VIDEO: Most positive aspect of Wisbech to March rail summit the fact Transport Minister considered it “a strategic priority”

Faces visible from L-R: Steve Barclay, Stephen Hammond (Transport Minister), Stephen Joseph OBE (Cam

Faces visible from L-R: Steve Barclay, Stephen Hammond (Transport Minister), Stephen Joseph OBE (Campaign for Better Transport), Graham Hughes (Cambridgeshire County Council), Steve Knight (Network Rail), Graham Nix OBE (CEO, Greater Cambs & Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership) - Credit: Archant

Yesterday marked an important step forward in the campaign to reconnect Wisbech to the rail network with a meeting in Parliament with Transport Minister Stephen Hammond and a host of political leaders and rail experts.

The most positive aspect of the meeting was the clear indication from Mr Hammond that he ‘recognised reopening this line is considered a strategic priority.’ He made clear that transport schemes can be accelerated where there is strong political and business will to do so, as was recently shown with my colleague Chloe Smith MP’s campaign for the ‘Norwich in 90.’

Mr Hammond also signalled that he particularly valued a bottom-up approach where local expertise informs rail priorities and that he was keen to work with the promoters of this scheme moving forward.

It is extremely positive following the enhanced work undertaken by Cambridgeshire County Council on the wider economic benefits case, to now have such a clear steer from the Minister that the Wisbech line could be prioritised with a view to starting in 2017 if locally we are united and present a strong value for money business case.

The Wisbech line closed in 1968 and I believe it is of key strategic importance to the town, district and county to now re-open it. I am therefore very grateful to Graham Nix OBE, Cllr Martin Curtis and Cllr Alan Melton for their leadership in supporting this bid.

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There is still considerable work to do, both in the next few weeks before the submission of the Local Enterprise Partnership bid on 31st March and prior to my meeting with Greg Clark, Cabinet Office Minister on 8th April. For example, a key challenge is to assess the scope for reducing the number of level crossings in terms of cost, and to quantify the benefits that can be attributed to new housing and a new primary school linked to the station.

Yesterday’s Parliamentary meeting was an important step forward in building momentum into the campaign and I will update constituents again as this develops.

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