'We’re right on track' as West Norfolk commuters told long-awaited rail upgrade on the way
As HS2 plans face fresh doubt, commuters in West Norfolk have been reassured that a long-awaited rail upgrade here will be completed.
The pledge was made as industry bosses set out their plans for the work necessary to allow longer trains to run between Lynn and Cambridge.
But residents living close to the proposed site for new infrastructure in the town have urged them to look at an alternative area, which they say is more suitable.
Network Rail officials staged a drop-in event at King’s Lynn Town Football Club on Wednesday to give more details of the project which is meant to enable eight-coach trains, instead of the current four-coach units, to run from late 2020.
The session came just hours after an independent review of the multi-billion pound high speed project was announced by the government.
But Natasha Roberts, Network Rail’s senior sponsor for the Lynn programme, insisted it was “very unlikely” it would be derailed, following the announcement of a £27 million funding package earlier this month.
She said: “We are fully funded to deliver this project. We are preparing to go on site. It would have to be quite a significant event [to cancel].”
She added that, with the scheme due to be completed by next July, the longer trains could also come into service earlier than the currently scheduled date of December 2020.
She said: “If we can do it any earlier, we will.”
The Lynn element of the project involves the construction of a new siding on land near the line and close to residential streets including Extons Road, Avenue Road and Park Avenue.
There will also be a new footpath for drivers to get to and from the station. Platform extensions are also planned at Littleport and Waterbeach.
Exploratory work on the Lynn site is due to start next month with the main construction period beginning in November and expected to finish in the spring.
Officials have admitted the work will impact on nearby communities and say they are doing all they can to minimise that.
But some residents raised their concerns with Network Rail and their contractors, VolkerFitzpatrick, during the session and urged them to consider an alternative site close to the level crossing on Tennyson Road.
One of them, Kerron Abel, said that area would be less disruptive to residents and also able to accommodate the longer units.
And although he admitted he was not reassured by Network Rail’s pledges, he said local officials and developers behind a controversial industrial estate plan for the area, approved earlier this year, could “learn something” from their approach.
He said: “At least Network Rail have come out of the woodwork and demonstrated why they need it. I don’t agree with it but they’ve demonstrated their reasons. They can put it somewhere else.”
But, although officials say they will look at the alternative put forward, Network Rail has bought the land where the siding is proposed and does not need planning permission to build it there.
Borough councillor, and long-time rail campaigner, Andy Tyler said: “The priority has to be to get this extra capacity on the line as soon as possible.”