Cost of plans to reinstate Wisbech train line rocket by £40m - but leaders insist they can “make it happen”

PUBLISHED: 17:37 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:53 12 March 2014

Transport -- Trains

Diesel train at Wisbech Station

The Duputy Town Mayor of Wisbech, Mr Fedor Rikovsky waves goodbye to the first passenger train to leave the town for ten years


Used in the Eastern Daily Press

Transport -- Trains Diesel train at Wisbech Station The Duputy Town Mayor of Wisbech, Mr Fedor Rikovsky waves goodbye to the first passenger train to leave the town for ten years Used in the Eastern Daily Press "Down Memory Lane" 16 February, 2005 Dated -- 23 September 1978 Photograph -- c10564

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The latest cost estimate for a new station in Wisbech has rocketed by more than £40m - but leaders still insist the case is the “strongest in a generation” and they can “make it happen”.

The latest cost estimate for a new station in Wisbech has rocketed by more than £40m - but leaders still insist the case is the “strongest in a generation” and they can “make it happen”.

At a rail summit in London, transport minister Stephen Hammond, Network Rail, train operating firm Greater Anglia and politicians, were told that reinstating the line and building a station in Wisbech could cost £52.6m, including a £15.6m bridge over the A47, while the bill for an out of town station south of the A47 would be £31m.

The original estimate for the project was £12m.

But North-East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay, who organised the summit, insisted that the “more refined costs” were a key sign of the maturity of the programme.

He said: “The costs going up is a sign of the more detailed work and more serious engagement in this project. Whilst the costs have shot up, what is clear is that the benefits have also shot up, and in my view significantly more than the costs. Instead of looking at who today would travel from Wisbech to March, we are looking at who would make that journey if the rail line was in place. That is a key difference.”

He added the case for the new rail station was the strongest it had been for a generation.

Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council, said he had only been told about the huge increase in costs yesterday, but had not been surprised.

He said it was vital that the partnership “get the figures right”, adding that he did not want a repeat of the Cambridge guided bus route project where costs had spiralled.

But Mr Melton, who was one of the last to use the line before it closed in 1968, said: “It has been many years we have been talking about this, and at last I get the sense that things are starting to work.
“We all recognise that the Cambridgeshire economy is unbalanced. We want to push some of that opportunity and growth to the North and the only way you are going to do that is through better infrastructure. I feel very optimistic after this meeting. There is a feeling we can make this happen,” he added.

Graham Nix, chief executive of the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough local enterprise partnership (Lep), will be submitting a bid to the Government’s £2bn Local Growth Fund - which will allocated money to Leps through a “dragons den” style competition.

He said that the Wisbech Rail project - which would be part of the Lep’s bid - would be a good scheme in principle.

But all the leaders agreed that a great deal of work would need to be done in the next few weeks before the March 31st deadline for the fund.

Mr Barclay said that funding for the rail line could also come from the “significant housing proposals in Wisbech” through developer money for infrastructure as part of a planning deal - known as Section 106, which he said had been talked about in a “high level position.”

“There is significant work still to do. That won’t stop on March 31.”

Cambridgeshire County Council commissioned a study to consider capital costs of reinstating the line between March and Wisbech, following on from the 2012 Atkins Study, which concluded that the case for a light rail service from March to Wisbech, looked more promising.

Cambridgeshire County Council said the capital costs study was being finalised and it considered costs of reinstating the line for two possible options– a station in Wisbech and a station to the south of the town and the A47.

It said that the estimated potential cost of upgrading the line plus a station in Wisbech was £37m, and the cost of an A47 bridge was £15.6m.

While costs for upgrading the line with a station south of the A47 were estimated at £31m.

The study is expected to be published within a week.

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