Tunnel vision: Proposed upgrades to Uttlesford’s train line miss the point

Network Rail

Network Rail - Credit: Archant

Network Rail has been accused of lacking ambition after proposing only “modest” upgrades to Uttlesford’s train line over the next 10 years.

The London Stansted Cambridge Consortium (LSCC) – a partnership of public and private organisations based along the fast-growing economic corridor between London and Cambridge – said it was “alarmed” by the Network Rail Anglia Route Study consultation, published yesterday (Wednesday).

In a statement, the consortium claimed the study represented a missed opportunity to bring forward proposals to deliver major improvements to the West Anglia Main Line.

Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, who has long campaigned for improvements to the route, said he, too, was “disappointed” by the proposals, while Stansted Airport’s managing director urged Network Rail to “show more ambition and greater vision to deliver faster rail services to unlock the airport’s potential”.

Speaking to the Reporter, Sir Alan said he would seek another debate in the House of Commons after describing the report as “not good enough”.

“We have a mounting situation and it’s time to galvanise people,” he said. “We have all got to put our shoulders to the wheel. Not just parliamentary representatives but other powerful players such as MAG [Manchester Airports Group} – who to their credit have been making a fuss.

“We need to keep pestering the Government and emphasise that something has to be done about the West Anglia Main Line.”

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He added: “For goodness sake, we need to improve that rail line so we can provide those high fare-paying commuters with a decent service.

“Nothing short of four-way tracking at Broxbourne would address the problems for the foreseeable future – but I’ve been told that comes with a price tag of about £1billion.”

The route study contains only modest improvement plans for the West Anglia Mainline during 2019-24, instead preferring small, incremental changes to the service on the line which, according to the LSCC, fail to address its main problems.

Stansted managing director Andrew Harrison also weighed in on the debate. He said: “We will be working with Network Rail to look again at what needs to be done to reduce journey times, and seeking a firm commitment from Government that the necessary investment on the rail line between London and Stansted Airport will be taken forward urgently as a central part of its aviation policy.”

Network Rail is going out to consultation on its Anglia Route Study Draft. To comment, e-mail AngliaRouteStudy@networkrail.co.uk before February 3 next year.