MP prepares for House of Commons ‘summit’ with transport minister which could pave the way for re-opening of Wisbech rail link
10:10 28 February 2014
A gathering of key decision makers has been put together by MP Steve Barclay for a ‘summit’ with transport minister Stephen Hammond to press for the re-opening of the Wisbech rail link.
“I am determined not to leave any stone unturned in making the case and the rail summit is an important step forward in capitalising on the available expertise to drive this project forward,” he said.
“Key to the regeneration of Wisbech is reconnecting the town to the rail network. “This is also important to the county as a whole, not least as the economic growth in Cambridge risks being constrained by a shortage of housing, which Fenland can help address provided the transport infrastructure is put in place.”
The NE Cambs MP said the meeting at the House of Commons on March 11 was part of his campaign to secure re-opening of the Wisbech line.
Those meeting with the minister will include Network Rail representatives, Atkins Consultancy (who have prepared viability reports for the county council) and rail operators.
Also attending will be county council leader Martin Curtis, Fenland Council leader Alan Melton, the chief executive of the local enterprise partnership Graham Nix and Chris Austin of Rail Future Campaign group.
Mr Barclay said: “This builds on a series of meetings in Parliament and locally to promote the case for the long overdue station at Wisbech.”
The timing of the meeting has been set to enable Atkins latest data on capital costs and benefits of the rail line to be considered.
“There is further research currently underway by the county council on the wider economic benefits case ahead of the enterprise partnership submitting their strategic economic plan to the Government by the end of March,” he said.
“I have submitted a four page memo to the county council to help inform their wider economic benefits case.”
Mr Barclay said the transport minister had confirmed the case for the rail link would go through regional growth fund which is chaired by Lord Heseltine and cabinet office minister Greg Clark.
“A number of things have changed recently which significantly strengthen the case for the Wisbech line,” said Mr Barclay.
These included opening of the Cambridge Science Park rail station, increased freight on the Felixstowe to Nuneaton line which can connect with Fen hauliers, new housing in the Fens, and access to Wisbech campuses as well as the new cinema complex and Tesco expansion in the town.
He said the bid by the local enterprise partnership due for submission by March 31 “is the best opportunity Wisbech has had for a long time to finally deliver the railway link that the town needs.