A report showing the continuing growth in passengers using the rail line between Cambridge and King’s Lynn shows the urgent need for service improvements, campaigners say.
Figures from the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) show the number of passengers using stations on the Fen Line rose by six per cent to more than 4.2 million in the year to the end of March.
The study, which was published yesterday, estimates the number of passengers who either entered or exited every station in the UK during the year to the end of March.
The biggest rise was at Waterbeach, where numbers soared by 11 per cent to 381.202. while the total at Watlington was up by nine per cent to over 143,000.
In King’s Lynn, 970,890 people passed through the station during that period, up more than six per cent on the previous year and cementing its position as Norfolk’s second busiest station, behind Norwich.
Meanwhile, Downham Market’s total was up nearly seven per cent to 491,744, making it the county’s fourth busiest station, moving ahead of Yarmouth.
The slowest rise was at the line’s busiest station, Ely, which was used by more than two million passengers.
Robert Stripe, vice-chairman of the Fen Line Users’ Association, said: “Explosive Fen Line growth comes as no surprise, when you try to board an already packed train from an even more packed platform.
“We desperately need more and longer trains and the longer platforms to accommodate them.”
The report is also a major boost to rail campaigners in this area, following the recent announcement of a delay to the long-awaited works on the Ely North junction, a major bottleneck on the Fen line and other routes.
Network Rail, the body responsible for maintaining and upgrading the country’s rail network, now says the multi-million pound project will not start until 2019 at the earliest, when its next spending period begins.
The announcement three weeks ago also cast major doubt on the long-awaited launch of half-hourly trains between West Norfolk and London, which had been scheduled to start in May 2017.
But the company has signalled its intention to introduce eight carriage trains between Lynn and Cambridge, instead of the current four coach services, during 2016.
And the association, which is calling for planning work on Ely North to start immediately despite the delay, says the figures strengthen their case for major investment in the borough’s rail links.
Group chairman Colin Sampson said: “If anything makes the case for eight-car trains, a half-hourly service and the Ely North Junction upgrade, surely this latest ORR information is it.”