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Support grows for new rail link

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Column by Matthew Hancock MP
Column by Matthew Hancock MP

You may have seen in the local press recently that there is a push, led by James Palmer, the newly-elected Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, to bring a light railway to Haverhill.

Since I was elected MP for West Suffolk in 2010, this is undoubtedly one of biggest infrastructure projects to be considered for the constituency.

If we manage to get it going, a light railway will have a hugely positive impact on the residents of Haverhill and the surrounding area.

Haverhill has grown significantly in the past 50 years since there was last a rail station in Haverhill, and it is expected to grow even further. It is one of the largest towns in the country without a rail service and currently we have get to Dullingham or Cambridge to board a train.

But most likely the biggest indicator for the need for a railway is the appalling state of the A1307, the road that runs from Haverhill to Cambridge.

This overstretched and deadly road can no longer cope with the number of motorists who use it to get to and from Cambridge every day. It is beset with fatal accidents and frequent tailbacks. Rarely is it out of the news – the number tragedies on it over the past few years has been terrible, so a rail link will also improve the road.

With the backing of Mayor Palmer, and the support of Cambridgeshire MPs, as well as local councillors – there is growing support behind this ambitious, but realistic, project.

The cost of the railway link is estimated at £382million and this money will need to be found using several sources of both public and private finance.

The steering group that met last week at the House of Commons is looking towards feasibility and route studies, which is the first, and very important, step in getting the ball rolling.

The enthusiasm in Haverhill for a light railway has been extraordinary. What is very important, is that everyone I have spoken to, seems to be in complete agreement that it is a project worth fighting very hard for.

The difference it will make to thousands of people’s lives cannot be overestimated.

The ability to travel easily, in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way on a modern, light railway line is the future that we would like to see. We have Government support, we have public support, and we have the expertise of the country’s best minds in delivering ambitious projects like this – there is no reason why a light railway link from Cambridge to Haverhill should be considered anything less than a realistic prospect for the future.

-- Matthew Hancock is MP for West Suffolk