£27m lets the train take the strain with eight-carriages and 2,000 extra seats into Cambridge from the Fens
- Credit: Archant
Passengers will benefit from a £27m upgrade of the King’s Lynn to Cambridge line from Sunday when an eight-carriage service begins.
With platform extensions now built, it will mean an improved service for Littleport and Waterbeach.
“As well as extending platform two to 167-metres, the upgrade at Littleport included providing step free access to platform one,” said MP Steve Barclay.
Over 2,000 extra seats will be added to morning trains arriving in Cambridge. This will make it easier for passengers to socially distance and, when passengers return post-pandemic, help passengers find a seat on busier services.
Mr Barclay was at Littleport to see a trial run of the new carriages that left Cambridge at 11:37 and arrived at King’s Lynn at 12:31, to the delight of local supporters and representatives of the rail industry.
“It means Great Northern’s new timetable can now include an eight-car train at peak times,” said the MP.
“This is very welcome and will provide a much better experience for passengers.”
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Lucy Frazer, MP for SE Cambs, said: “Network Rail and Great Northern have been working hard to complete this project safely despite the restrictions in place due to Covid-19.
“I look forward to hearing from my constituents about their experience of using the new service.”
Network Rail has built a new siding outside King’s Lynn station for Great Northern’s longer trains, and extended platforms at Littleport and Waterbeach to allow eight-carriage services to stop there.
Previously services for all stations to King’s Lynn had only four carriages beyond Cambridge, and trains turning around at Ely had eight carriages but could not stop at Waterbeach. The hourly service at Waterbeach will now be half hourly.
Network Rail says the Fen Line has seen significant improvements over recent years to provide better services and improved connectivity for passengers, including the introduction of new air-conditioned Class 387 Great Northern trains and the opening of Cambridge North station, both in 2017.
Currently passenger numbers remain historically low but operators believe that by providing more space on trains at this time it will help passengers feel more confident about travelling on the network.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Longer trains will give passengers a better service, improving the network in a key part of the country as we continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Great Northern and Thameslink managing director Tom Moran said: “This long-awaited news will make a real difference for our passengers on the Fen Line between King’s Lynn and Cambridge.
“I’m so impressed by the collaborative work we’ve seen between Great Northern, Network Rail and the communities along this route.
“By doubling the length of so many trains, we’ll add 2,000 seats every morning which will make it easier for passengers to socially distance and, when people return after the pandemic, get a seat.”
Sarah-Jane Crawford of Network Rail: “The upgrade work on this busy commuter route has been long in the planning and I want to thank passengers and line side neighbours for their support and patience while we have been working on their line and in their communities to deliver this important project.”
John Grant, chairman of the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA) said: “We are pleased that Waterbeach now has a half-hourly service and would like to congratulate Network Rail for completing the work on schedule despite the pandemic.”
Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said: “It is great news that the eight car trains will come into service this month. This is an issue I have been campaigning on for some time and in 2017 met the then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to Secure the commitment for the longer trains.
“The additional carriages will significantly ease the over-crowding on what is an extremely popular rail route.”
James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, said: “The introduction of longer trains on this key route will boost capacity and make for a better experience for passengers.
“This multimillion-pound investment is part of the government’s plans to help boost economic growth in North West Norfolk and more widely.”