridgeshire LEP.

“Like many constituents I find it odd that we fought a Second World War in fewer years than it seems to take to reopen a few miles of track,” he said.

“I will continue to do everything I can to make the case to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the Department of Transport and remain optimistic that we will get this scheme delivered.”

His comments came after he met the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and Mayor James Palmer to agree £3.2 million funding for the next phase of Wisbech Rail - to carry out a GRIP3 study which is the next stage of studying the engineering and other costs of the scheme.

“Progress on Wisbech Rail was in practice sadly blocked by the Cambridgeshire Local Enterprise Partnership, but now that the entire board of the LEP has left I am hopeful of progress from the mayor and combined authority.

“The Grip 3 is the next stage of the process we have to follow.”

One of Mayor Palmer’s first actions on taking office was to agree to fund the Grip 3 study needed to progress the rail opening – a project the LEP had declined pending more detailed information.

It followed a public spat between Mayor Palmer and John Bridge, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce but also a leading member of the LEP.

Mr Bridge, the chamber’s chief executive since 2004 and formerly managing director of a haulage company and former chairman of the Road Haulage Association, said last year that “we do not believe developing the railway line from Wisbech to March is going to have economic benefit nor is it deliverable”.

It prompted Mr Barclay to tweet: “John Bridge, Cambs Chamber Commerce since 2004, LEP board member since 2012 and current chairman transport committee. What has he done for the Fens?”

Mr Barclay also felt it was “an odd position” for Mr Bridge to “block a local transport scheme supported by three cabinet ministers”.

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