James is campaigning to improve rail services and was delighted with the launch of 8 carriage services. He continues to make the case for improving Ely Junction to unlock off peak half hourly services. These are important and much needed upgrades which will reduce congestion and boost jobs and investment.
8-carriage services delivered
The Fen Line's King’s Lynn to Cambridge section is a key commuter route however, the existing infrastructure could only support four-car train formations calling at intermediate stations. With Great Northern's stopping services between Cambridge and King's Lynn limited to 4 carriages, overcrowding is a real issue in peak periods.
James supported the introduction of 8 carriages during peak services and in December 2020 he travelled on the first 8 carriage train from Lynn to Cambridge that will boost space and seats on trains. This increased capacity was made possible by a £27 million investment by the Department for Transport and infrastructure work by Network Rail to extend platform lengths at Waterbeach and Littleport stations, as well as construct a new siding at King's Lynn.
Previously services for all stations to King's Lynn had only four carriages beyond Cambridge, and trains turning around at Ely had eight carriages but could not stop at Waterbeach. The hourly service at Waterbeach will now be half hourly.
The longer trains will add over 2,000 extra seats to morning trains arriving in Cambridge. This will make it easier for passengers to socially distance and when passengers return post-pandemic, help passengers find a seat on busier services.
James said: “It is great news that this important upgrade has been completed and the introduction of longer trains on this key route will boost capacity and make for a better experience for passengers. This multimillion-pound investment is part of the government’s plans to help boost economic growth in North West Norfolk and more widely. I congratulate Network Rail, Great Northern, and everyone involved in delivering this infrastructure project in challenging circumstances that will benefit so many people in King’s Lynn and along the Fen Line."
More frequent services by improving Ely Junction
James is campaigning for investment at Ely Junction to increase capacity to 14 trains per hour which is vital to unlock off peak half hourly services from King's Lynn to King's Cross and deliver wider benefits across the area. The railway around Ely is a key constraint to allowing more trains to operate and it needs to be improved to meet the increasing demands for passenger and rail freight.
In March 2021, James was briefed on the Ely Area Capacity Enhancements rail scheme following the initial consultation period. The industry's Project Speed initiative is being applied to the programme which could see the delivery timescales brought forward whilst reducing the overall cost.
In July 2020 the minister wrote to James confirming £13 million of funding to refine the options under consideration into a preferred option and produce an outline Business Case to enhance capacity on the rail network in the Ely Area where five train lines converge.. Network Rail has been consulting on these proposals.
The programme will improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and provide additional capacity to meet demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe, the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth.
Commenting on the funding announcement, James Wild MP said:
“I’ve campaigned for better rail services for North West Norfolk and this is an important step in delivering improvements to unlock more regular services between Lynn, Cambridge, and London. Investing in rail connections is an important part of the government’s agenda to boost growth across the country.
Improving capacity at this bottleneck will bring benefits to existing passengers and businesses as well as attract new investment to drive long-term growth in the local area.”
In February 2020, James, along with other Norfolk MPs, met the Chancellor to make the case for funding for these enhancements. In May 2020, James met with the Rail Minister to review the Strategic Outline Business Case that Network Rail developed and to underline the strategic importance of these plans for West Norfolk and the wider region.