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Rejection of Haverhill rail restoration funding bid is 'not the end of the line' for campaign group

A campaign group has pledged to continue to ‘drive forward’ its aspirations to restore the railway between Haverhill and Cambridge after its bid for government funding for the project failed.

Railfuture East Anglia’s bid to receive a grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) Restoring Your Railway (RYR) Fund to reconnect Haverhill to the national rail network was submitted last March.

It hoped to get a grant for 75 per cent of costs, up to £50,000, to help fund transport and economic studies and create a business case for restoring the railway between Haverhill and Shelford with frequent through services to Cambridge South, Central and North stations.

The railway network that Railfuture East Anglia hopes to create. Submitted image
The railway network that Railfuture East Anglia hopes to create. Submitted image

Railfuture East Anglia’s vision was for new stations at Sawston, Linton, Granta Park, Haverhill and a journey time of 19 minutes from Haverhill to Cambridge South, 22 minutes to Cambridge Central and 27 minutes to Cambridge North.

A statement from Railfuture East Anglia said: “We will be working with local MPs and authorities and continue to drive forward this scheme which will transform Haverhill with fast high quality public transport links to jobs, healthcare and leisure in Cambridge alongside significant new housing planned for the town.

“The scheme has the strong support of the people of Haverhill and district with 5,000 signatures on Rail Haverhill’s petition calling for the railway to be restored.”

Greater Anglia Trains
Greater Anglia Trains

In a letter to the sponsoring MP Matt Hancock, the proposal was found “suitable for Restoring Your Railway funding in principle” and “a good case for future development” butwas turned down for funding in the third round of the Ideas Fund because of the number of other applications and the limited funding available.

It has been advised that other sources of funding are available, including a “Levelling Up Fund” and the DfT team have been asked to “keep the scheme under review for a future point”.

A problem the RYR team identified with the proposal was that “some stakeholders support the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) - Haverhill is one of the terminating stops in CAM”.

Matt Hancock MP for West Suffolk, sponsored the funding bid
Matt Hancock MP for West Suffolk, sponsored the funding bid

However, since RYR fund decision was made earlier in the year the transport landscape has changed with the Cambridge Autonomous Metro no longer being planned following the election of a new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

In the last few months, added the campaign group, it has seen an increasing interest in the idea of reopening the railway, unfortunately too late to influence the RYR bid, and putting the scheme in a strong position to be achieved using alternative sources of funding.

The summary of the bid noted that “The applicant presents a strong proposal, compelling narrative and clearly outlines significant wider benefits”.

The summary of the bid also commented that “The proposal presents a strong case for change with clearly described wider socio-economic benefits.

“There are clear links to the newly approved development area in North-East Cambridge, centred around Cambridge North railway station, which has provision for 20,000 new jobs plus 8,000 new dwellings.

“The proposal also highlights that the transport links will provide improved access to the sixth forms.

“The proposal has clearly identified the links to local policies and strategy document”.

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