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Norfolk's Fen line - the next transport battle?

Deborah McGurran | 18:23 UK time, Friday, 4 February 2011

Fen Line rail


The A11's going to be dualled... Stansted's second runway has been scrapped... could the next big transport battle in the East be over Norfolk's Fen Line?

The route from Kings Lynn to London takes in Downham Market, Littleport, Ely and Waterbeach, before it gets to Cambridge. The one hour 40 minute service to the capital has a reputation for punctuality and it's one of the reasons why so many commuters have moved into the Fens.

The Department of Transport was planning to improve the line by extending the Thameslink network all the way to Kings Lynn. Now it seems that's not going to happen. Thameslink will only go as far as Cambridge.

"The design of the rolling stock offered by the remaining bidders will currently preclude the new Thameslink trains serving stations to Kings Lynn," says the Department of Transport in a statement.

"This is primarily because the power supply on the route to Kings Lynn is not capable of supporting the longer trains and many of the platforms on this route would be too short."

The Government says the number of direct through services between King's Lynn and London will be "similar" to the present set up but MPs along the route fear that without an upgrade the line through Norfolk to Cambridge will become a second rate service.

That could make it prone to cuts in the future, perhaps even bringing an end to direct services.

"I'm sure services will continue, says Elizabeth Truss, the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk. "The question is about the quality of those rail services."

"It's not just about commuters, it's about the economic development of the area. Cambridge is doing very well at the moment, we want to see the economic benefits of this growth go all the way up the line to Kings Lynn."

Another MP, Stephen Barclay, the MP for North East Cambridgeshire, fears the Thameslink extension has fallen victim to spending cuts.

"The service is planned to stop at Cambridge, yet the cost of electrification beyond there would be £60m to £80m out of a £5.5bn overall cost," he told the House of Commons.

Both MPs have now secured a meeting with the Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers, to see if there is any way of extending Thameslink to Kings Lynn and making the case for the importance of the Fen Line.


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