Mayor James Palmer wants to reopen stations in Soham and Wisbech as he says it’s time to look beyond Network Rail to deliver ‘essential infrastructure’
PUBLISHED: 17:35 28 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:35 28 March 2018
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Cambridgeshire mayor James Palmer is campaigning to reopen stations in Soham and Wisbech to help provide better links from the north to the south of the county.
It comes as the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), said that the counties need to aspire to become a ‘Network Rail-free zone’ when it comes to delivering a new rail infrastructure.
He hopes to advance plans to deliver rail infrastructure in a different way, after losing his patience with Network Rail’s ‘lack of urgency’ on key projects for the county.
Projects that the mayor wants to fast-track include the Cambridge South railway station to help serve the growing biomedical campus and the reopening of Soham station and a station at Wisbech.
Mayor Palmer has described Network Rail as a ‘bureaucratic behemoth’ and ‘extraordinarily inefficient’, which is ‘crippling the economic potential of our regions and contributing to the housing crisis’.
He is now exploring other ways to deliver rail projects, including via private sector investment, to take them out of the hands of Network Rail.
Next month he is meeting with Transport Minister Jo Johnson to discuss plans.
He said: “If my experiences in Cambridgeshire are anything to go by, it is quite clear we cannot rely on Network Rail to deliver rail infrastructure on time and at a price that offers value for money for the taxpayer.
“Network Rail has failed this county for too long with its glacial progress on self-evidently and urgently needed rail upgrades like the new Cambridge South railway station and a reopened Soham station.
“The Combined Authority approach is all about fresh thinking on how local government delivers for its citizens. I ran out of patience with Network Rail some time ago, and if we want to get these improvements delivered, it’s clear I need to take these projects into my own hands.
“If it means that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough needs to become a Network Rail-free zone when it comes to new infrastructure, then that is what should happen.”
Mayor Palmer has written a piece on the Conservative Home website, where he comments at length about how Network Rail is failing, and that its monopoly position means that it is not delivering for the tax payer.
He has already publicly described his dismay at Network Rail’s quoted cost of the Cambridge South rail station, at more than £200 million, comparing it with the reported cost of the new arrivals terminal at London Stanstead Airport of just £100 million.