Measures to reduce overcrowding on trains to and from West Norfolk are a “high priority” for industry bosses, according to a new report.
The assurance has been welcomed by rail campaigners, despite a warning over the potential cost of improvement works at Watlington’s station.
Attention has focused on the need for longer and more frequent trains following last autumn’s announcement that work on the long-awaited upgrade of the Ely north junction will not begin for at least another three years.
And, despite political and business leaders committing their support to feasibility studies of the project, it is widely feared the upgrade will be much more costly than previously thought.
The new Anglia Route Study, compiled by Network Rail, highlights the ongoing work to find ways of allowing eight-coach trains to run between Lynn and Cambridge, instead of the current four-coach units.
The document said: “The industry, funders and local stakeholders are in agreement that this is a high priority.”
One way of ensuring longer trains could run would be to extend platforms at stations including Watlington, Littleport and Waterbeach, but the report warns that would only offer “low value for money.”
It added: “Further work is required on the development of infrastructure options to understand if costs can be reduced.”
But West Norfolk councillor Andy Tyler, who is secretary of the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA) said that, while the signs were hopeful, improvements are badly needed now.
He said: “Many peak services are grossly overcrowded. Longer trains can’t come too soon. We urge all speed in finding a cost-effective method.”
The study also details the work being undertaken to enable two passenger trains an hour to run more often at non-peak times.
Until the line improvements at Ely are completed, service expansion will be restricted by the needs of the freight services that also use the route.
But Mr Tyler said the work being done was “encouraging.”
FLUA chairman Colin Sampson also welcomed a pledge contained in the region’s draft devolution agreement, published last month, for the government to assist the development of a business case for improvements to services between Lynn, Cambridge and London.
He said: “We look forward to seeing a business case for infrastructure improvements.”