RAIL campaigners have welcomed plans for new, longer trains on the line between Lynn and London, which will increase capacity by up to 40 per cent.
But local politicians remain concerned the area will not benefit as much as it should from the link to the capital unless tens of millions of pounds are spent to improve infrastructure on the route.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “We’re lucky to have it, but we’ve got to make the most of it.”
Ms Truss was speaking after she, alongside North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay and representatives of the Fen Line Users’ Association, met rail minister Theresa Villiers in Westminster on Thursday.
She said there were “encouraging signs” the line would be included in the Intercity Express programme (IEP), starting in 2018, which will see five carriage trains run on the line to Cambridge, instead of the current four unit services.
The new trains will boost passenger capacity by around 40 per cent.
It is also thought that the new trains would mean a slight reduction in journey times of between three and 10 minutes.
Fen Line Users’ Association chairman Colin Sampson said: “From a personal point of view, I think we’ve got what we need.”
But Ms Truss and Mr Barclay say they will work together to present a bid for additional investment to be made in the route under the Thameslink programme.
Around £6 billion is currently being invested in improved rail links both to and across London from north and south.
But investment on the Lynn to London route under the programme is only set to run as far as Cambridge.
The Thameslink programme website says that is because the power supply on the Fen line can’t support trains of eight or 12 carriages which are envisaged under the scheme, while many of the platforms would also be too short.
It is thought the cost of the extra electrical works needed to accommodate the new trains on the tracks from Lynn to Cambridge would be around £60 million.
The Association also says technology which would only allow passengers to get off trains from certain carriages at stations with shorter platforms is available.
But Mr Sampson said he didn’t think missing out on Thameslink was “the end of the world.”
However, Ms Truss said she remained worried at the lack of power supply and track upgrades, such as the dualling of tracks where possible, including the area just south of Downham.
She admitted they “hadn’t got very far” in making the case to extend the Thameslink programme to Lynn.
But she and Mr Barclay have also pledged to work together to draw up a bid to present to Network Rail for the next round of spending, which is due shortly.
They have also asked to see the business case behind the decision.
Ms Truss said: “We have to make the case, but we need the information to make that case.”
Mrs Villiers said the meeting had been “extremely helpful” and showed how the Lynn area would benefit from the new trains.
She added: Elizabeth and Steve explained the concerns of their constituents about local train services in very clear terms, which will enable me to take these views into account as the government shapes future transport policy. “