£29 million West Norfolk rail link upgrade completed, say industry bosses
Work on a multi-million pound project enabling longer trains to run to and from West Norfolk has been completed, rail industry officials have announced.
Nearly £30 million has been spent on the scheme which will enable eight-coach trains to run between Lynn and Cambridge, instead of the current four-coach units.
Now, Network Rail says the longer trains will be able to run from December after the final stage of the work was finished over the bank holiday weekend.
Engineers were on site in Lynn, where a new siding has been built to accommodate the longer trains, throughout the weekend.
The work meant the Tennyson Avenue level crossing was closed to road traffic, while buses replaced trains between Lynn and Downham.
Network Rail says a programme of track, safety and train testing, along with driver training, will now take place over the coming months ahead of the launch of the expanded service.
Ellie Burrows, Network Rail's Anglia route director, said: “Our teams have been working hard to ensure that the new siding at King’s Lynn was completed this August bank holiday.
“With this milestone achieved, we can now focus on ensuring the new infrastructure is ready for Great Northern’s longer trains to begin running in December and delivering on our promise to provide a better journey experience for passengers using the Fen line.”
Keith Jipps, infrastructure director for Great Northern's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “Longer trains are desperately needed on the Fen Line and it’s really good news that Network Rail has been able to complete this work.
"The finished work now paves the way for us to begin our infrastructure testing and driver-training programme.
"Time is tight, because the coronavirus pandemic has delayed this milestone by several months, but I am confident we will be seeing the longer trains introduced this December which will be great news for our passengers and stakeholders.”
The project, which has also seen platform extensions built at the Littleport and Waterbeach stations, was initially expected to cost £27 million to complete. However, an extra £1.7 million was invested to meet additional costs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This is an important investment and one that will deliver on our promise to passengers to modernise, upgrade and uplift services and infrastructure.
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the teams at Network Rail, this final piece of the project has been completed despite restrictions imposed by Covid-19.
"I look forward to seeing the new-look upgraded Fen Line ready for passengers soon.”