Silence on Wisbech rail link in the week fresh funding announced for Ely North and even Soham might creep ahead of us

Ironically MP Steve Barclay was invited this week to open a new railway the Railway pub in Whittles

Ironically MP Steve Barclay was invited this week to open a new railway the Railway pub in Whittlesey following a £300,000 refurbishment. Next stop Wisbech? - Credit: David Lowndes

MP Steve Barclay has accused the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) of remaining silent on re-opening of the Wisbech rail line despite the board announcing funding for Ely North improvements.

Mr Barclay said recent board papers from the LEP refer to a £3.3million grant for improvements to Ely junction and talks with the new combined authority on a new station for Soham.

“Yet the board paper is silent on Wisbech rail,” he told the LEP. And this was “despite your chief executive accepting that he was aware in February 2016 of the over-specified costs provided by Network Rail. Why has the LEP failed to set out what progress it has made on Wisbech rail since January 13, 2017 and when will you do so?”

A spokesman for the LEP said that the investment proposed for Ely is “a true partnership endeavour to unlock a significant barrier to economic growth in the East”.

Cambridgeshire County Council is caught up in the ongoing row between the MP and the LEP after Mr Barclay claimed there had been little discussion over the past year and queried which party might be dragging their feet.

A council spokesman said: “The statement made to the MP Steve Barclay that the county council has ignored the LEP for a year is completely untrue and our chief executive has written to the LEP to ask for an explanation.

“The council and the officer referred to has been in constant contact with the LEP over the Wisbech to Cambridge rail link which we are committed to pursuing. “

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The county council insists that throughout the past year there had been regular conversations, e-mails and meetings with the LEP on progressing the scheme.

“With the LEP’s knowledge and support, we have been working with Network Rail and consultants on a wide range of issues including the use of level crossings to try to reduce the cost of the scheme and identify how best to move it forward,” said the spokesman.

The county said the main issue now is how to fund the next stage of the technical work for the project which will cost £3.5million

“We have worked closely with the LEP on this issue as they have secured the funding from Government through the Growth Deal that could pay for this and it is for the LEP Board to decide whether that should be spent on Wisbech to Cambridge rail link”, said the spokesman.

A spokesman for the LEP said they were “not ‘failing to progress Fenland transport schemes’, as clearly outlined in previous statements sent to Mr Barclay.

“We are working with partners – specifically Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council - to develop these schemes and establish whether they meet of the requirements set out by Government that are needed before the next phase of funding can be released.

“It is vital that the LEP consistently follows due process for each and every project.”