MP's criticism of £359,000 Manea and Whittlesey rail improvements study rebutted by council and enterprise partnership
PUBLISHED: 14:08 27 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:08 27 July 2017
It could be years down the line before improvements are made to rail stations at Manea and Whittlesey.
Fenland Council confirmed that a report paid for by a £359,000 grant last June from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Enterprise Board (LEP) will not be completed until the end of the year.
“I can confirm we’re on course for the study to be completed in December this year, after which (early 2018) there will be a public consultation on the different options for station improvements,” said a spokesman.
The £359,000 was channelled through the Hereward Community Rail Partnership, a body set up by the council in 2012 to involve local people in their railways.
In 2015 Fenland Council produced an 80 page report with options for extending the platforms at Whittlesey and Manea to allow the former station to handle four-car trains and for Manea to handle three and four car trains.
It also considered providing a footbridge between the platforms at Whittlesey to allow access from the town to the down platform where the level crossing is closed. The study found the platforms at Whittlesey needed to be extended by 60 per cent and at Manea by 80 per cent.
The study showed three options for Whittlesey with estimated costs ranging from £1.45million to £2.13million whilst for Manea the estimated costs ranged from £425,000 to £1.49 million.
North East Cambs MP Steve Barclay has criticised the £359,000 cost of the latest report claiming it is “the equivalent of paying a £30,000 a year rail consultant for almost 12 years to write reports on Fenland stations.
“Instead of much needed improvements to local stations, such as better parking at Manea and Whittlesey or adding in new lighting to make Whittlesey station safer during the dark winter months, the £359,00 is being entirely spent on consultancy fees without any actual work being carried out at any of the stations.
“Does it really make sense to spend so much on Network Rail consultants writing reports, when this money could be better spent on urgent new lighting or car park improvements?”
A LEP spokesman said: “Railway projects have to progress through a very clear process, known as GRIP, before they can secure funding for improvement works, particularly if they are likely to secure major investment such as lengthening the platforms and the provision of a footbridge.
“Therefore, this funding is vital to secure the next phase of investment in station infrastructure.”