Half-hourly trains could be running between West Norfolk and London from the spring of 2017, new government documents have suggested.
The date has been put forward in papers issued to the companies who are bidding for the new franchise to run most passenger train services from the borough to Cambridge and the capital, which is due to start next autumn.
The news is the clearest indication yet that the long-running battlefor extra services led by transport campaigners and politicians is nearing victory. However, an exact date for extra trains to start running depends on when a multi-million pound upgrade of the line is completed.
According to the documents published by the Department for Transport on Thursday, there will be no changes to the existing service requirement until at least May 2017.
However, at that point, the successful bidder will be required to run two trains per hour from Lynn and Downham to Cambridge and London where existing freight timetables allow them to do so – provided that the long-awaited £25 million upgrade of the Ely North junction is completed.
Work to dual the track in that area is expected to be completed early in Network Rail’s programme of works in the period between 2014 and 2019.
News of the government’s requirements was raised by Labour councillor Andy Tyler, who is also secretary of the Fen Line Users’ Association, during a meeting of the West Norfolk Council in Lynn on Thursday evening.
Asked by Mr Tyler to welcome the development, the council’s leader, Nick Daubney, said: “I welcome any improvement to that service. I think we’ve worked very hard together to improve that service.
“The service now is welcomed but if we can obtain the half-hour service I think that will be the icing on the cake. I look forward to it happening.”