West Norfolk rail campaigners call for fare cuts amid claims of broken service promises

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

Rail passengers in West Norfolk should have their fares cut because of broken promises on peak services, a campaign group has claimed.

The latest criticism of new draft timetables for the Lynn to London line comes after it emerged that many journeys would actually be slower than they are now under the plans.

The area’s main train operator says they reflect the expectation infrastructure enabling longer trains to run will be in place by the end of next year.

The currently published timetable plans are for December 2018.

But the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA) says passengers are at risk of losing out as previous service commitments are not being honoured in the current plans.

Its chairman, Colin Sampson, said: “More and more people are travelling to Cambridge and London. They expect decent trains and a decent train service.

“Cutting back on the frequencies promised last autumn – and slowing things down on top of that – is unacceptable.

“We think fares should be reduced to compensate.”

FLUA has joined forces with West Norfolk Council and the King’s Lynn BID committee to express their “considerable dissatisfaction” at Great Northern’s timetable proposals, which are due to come into operation next year.

As first reported in the Lynn News last Friday, the current plans would see most daytime journeys last for around 10 minutes longer than they do now.

BID officials say rail industry figures show that would cost the area’s economy up to £35 million a year in lost business and higher costs.

Now, FLUA says that, despite committing to two peak-time trains an hour in initial consultations last year, the new plans have seen one morning peak service to London and two afternoon peak services back to Lynn cut.

A Great Northern spokesman said the services highlighted were “duplicate” trains which will not be removed from the timetable until Network Rail has completed the work necessary to enable eight-coach trains to run between Lynn and Cambridge, instead of the current four. The project is expected to be finished late next year.

But FLUA, the council and BID have also called for the government to intervene to maintain current journey times, honour the commitment for half-hourly trains to London and ensure a similar peak-time service is provided between Lynn and Cambridge.

They have also demanded a commitment from ministers to modernise the route, which they say needs to be “dragged out” of the 1980s.

The three groups have called for a long-term strategic commitment to a double track line that is capable of accommodating 12 coach trains.

They also want proposals to re-double the single line sections of track between Lynn and Watlington and Downham and Littleport respectively.

The tracks were downgraded in the mid-1980s to reduce costs. But campaigners say they are now the main cause of the proposal to make journey times even longer under the current draft timetable plans.

Mr Long said: “The Government finalises its 2019-2025 railways budget this week.

“It is vital our requests are taken into account as the area is being left at a disadvantage because of the lack of progress.

“We expect to see the promised work on Ely North Junction taking place and we also want the single-line sections between there and King’s Lynn returned to a two-track line.

“With the huge growth in use of the Fen Line, this money-saving measure has just left us with bottlenecks, resulting in a sub-standard level of service.

“It’s time that our railway line was dragged out of the 80s and brought up to date and in line with other modern railway lines.”

Lynn BID chairman Darren Taylor added: “I’m concerned the Fen Line, and King’s Lynn specifically, is yet again being overlooked in favour of other towns and cities in the East. We need to make our dissatisfaction clear to the government.”