County warning over West Norfolk train timetable plans
Plans for longer rail journeys to and from West Norfolk will make the borough a less attractive place to visit and do business, a county council report says.
Rail bosses have insisted their proposed new schedules on the route between Lynn and London King’s Cross will improve service performance and reflect the need for trains to stand for longer at stations.
But critics say the measures could negate the economic benefits of longer trains that are due to come into service later this year.
And Norfolk County Council has added its voice to those calling for a rethink on the plans, which could make some journeys up to 15 minutes longer than they are now.
A report to the authority’s environment, development and transport committee, which meets in Norwich this Friday, January 19, said it had responded to Great Northern’s consultations on its draft timetables.
The document added: “These make train journeys less attractive, but also make King’s Lynn less attractive for business investment, or as a visitor destination.”
The timetables are meant to coincide with the introduction of longer trains to the Fen Line which serves West Norfolk later this year.
Great Northern, the company that runs most passengers services between Lynn and London, has said the plans are necessary to enable longer trains to stand longer and stations and will enable Lynn services to stop at the new Cambridge North station, which they currently do not serve.
The company also says they are intended to reduce delays on single track stretches of the route.
But opponents have claimed that the measures could cost the borough’s economy tens of millions of pounds a year in lost business and higher costs.
Details of the county council’s timetable criticism came as the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, visited East Anglia to see one of the key bottlenecks on the line, the Ely north junction.
Nearly £9 million is being spent on a feasibility study of the project, which Mr Grayling has insisted is a key priority for the next spending round, which begins next year.
But, during a meeting with a group of Cambridgeshire politicians in Ely, he was warned that a solution also needed to be found to address the concerns raised by local residents about the impact of any rail upgrade on local road links, particularly the B1382 which passes through Ely and the nearby village of Queen Adelaide.
Charles Roberts, deputy mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority, said there was “no alterative” to improving the junction in order to increase service levels.
But he added: “I understand the concerns that have been raised by residents in Queen Adelaide and Ely and I’m determined to fight their corner.
“Yes, solving the rail challenge at Ely North junction is of critical importance to the wider region but its also important that this doesn’t have a detrimental impact on roads in Ely and the surrounding area.”