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OPINION: Let’s build a new station at Wisbech and then dare the railway not to come

A station without any trains — how utterly stupid! But is it?



Railfuture is frustrated at how long it is taking to get the Wisbech railway line reopened, but surely not as much as the people who live there and desperately want to be connected with Cambridge, Peterborough, and the wider rail network. This is how things stood in 2020 according to our website

Since then, ‘GRIP’ has been abolished and yet more studies have been undertaken.


In recent years we’ve seen major upgrades at Cambridge and Peterborough stations, with Soham and Cambridge North being opened in the region.

There has been the Hitchin flyover and the Bacon Factory Curve. (The Bacon Factory Curve, so called, refers to old Danish bacon factory in Suffolk where a rail line was improved).

Yet, Network Rail still cannot decide what type of rail-based service should operate from Wisbech and as a result nothing has happened at all.

Perhaps the reopening is seen as too large a task, with nothing happening until everything is decided.

As the saying goes, the best way of eating an elephant is one bite at a time.

The one thing that everyone can agree upon, surely, is that a railway station will be needed in Wisbech, and its location is pretty certain. Everyone also agrees what facilities are needed for a station.

So, here’s a radical thought: why not build the station now? A station without any trains — how utterly stupid! But is it?

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The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) found £18.6m for Soham station on an operational railway line. The cheapest way to build it is when the line is not operational.

But none of us want an unused station (like the international areas at Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations that Eurostar has abandoned).

In the interim, the station would be used to run a dedicated GBR-branded bus service to March and even Peterborough. It would be slower than by rail, but it would prove to everyone in Wisbech that the railway was going to happen.

People don’t put their trust in buses because the service could be cancelled with just 56 days’ notice, and who really wants to stand at a bus stop, even one of the few with a shelter?

But with a shiny new station, it would be much more attractive. Provide a proper enclosed station building, with heating for the winter, air conditioning for the summer, plenty of seats and also toilets. Include a kiosk selling refreshments, and ticket vending machines that sell not just the bus trip to March but onward rail journeys to everywhere in Britain.

Build a car park, taxi rank and obviously a bus turning circle, plus CCTV and help points as well, of course. The one thing you don’t need initially is a platform, but make sure that it can be accessed from the station building when it is built, with a wide doorway onto it.

The bus service will need subsidy, but so too would the train. Wisbech is growing so patronage will be sufficient to fill trains when they eventually arrive.

In the meantime, prove to the mandarins that there is a strong desire for a service. With the station construction cost removed, the BCR for the line reopening will increase.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have been asked to clarify that this article is the personal view of the author, not actual Railfuture policy. It is published in the June newsletter of Railfuture and re printed with their permission. 



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