Minister confirms half-hourly King’s Lynn to Cambridge train service under Government spotlight
Network Rail asked to look closely at Ely North upgrade viability to boost West Norfolk economy
Pressure is mounting for improvements to the rail service which would allow half-hourly trains to run between King's Lynn and Cambridge as a Government minister reveals infrastructure operators have been asked for details.
Railways Minister Theresa Villiers has confirmed that the Government is asking Network Rail to look closely at the route, which needs a �10m upgrade, and see if the improvements are 'within the budgets that have already been allocated.'
The minister told the House of Commons on Thursday that she had asked Network Rail to carry out 'important work' on progressing the plan to enable the increased service which has been described as vital to driving the local economy.
'This is something we are looking at carefully. We have asked Network Rail to do some important work on deciding how we might improve the frequency of services,' she told MPs.
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The move comes after sustained pressure from SW Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss who hosted a rail summit in London last month with train companies, neighbouring MPs and councils to discuss the need for an improved service linking West Norfolk with London via Cambridge.
'In order to upgrade the service to half-hourly on the Fen line and the Norwich-Cambridge line there needs to be an upgrade of the Ely North junction. Network Rail has conducted an economic study, which suggests this has a positive benefit and the Department for Transport wants to specify it in the next franchise,' said Ms Truss.
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A half-hourly service from Lynn to Cambridge would be dependent on the �10m of work at the Ely North junction, a current pinchpoint and the main crossover for north-south and east-west trains.
'I am pleased that the Minister has asked Network Rail to seriously investigate the upgrade of the Ely North Junction. I will continue to press the Government on this important piece of infrastructure,' added Ms Truss.
Currently Lynn rail commuters have an hourly service into Cambridge which goes straight through to London.
**Andy Tyler, secretary of the Fen Line Users Association, said: 'It's vitally important, it's a growing, successful line between King's Lynn, Ely and Cambridge. We have been calling for a long period for a half-hourly service.'
'The �10m investment is not a huge sum for an infrastructure project yet will create significant economic impact throughout the region,' Ms Truss said prior to the Westminster summit in January.
Commuters travelling from Norwich would also benefit from improvements to Ely North, although work on the city's Trowse Bridge, or even a replacement, may be needed as it carries single track.
The news comes as Network Rail and Cambridgeshire County Council unveiled plans for a �15m station on the outskirts of the city serving 2,800 passengers a day which will help deal with extra capacity.
Construction for the new station at Chesterton sidings, was given the go ahead by the government this week and it is likely to be opened in 2015. It will have three platforms and the city's guided busway will be extended from Milton Road providing a link to Huntingdon and St Ives.
Trains from King's Lynn and Ely are likely to stop at the new station before continuing into the current station.