Tory MEP and red faced councillors apologise to Network Rail for being photographed next to rail line

PUBLISHED: 22:03 27 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:41 29 October 2012

Left-right: Soham Town Council's Rosemary Aitchison, Cllr James Palmer, council leader Peter Moakes, MEP Geoffrey Van Orden and Ely councillor Tom Hunt

Left-right: Soham Town Council's Rosemary Aitchison, Cllr James Palmer, council leader Peter Moakes, MEP Geoffrey Van Orden and Ely councillor Tom Hunt

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A TORY MEP has come under fire from Network Rail for being photographed with a group of council leaders next to a rural track where 36 freight trains a day pass through at average speeds of 50mph.

Red faced councillors including East Cambs District Council leader Peter Moakes apologised to Network Rail for standing beside the track at Soham in Cambridgeshire when they toured the district with MEP Geoffrey Van Orden. They thought the photograph would help to support moves to re-open the line to passenger trains.

Network Rail said the party – which also comprised Soham Town Council chairman Rosemary Aitchison, Ely councillor Tom Hunt and deputy East Cambs leader and county councillor James Palmer- did NOT have permission to be there or to have an aide take photographs.

“There are clear signs at this location, advising people they should not go on to the railway tracks as it is on offence to trespass,” said a Network Rail spokesman.

“By doing this, people are putting their lives in danger.”

Cllr Palmer: “We went down there and stood by the track, we did not go on the track. We are trying to get the re-opening of the railway station at the top of the agenda.

“I didn’t realise we were doing anything particularly wrong; we wanted to make sure awareness was raised for the need of a station in Soham.

“Of course we are sorry if we have caused a problem, clearly that was not our intention, obviously we were unaware it would cause a problem, or we would not have done it.

Cllr Hunt said he did not see any signage at the site of the former railway station but he was “sorry if we have upset Network Rail. I would not have gone there if I had seen any signage.”

Cllr Palmer added: “If what we did was inappropriate, I would apologise. We do not want to encourage people to go on to railway tracks.

“We want to do everything we can to get a railway station for Soham, but if we have overstepped the mark, we would apologise.”

Since the MEP gave his backing to the plan to reopen the station, Network Rail has spoken to East Cambridgeshire District Council, welcoming their support for a station, said Cllr Palmer.

“They are listening to us,”said Cllr Palmer. “I think we are now closer to getting a railway station for Soham than we have been for 40 years.”


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