MP Steve Barclay: 'We fought a Second World War in fewer years than it seems to reopen a few miles of track'.
PUBLISHED: 17:03 19 February 2018
MP Steve Barclay's frustration over delayed re-opening of the Wisbech to March rail line spilled over this week with a fresh attack on the soon to be wound up local enterprise partnership.
“Like many constituents I find it odd that we fought a Second World War in fewer years than it seems to take to reopen a few miles of track,” he said.
“I will continue to do everything I can to make the case to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the Department of Transport and remain optimistic that we will get this scheme delivered.”
His comments came after he met the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and Mayor James Palmer to agree £3.2 million funding for the next phase of Wisbech Rail - to carry out a GRIP3 study which is the next stage of studying the engineering and other costs of the scheme.
“Progress on Wisbech Rail was in practice sadly blocked by the Cambridgeshire Local Enterprise Partnership, but now that the entire board of the LEP has left I am hopeful of progress from the mayor and combined authority.
“The Grip 3 is the next stage of the process we have to follow.”
One of Mayor Palmer’s first actions on taking office was to agree to fund the Grip 3 study needed to progress the rail opening – a project the LEP had declined pending more detailed information.
It followed a public spat between Mayor Palmer and John Bridge, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce but also a leading member of the LEP.
Mr Bridge, the chamber’s chief executive since 2004 and formerly managing director of a haulage company and former chairman of the Road Haulage Association, said last year that “we do not believe developing the railway line from Wisbech to March is going to have economic benefit nor is it deliverable”.
It prompted Mr Barclay to tweet: “John Bridge, Cambs Chamber Commerce since 2004, LEP board member since 2012 and current chairman transport committee. What has he done for the Fens?”
Mr Barclay also felt it was “an odd position” for Mr Bridge to “block a local transport scheme supported by three cabinet ministers”.
Mayor Palmer told a Fens transport conference last October that “Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will only achieve its full economic potential if Fenland achieves its full economic potential and this will only happen if we are prepared to overhaul transport infrastructure, both road and rail across the area”.