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No mention of Wisbech rail in 32-page Eastern Powerhouse election ‘manifesto’

Manifesto calls for single elected Mayor or ‘Governor’ for the East

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Fenland District Council may have become only the second local authority to become a member – East Cambridgeshire was the first – but any mention of re-opening the Wisbech to March rail line has been excluded from the 32-page election manifesto of Eastern Powerhouse.

The East Anglian “dynamic, business-led, independent organisation” chaired by James Palmer, former East Cambs Council leader and first devolved mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, makes no mention of Wisbech in the section of the manifesto calling for major rail improvements across the east.

“Enhancements to the East’s railway network is urgently required to improve rail travel and boost productivity,” says their manifesto.

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It then lists what it believes are the schemes that “represent the strategic priorities for the region, which we would like a new government to take forward”.

1: The Ely Area Capacity Enhancement (EACE) programme. This would enable more frequent freight and passenger services across the region.

This would include improved signalling, remodelled junctions, strengthened bridges.

2: Soham doubling. This would build on the EACE scheme to further increase freight and passenger service frequencies between Felixstowe, Ipswich, Ely, and Peterborough.

Measures should include track doubling, line speed and signalling improvements, and a second platform at Soham station.

3: Felixstowe electrification. This would enable electric freight and passenger services (initially only via London). Enhancement in Bury St Edmunds.

This would build on improvements in the Ely and Soham areas. It would provide a further uplift in freight and passenger capacity.

4: Essex Thameside improvements.

5: West Anglia Mainline improvements. This would improve journey times from London to Stansted Airport and Cambridge could be improved by completing a range of upgrades Great Eastern Mainline improvements.

This would build on the delivery of Crossrail, new trains and the Beaulieu passing loop.

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6: Newmarket line improvements. Installing a double track between Coldham Lane Junction and Newmarket to increase passenger service frequency.

7: Extension of the planned East West Rail. To include upgrades to the lines between Cambridge and Norwich, Cambridge, and Ipswich.

8: Transform railway stations into vibrant business hubs across the region. There are 52 railway stations in the East, most of which are underutilised, despite being on major transport routes.

The land around railway stations should be redeveloped, where possible, to provide mixed use development including housing, business premises and lab space for start-ups in the new economy.

This should prioritise strategic sites along major transport corridors and close to key sectors in the region.

The manifesto also has a section suggesting that what the East needs is a regional mayor for the entire region.

“The question of regional governance must be raised when thinking about the appropriate scale needed to deliver infrastructure development across the East,” says the manifesto.

“There is one Mayor of London, responsible for 9 million people and 32 London boroughs.

“The current position in the East allows for one Mayoral Combined Authority in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough. This could follow with two county deals with directly elected ‘leaders’ in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“This will leave the East at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with large city Mayors, not just in London but in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and elsewhere.”

The manifesto adds: “The issue to be considered is whether a single ‘Mayor’ for the East is better than multiple Mayors, tied to smaller county boundaries. Failing agreement for a single elected role, a ‘Council of the East’ comprising directly elected leaders for all areas in the East should be formed.

“A single elected Mayor or ‘Governor’ for the East. Responsible for 7 million people, this would become the second most powerful Mayor in the country.”

You can access the full manifesto here:

https://www.easternpowerhouse.uk/_files/ugd/135aec_3f698dd2ef924010a9d33fe472a9a812.pdf

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