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Rail bosses accused of breaking promises over new delay to West Norfolk line upgrades

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The train now standing isn't likely to get longer any time soon amid continuing delays to funding vital service upgrades for West Norfolk
The train now standing isn't likely to get longer any time soon amid continuing delays to funding vital service upgrades for West Norfolk

Rail bosses admit there is no immediate prospect of West Norfolk’s services being upgraded, despite securing a regional funding package of more than £2 billion.

Network Rail officials say they are still developing detailed construction plans to enable longer trains to run between Lynn and Cambridge.

But a borough MP has accused them of failing to deliver on earlier promises.

Network Rail announced on Thursday it had been awarded £2.2 billion to renew and maintain infrastructure on the region’s network for the period up to 2024.

But even though company officials have previously stated that longer eight-coach trains would run from around now, instead of the current four coach units, no update was given on the project.

In a further statement, Network Rail said it appreciated the urgency of the issue, but added: “We are currently producing a detailed construction programme to allow eight-car trains to operate during peak periods between Cambridge and King’s Lynn.

“This hasn’t yet been finalised, but once it is we will notify the community about the start of the works and any periods when the railway will need to be closed.”

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham claimed that represented a downgrade of earlier commitments which he says must be met.

He said: “They have rowed back and they have given no reason for so doing.”

West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long said he understood the situation had been complicated by the need for multiple stakeholders to agree to the plan.

But he said the situation was “urgent” and only likely to worsen without swift action.

He added: “It’s disappointing and desperately frustrating that the eight-coach-trains project has yet to be properly signed off by the Department of Transport or Network Rail.

“We would urge them to get final sign off for this project from the Secretary of State so that work can commence as soon as possible.”

King’s Lynn BID chairman Darren Taylor added: “Network Rail have made unambiguous commitments to the works necessary to enable the introduction of eight-carriage trains.

“The business community of King’s Lynn expects them to fulfil these promises and I will do whatever I can to ensure this happens.”

Meanwhile, Network Rail has said a bid to secure funding for a long-awaited upgrade of the rail network serving West Norfolk is likely to be lodged next year.

Feasibility work is ongoing to develop plans for additional capacity around the Ely North junction.

Studies of the area have been jointly funded by the region’s local enterprise partnerships.

Now, Network Rail says it is in the “early stages” of work to develop a programme to increase capacity for both freight and passenger services.

A spokesman said: “A funding package has been agreed jointly between the Strategic Freight Network, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough Combined Authority to allow us to submit an outline business case to the DfT in 2019 to demonstrate the case for further investment and prove the benefits to deliver value for money for the tax payer.

“Additional funding sources and authorisation will need to be secured to develop the scheme further through to delivery.”

The junction has long been seen as a key stumbling block preventing the introduction of twice-hourly services to and from Lynn.

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