Rush hour’s getting slower for West Norfolk rail passengers

Launch of new trains at King's Lynn Railway Station
Launch of new trains at King's Lynn Railway Station

London will be further away from Lynn than it is now, if new draft rail timetables come into force, it has emerged.

That’s because the proposals, which are currently the subject of a public consultation, would make many journeys even longer than they already are.

Political and business leaders have hit out at the schedules, claiming they would make services even worse for passengers and cost the local economy tens of millions of pounds a year.

But the area’s main train operator claims the measures would actually improve performance.

The dispute centres on proposed new weekday timetables for services operated by Great Northern between Lynn and London King’s Cross.

The plans are part of a wider project, known as Transforming Rail, which are intended to modernise the network run by its parent company, Govia Thameslink.

At present, most daytime journeys between Lynn and the capital take between one hour 40 minutes and one hour 45 minutes to complete, though some which stop at more intermediate stations are longer.

However, under the current proposals, journeys would take around 10 minutes longer, even though longer trains that would not need to be divided at Cambridge as the current service does, are meant to be introduced late next year.

And critics fear the benefits of longer trains here will be lost by the consequences of longer journeys.

Darren Taylor, chairman of the King’s Lynn BID committee, said: “King’s Lynn businesses are getting increasingly fed up of false promises and a lack of action from Great Northern. I welcome the bigger trains, but weneed them twice an hour, all day.

“I’m concerned that the Fen Line, and King’s Lynn specifically, is yet again being overlooked in favour of investment that will benefit other towns and cities in the East.”

Mr Taylor claims that rail industry showed the changes, if implemented, could cost the West Norfolk economy up to £35 million a year in lost business and higher costs.

He said his organisation was working with politicians, councils, business and rail lobby groups to call for the company to rethink the plans.

And he also urged passengers to have their say on the proposals in a public consultation, which ends later this month.

A Great Northern spokesman said: “Doubling the length of trains between King’s Lynn and Cambridge from next year will allow us to meet the increasing capacity demands in the East Anglia region.

“Our timetable proposals reflect the need for a minor increase in dwell times at stations and to improve performance on the single line tracks between King’s Lynn and Cambridge.”

She also highlighted the ongoing work to secure improvements to the Ely north junction, which secured almost £9 million of feasibility study funding from the region’s local enterprise partnerships and rail industry bodies earlier this year.

But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said longer journeys would not be acceptable, particularly given the improved trains that were introduced to the line earlier this year, and which are meant to be capable of making up time following delays.

He said: “We’re trying to attract more people to come to King’s Lynn and promote King’s Lynn as a sub-regional centre.

“If our journey times do get longer, we’d be going backwards, rather than forwards. I will not stand by and let that happen.”

To comment on the proposals, visit www.transformingrail.com. The consultation closes on July 27.

Train services were also disrupted during yesterday morning’s rush hour because of a signalling problem at Downham.

It was the second problem to hit the network this week, after the lines had to be closed because of trespassers on the tracks in the Welwyn Garden City area on Monday.