More trains between King’s Lynn, Downham Market and Cambridge will boost economy in the Fens
The economy in West Norfolk and the Fens could receive a massive boost if a scheme to increase train services from King's Lynn to Cambridge is given the green light.
Network Rail has announced it is exploring the possibility of providing a half-hourly service on the Fen Line rail link, which also includes Downham Market, Watlington and Ely.
This multi-million pound scheme could reduce the travel time for thousands of rail passengers who pack trains to commute from West Norfolk to London everyday.
It could also spark an influx of commuters moving into the towns and villages along the line right up to Lynn to take advantage of quicker services to the capital and breathe fresh life into the area.
The announcement follows calls from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire MPs for an upgrade of the line between King's Lynn and Cambridge as part of future investment by Network Rail.
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South-West Norfolk MP, Elizabeth Truss, said: 'I am extremely pleased to see that Network Rail is treating this seriously and will conduct a cost analysis of how the half-hourly service can be achieved.
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'Obviously this is just the start of a long process but the economic benefits across the region will be tremendous and provide a significant boost not only for South-West Norfolk but across the county as well.
'I will continue to maintain the pressure on Network Rail so that the Fen Line is included in Network Rail's future works programme.
'It is important that this really does translate into increased trains, passenger growth and encourage employment.'
Rail passengers who travel and commute to from the west of the county to London and Cambridge on a regular basis have also welcomed the announcement.
Hunstanton resident Moira Bridgen said: 'It would be very useful to have a train here every half hour because I think it will really open this part of Norfolk up and boost economic growth.
'The King's Lynn to Cambridge train service is already a good service, the trains are always nice and clean and the stations are attractive but if this can be improved upon then I'm all for that.'
Gwen Wallace, 53, from King's Lynn, added: 'Having a half-hourly service between King's Lynn and Cambridge would be brilliant.
'It must put people off having to wait on the station for an hour if you just miss a train and I know I would use the train more often to go to Cambridge if the trains were more frequent.'
Taxi driver Keith Eagle also welcomed the half-hourly train service plan and said he thought it would be 'beneficial to the county as a whole'.
Alan Gajdzik, owner of Country Line cafe at the station, said: 'It would be a good move and will make it easier for people after 10am to go to Cambridge or come to King's Lynn for the day.
'Any investment on the line is always going to be a good thing for King's Lynn and West Norfolk.'
Brian Long, deputy leader of West Norfolk council, added: 'We are delighted that Network Rail has agreed to look into the feasibility of providing a half-hourly service on the Fen Line between King's Lynn and Cambridge.
'We believe that such a service would be beneficial for the area's economy and underpins our growth and development plans for West Norfolk.'
The announcement has also pleased David Parish, managing director at Lynn-based System 3 Business Solutions,
He said: 'This would be good news and confirmation that King's Lynn is a town still on the up, and a great place to live and work.'
Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, added: 'Good infrastructure is vital for economic growth and this proposed development would be a significant improvement to new and existing businesses in the area.'
Colin Sampson, chairman of the Fen Line Users Association, has said it would be 'wonderful' if the scheme was given the green light.
Ms Truss, North East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay and Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, have said they will continue to 'push hard' for the Fen Line upgrade ahead of Network Rail announcing its future capital funding for 2014 to 2019 next year.
Mr Bellingham said: 'Having been one of the key players in securing the electrification of the line from Cambridge to King's Lynn back in the early 1990s, I am now very keen to secure the next big step forward in terms of improving both the line and the level of service.
'We all live in a very competitive world and if King's Lynn and West Norfolk are going to secure their share of inward investment it is essential that we have an improved rail service.'
Transport minister Theresa Villiers has already said that passengers on the Fen Line could benefit from new inter-city express trains from 2018, which will offer shorter journey times to London
But speaking at Transport Questions last month, she said: 'This is subject to satisfactory outcome of contractual negotiations with Agility Trains, and timetabling arrangements that will be finalised with the future franchisee.'
Network Rail has said it will present a full cost analysis for the provision of a half-hourly service by September this year.
A spokesman said another track would need to be put in place between Littleport and Downham Market in order to accommodate a half-hourly service.
He said: 'The decision whether to invest in the infrastructure or not will come down to the business case and how strong it is.
'But we are very happy to look at what needs to be done to deliver this service and go back to Elizabeth Truss with how much it will cost and if it is something which can be done.'