June 19 2013 Latest news:
By John Elworthy , The Editor
Thursday, April 19, 2012
NEARLY £40,000 has been secured by Fenland District Council to launch a 20 year bid to improve local rail stations and connections.
FENLAND’S rail development strategy is broken into three sections – with short-term, medium-term and long-term actions set out.
In the short-term (2011-2017) the objectives include improved interchange options at Manea, March and Whittlesey, better parking at March and improved shelters at Manea and Whittlesey.
It also calls for better lighting at all three stations and improved disabled access at Whittlesey.
In the medium-term (2018-2023) the report calls for improved access and signing to rail stations, formalised car parks at Manea and Whittlesey, ticket machines at Manea and Whittlesey and a bus linking Chatteris to Manea station.
Long-term (2024-2031) the report hopes to see the platforms lengthened at Manea and Whittlesey. There are also calls for an extended Whittlesey car park to accommodate proposals for a parkway station for Peterborough.
In addition new Greater Anglia franchise operator Abellio has agreed to chip in with money and support as the council sets up a Community Rail Partnership.
Wendy Otter, the council’s transport development manager, says depending on project funding there could be up to £70,000 to spend in Fenland over the next two to three years.
Cabinet is expected to approve the plans on Thursday which follow a public consultation which gave overwhelming support to investing in Fenland’s rail stations and improving services.
Councillor Kit Owen, a Cabinet member and chairman of the Fenland Transport and Access Group, believes railways are vital to the district’s future success.
He said the findings reported to Cabinet “are aimed at improving our train stations, improving rail services and ensuring that local people can have more involvement.”
Figures produced by the council show that on average 2,500 people use Manea station each year, 23,500 use Whittlesey and 300,000 use March each year.
The report says Manea and Whittlesey have lower levels of passenger services than might be expected and many trains pass through these stations but do not currently stop.
“A key priority for passenger service improvement is to ensure that Manea and Whittlesey have a better level of service,” says the report.
Hopefully the Ipswich to Peterborough service might become hourly instead of two hourly and an objective would then be to get these to stop at both stations.
The report will focus, too, on the A605 Kings Dyke level crossing; research has shown the barriers are closed between six and 10 times between 7.30am and 9am, adding substantially to journey times for motorists.
One solution is for a bridge to serve the area and, despite the £10 million projected cost, is something that could bring substantial benefits.
The report also focuses on March Ticket Office, calling for it to remain open and for the station to be fully staffed.
Other areas covered include electrification of the Peterborough to March to Ely line, direct services from Fenland to London, and rail connections from Chatteris perhaps introducing a shuttle bus service to connect at Manea.
However the new rail partnership says it will have limited scope to bring about the re-opening of the March to Wisbech line.
Although the 20 year scheme envisages the line coming back into service “it is beyond the scope of this strategy to deliver a new railway line.” The proposals will focus on improvements to rail lines and stations that are already in operation