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Response to proposed 2018 Great Northern weekend timetable

A train speeding along a railway line through a station

Published: Wednesday, 6th December 2017

On behalf of the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Fen Line Users Association and the King's Lynn Business Improvement District.

Outperforming passenger growth, but Fen Line services to be worsened.

The Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA), and the King’s Lynn Business Improvement District Ltd today expressed their dismay with the proposed 2018 weekend timetable for the King’s Lynn to King’s Cross rail route.

As under their earlier proposals for Mondays to Fridays, the rail company envisages Saturday journeys becoming much longer, many taking an extra 12 or 14 minutes.

On 29 November, Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, told Parliament: "I am doing what we need to do, which is to deliver better journeys, better journey times and new trains for passengers, which is what they want above all."

New official station usage estimates for 2016/17, released on 1 December, confirm King’s Lynn, Downham Market, Ely and Waterbeach stations, all in East Anglia’s top 20% busiest stations band, as consistently being four of the region’s fastest growing stations, over periods of 1 year, 5 years and 10 years.

Despite the sustained growth in passenger numbers, the current timetable proposals for longer journeys risk jeopardising the Fen Line’s success story.

Great Northern’s weekend proposals are out for consultation until 20 December 2017.

Govia Thameslink Railway (Great Northern) acts for Government as a management contractor.

Earlier in the year, the three bodies called on the Government to:

  • Explore ways of maintaining and improving existing journey times between King’s Lynn and King’s Cross (allowing for the additional, welcome, stops at the employment hub around the new Cambridge North station)
  • Honour the clear commitment for a ‘half-hourly’ King’s Lynn and King’s Cross, initially extending the times of day when ‘half-hourly’ services do run.

The current negative proposals give added urgency to these calls.

The second track between King’s Lynn and Watlington and between Downham Market and Littleport was removed as an economy measure in 1984/5. The anachronistic single line bottlenecks impose severe limits on the scheduling of trains, leading to the longer overall journey times now being proposed.

The three bodies therefore reiterate their earlier call for the Government to:

  • Adopt a minimum two-track railway between King’s Lynn and King’s Cross, equipped to accommodate 12-car trains, as a clear long-term strategic aim. Ensure that short-term plans are fully assessed to ensure they do not conflict with this ultimate goal.
  • Instruct the West Anglia Task Force to develop proposals for full re-doubling of the single line sections to remove the root determinant of the places where and the times when trains can pass one another.

Councillor Brian Long, leader of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, said: “We’ve heard much about the promised work on Ely North Junction that is to take place, but that will inevitably be a long process. We also want the single-line sections between there and King’s Lynn returned to a two-track line. The single-track bottlenecks result in a sub-standard level of service, which Great Northern is now proposing to downgrade further, with even longer journey times.

"Our line is one of East Anglia’s most consistent heavy-hitters – official figures just out show what we know already from our packed trains – passenger numbers are up yet another year. We urge rail users to respond to Great Northern’s consultation, which closes on 20 December, and tell them what they think.”

Colin Sampson, Chairman of the Fen Line Users Association, said: “We’ve said before that more and more people are travelling to Cambridge and London and that they expect a decent train service. The growth isn’t a flash in the pan – just look at the official statistics, which show strong passenger growth year after year. Not delivering the promised ‘half-hourly’ frequency is bad enough, but now they’re thinking of slowing things down on top of that. FLUA thinks fares should be reduced to compensate, not going up again. Many journeys would be 15% longer if this goes through, so we’re looking for at least a 10% price cut on all fares.”

Darren Taylor, Chairman of King’s Lynn BID Ltd, added: “King’s Lynn businesses are getting increasingly fed-up with false promises and a lack of action from Great Northern. I welcome the bigger trains, but not the long delays before they are to be introduced, maybe over a year away, but we need them twice an hour, all day. I’m concerned that the Fen Line, and King’s Lynn specifically, is yet again being overlooked in favour of investment that will benefit other towns and cities in the East. We need to make our dissatisfaction clear to Government.”


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