Mayor James Palmer wants CrossCountry franchise stripped for refusing more trains from Manea
PUBLISHED: 16:03 05 July 2019
Mayor James Palmer has called for CrossCountry to be stripped of its franchise for refusing to run more trains from Manea Station to Cambridge.
The mayor said his attempts to convince the rail operator to run a direct service have fallen on deaf ears, despite his claim it would increase the economic opportunities in Manea and add another option for affordable housing within commuting distance of Cambridge.
He said the journey takes less than 30 minutes, and all CrossCountry needs to do is get trains passing through Manea on their way to Cambridge to stop there.
Currently CrossCountry runs two direct trains on weekdays, one morning and one evening service, otherwise passengers have to change at Ely.
Speaking in an interview the mayor said CrossCountry would not even consider his suggestion until their current contract ends in 2021.
Mr Palmer said: "The response from CrossCountry trains - it's just extraordinary - 'we will review it in 2021'… their franchise should be stripped away from them."
CrossCountry responded by saying the smaller stop would not be suitable on its longer-distance service, and it would add to crowding on the service.
A spokesman for CrossCountry said: "CrossCountry complies fully with the specification set by the Government's Department for Transport for train services at Manea and Whittlesey.
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"These stations already have a regular service provided by the local train operator, Greater Anglia, from which connections to Cambridge can be made at Ely.
"Local train operators are always best at meeting the needs of local rail users, rather than adding stops in already busy long distance services from Birmingham to Stansted Airport.
"Inserting additional stops would make journey times longer and therefore less competitive to car travel, and would lead to crowding on these already busy trains as there are currently no available trains to hire of the type we use to add more carriages."
The mayor was speaking the day after a report commissioned by six of England's combined authorities called for more powers to be transferred as part of an expansion of devolution.
Mayor Palmer said dealing with third party organisations is "blocking growth" and the slow pace of progress can be "infuriating".
"I want the power to say to CrossCountry trains, if you don't deliver this I will kill your franchise," he said.
And speaking about frustrations over deliver Cambridge South Station and other infrastructure projects he said: "Sometimes it can feel like I'm cycling with the brakes on dealing with third parties - Network Rail, Highways England, Whitehall.
"Should I really have to go through Network Rail to put a station up in Cambridgeshire?
"I would like to be able to build railway stations without going through a third party. I would like to be able to deliver significant highways improvements without having to bend over to Highways England."