CrossCountry rail changes ‘deeply disappointing’ for Cambridgeshire, says mayor James Palmer and council leader Steve Count
Mayor James Palmer and county council leader Steve Count have said they are deeply disappointed by the lack of ambition in plans to improve CrossCountry rail services.
Longer trains and 5,000 more seats for passengers across the Midlands from May were announced on Monday, but the Conservative politicians criticised their lack of support for Fenland commuters to Cambridge and London.
Mr Palmer, mayor for the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “This talk of levelling up and putting passengers at the heart of the railway is just not reflected in the announcement.
“The CrossCountry service would be the easiest and cheapest way to improve the rail service to Fenland Stations at Manea, March and Whittlesey.”
Cllr Count said: “We want to see more stopping train services between Whittlesey, March, Manea and Cambridge North from early in the morning to late at night. This is critical to allow people from outside Cambridge to access jobs and housing more easily and spread the wealth being created by Cambridge.”
There are also a further 15,000 weekly seats planned next year for routes including Cambridge to Stansted Airport.
But the politicians wants to see a doubling in frequency of services between Stansted, Cambridge and Peterborough from hourly to half-hourly, along with later services from Monday to Saturday so that people in the fens “can have confidence in working in Cambridge and London and commuting via rail”.
Cllr Count added: “Myself and Mayor James Palmer acknowledge, after all the effort we’ve invested into this, that phase two – Birmingham to Stansted – will increase capacity on existing trains by two or three carriages by May 2021.
“However, we are disappointed we have to wait a year and it still doesn’t go far enough in providing the services that the people in Fenland towns deserve. We will continue to speak to government about what more can be done.”
Mr Palmer added: “The CrossCountry service would be the easiest and cheapest way to improve the rail service to Fenland stations at Manea, March and Whittlesey. Currently almost all the services do not stop at Whittlesea and Manea stations or do not run with enough frequency or late enough in the evenings.”
He said the announcement focused on only one of the five recommendations he made when he met with the operators, and responded to the franchise consultation and Williams Rail Review.
More by this authorPaul Brackley