New station in town centre, half hourly services to March but £200m likely to be cost of re-opening seven-mile Wisbech to March rail line

This special excursion train on September 23 1978 was the first passenger train to leave the old Wis

This special excursion train on September 23 1978 was the first passenger train to leave the old Wisbech Station for ten years. The seven mile stretch of rail will cost £200m to re-instate says a new report out this week. Picture; ARCHIVE/ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Wisbech looks likely to remain cut-off from the rail network for many years to come after new costs were revealed.

The £200m projected cost of re-instating the seven-mile long line to March is dwarfed by the expected £800m needed to modernise rail infrastructure in Ely if it is to take twice hourly direct services from Wisbech into Cambridge.

The report recommends ditching cheaper options for Wisbech to March such as a guided busway (£75m) or a train-tram (£152m). A busway shuttle was described as "poor value for money" and rail only was the best option as it has "a much more certain and lower risk delivery path".

An update on a £1.5m business case for the Wisbech-March line was published this week offers 10 options for a station in Wisbech but favours one near the town centre.

The report - by Mott Macdonald - supports Network Rail's conclusion that all 22 existing level crossings between March and Wisbech will be closed.

And all 39 crossings between March and Cambridge will require risk assessments to ensure they can cope with the extra rail services.

It could mean replacing these with bridges, says Mott Macdonald in their study commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

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The consultants are critical of Network Rail for holding up work on the rail infrastructure between March and Wisbech.

Throughout 2019 neither the combined authority, the county council or Mott Macdonald were able to "progress engagement with Network Rail significantly, despite repeated attempts to do so.

"This has hindered delivery of the project relative to its original anticipated completely date of April 2020".

If the money is found to open the line it is likely that initially there would be two trains operating hourly from Wisbech to March but only one of them would be a through train to Cambridge. It could take a further ten years for half hourly, 45-minute trips from Wisbech to Cambridge become possible.

A new platform at the West End of the old platform three at March would be re-instated and a passing loop built at Coldham.

Mayor James Palmer said: "The Wisbech Rail project is a prime candidate for accelerating existing proposals with funding from the Restoring Railways Fund."