GALLERY: New county council study offers fresh hope of re-opening Wisbech to March rail line- and it could make a profit too

PUBLISHED: 10:35 01 March 2013 | UPDATED: 10:35 01 March 2013

Wisbech to March railway.

Wisbech to March railway.

Archant

AN hourly 60mph rail shuttle between Wisbech and March with connections to Cambridge and Peterborough has moved nearer to the drawing board.

It might cost up to £12million to re-open the line but a fresh study predicts an “operating surplus” of up to £15.5million between 2014 and 2029.

“It would appear that there is a commercial operating case for re-opening the line using light rail,” says the report.

Included in capital expenditure might be

* Work at March Rail Station to cope with extra services

* Costs of building new Wisbech station north of Weasenham Lane

* Providing level crossings between both towns

* Work at Whitemoor sidings

* Cost of bridging the A47 as an alternative to a level crossing

Cambridgeshire County Council last night revealed a 50 page report outlining- for the first time- the possibility of re-opening the rail line between both towns.

The last passenger trains used the line in 1968- the year London Bridge was sold to America, Alec Rose sailed single handed around the world and the M1 was complete.

County councillor Simon King declared: “As chairman of the Wisbech to March Bramley Line I really welcome this report.”

The journey time would be between 12-14 minutes, half that of current bus times.

Engineering experts Atkins has put forward tentative usage figures, worked the likely split between business, commuter and leisure uses, and has even tried to work out how many bus passengers would switch to rail.

Destination Peterborough is a key since Atkins expect few people to use the rail service to connect with Kings Lynn.

“With 131,000 rail trips between March and Peterborough, it may be expected that would be as many as 78,000 rail trips between Wisbech and Peterborough,” says the report. Half those now using the bus between March and Wisbech could switch to rail, predicts Atkin.

However the report doesn’t exclude re-opening it as a heritage line only, pointing out its benefits for boosting the local economy, creating jobs and tourism but also explaining that it could cost up to £250,000 a year to do.

And, says Atkins, few heritage lines in the UK “runs a commuter service throughout the year”.

Further work will now look at the capital costs, including those related to bringing the line back up to operational standard, and station works in Wisbech and March.

County councillor Ian Bates, Cabinet member for growth and planning, said the new study would like at how the re-opened line would cross the A47.

Fenland District Council Leader Alan Melton, said: “Unlocking transport links into Fenland as well as between our communities is critical”.

Councillor Steve Tierney said the line would be a “real jewel in the Wisbech2020 crown”.

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