United stand over future of line linking King’s Lynn, Watlington, Downham Market, Littleport, and Ely to Cambridge and London
Increasing the frequency of trains from King's Lynn to London and retaining a West Norfolk ticket office must be included in any franchise agreement for the Fen Line.
That was the united view from Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney and West Norfolk town and borough councillors who met at Downham Market train station yesterday to discuss the future of the Fen Line.
It is hoped residents and businesses will also show their support for the Lynn/London line by writing a letter to the Department for Transport outlining the need to increase services and the retention of the Downham Market ticket office before the Thameslink franchise consultation ends on August 23.
Ms Truss, whose South West Norfolk constituency includes Downham Market, said: 'This is a critical time because the consultation ends soon and the government will then decide on what is going into the franchise agreement for tender.
'I've had a lot of correspondence on both the frequency of the trains and the ticket office at Downham Market and we need to make sure they are both high on the agenda before the agreements are finalised.
'If people can show how important the rail service and ticket office is by writing to the Department of Transport before the consultation ends, I think it will have a huge impact in ensuring this service doesn't get lost in the franchise agreement.'
A number of companies have already tendered to run services on the line after 2013 when First Capital Connect's tenure ends and it becomes part of the enlarged Thameslink franchise.
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West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said: 'It is essential that increasing the service frequency and maintaining the ticket office service at Downham Market station are included in the next franchise agreement.
'It is a very popular line and people relocate their business here because of the good service but we need it to be better.
'Everyone I talk to say they want more regular links to London. People want to be able to turn up and go and not wait for up to an hour for the next train.
'We must keep the pressure on because to ensure the service is brought up to date and matches the demand.'
According to a report by Mott Macdonald for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire County Councils, there will be an extra 91,000 single journeys on the Fen Line by 2016.
Downham Market mayor Robin Pegg said: 'The town is expanding with more houses going up and people moving into the area and more people are using this rail station. We need to see what we have maintained and improved upon – not reduced.'
Downham Market town councillor Jenny Groom added: 'The station is currently manned by very informed people. People who can tell you got to get to places.
'I have to go across London soon with a bicycle, which isn't easy, and they knew how to do it. You can't get that from a ticket machine and I think losing our ticket office would be dreadful.'