'More capacity needed on East Coast trains'

NETWORK Rail has seriously underestimated growth on the East Coast main line through Huntingdon and St Neots, which could bring problems for commuters, campaigners believe. The infrastructure company is planning for growth of 40 per cent on long-distance

NETWORK Rail has seriously underestimated growth on the East Coast main line through Huntingdon and St Neots, which could bring problems for commuters, campaigners believe.

The infrastructure company is planning for growth of 40 per cent on long-distance services to and from Kings Cross by 2016, but may have underestimated growth in commuter traffic, said Nick Dibben, secretary of Railfuture's East Anglia branch, who lives in St Ives.

"There are some positive things, however," he told The Hunts Post. "The extra platform at Peterborough is long overdue."

Network Rail's plans for the line include redeveloping Kings Cross to provide more long-distance trains to Yorkshire, the North-East and Scotland, and longer commuter trains.


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Also planned is an upgrade of the Hertford Loop diversion route that is used by commuters and high-speed trains when things go wrong between Stevenage and Alexandra Palace.

In due course commuter services will be moved from Kings Cross to adjacent St Pancras and some trains will run on the upgraded Thameslink line to south coast destinations. But in the meantime capacity could come under strain, Mr Dibben believes.

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"It's capacity between the end of this year, when we get a couple of extra units [trainsets] and when the Thameslink project starts to come in, in 2012. That leaves four years when it may start to get uncomfortable."

Mr Dibben was disappointed that Network Rail seemed not to be addressing the bottleneck at Welwyn viaduct, believing the company may be pinning its hopes on a new high-speed line to the north to relieve congestion there.

"They are also planning to double the number of freight trains to 20 a day. It's not indicated what they might be or what part of the route. It could be London's rubbish they are thinking of, but they might still be thinking about Alconbury [where there is planning consent for a rail-connected freight terminal that is too expensive to build]," he added.

Network Rail's route director, Dyan Crowther, said: "This strategy sets out how we will make the necessary investment to improve reliability while meeting the demands of rising passenger numbers and freight growth over the coming years.

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