FENLANDER: New Rail Development Strategy aims to improve Fenland’s rail network

PAST glories and future hopes for Fenland’s railways will both be on show at March Station on Saturday.

Displays illustrating the station’s 125-year-old history will be among the attractions at an open day that is part of Fenland’s Heritage Weekend. But visitors will also have the chance to comment on a wide-ranging series of proposals aimed at improving the local rail network in the future.

The proposals are set out in a new “Rail Development Strategy” that outlines three key priorities for action: greater community involvement, better stations and expanded train services. Last week they gained the full backing of North East Cambridgeshire MP, Steve Barclay (see panel).

The document puts forward various improvements that need to be made in and around the stations at March, Whittlesey and Manea. They include better signage and parking, more facilities for customers and closer integration with local bus services.

It also suggests the establishment of a Community Rail Partnership to help promote rail services, assist voluntary groups such as the Friends of March Railway Station and Street Pride, and make rail companies more aware of local needs and priorities. Such partnerships have proved very successful in many other parts of Britain, it says.

Local people are now being asked to comment on the proposals, which have been drawn up by the Fenland Strategic Partnership Transport and Access Group, which includes Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, the Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT) and National Express East Anglia.

Councillor Kit Owen, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for transport, said: “Many people in Fenland don’t have cars and rely heavily on public transport, including trains, and the need for good services will increase over the next 20 years as thousands of new homes and jobs are created here.

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“We have based our strategy on views we have received over the past few years. Now we want to hear what people think of our priorities, as well as any suggestions they may have about particular projects that would benefit them.”

• The consultation was launched this week and will remain open until December 2. Questionnaires are available online at www.fenland.gov.uk or at Fenland @ your service shops and Fenland Hall.

Various events will also be held over the next three months at which you can ask questions, including Meet the Manager sessions with National Express East Anglia.

• For more information, e-mail neighbourhoodstrategy@fenland.gov.uk or call Wendy Otter, FDC’s transport development manager, on 01354 654321.

• Saturday’s Heritage Day at March Station, organised by the Friends of March Railway Station, runs from 10am-3pm. Attractions include the Fenland Light Railway, displays by March Model Railway club, stalls and refreshments.

The Friends group was formed in 2009 to rejuvenate the disused side of the station. The plans are to bring the centre rooms back into use as a small meeting room, railway museum, and art gallery.