County-wide light railway plan unveiled by new mayor

Councillor James Palmer

Councillor James Palmer - Credit: Archant

Proposals for a light railway to connect Cambridgeshire’s market towns with the county’s cities have been unveiled by the mayor.

The scheme has been made a priority by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, led by mayor James Palmer, who wants to see a sustainable transport network set up across the county.

According to the deputy mayor, Councillor Robin Howe, who has backed the proposal, a feasibility study has already been commissioned, with funds put aside for the initial work to be carried out.

“It is a real game-changing idea if we can get our market towns linked into the main cities, Cambridge and Peterborough, via a light railway and for Cambridge city in particular there is an underground system being considered,” Cllr Howe said.

“The whole business of getting to and from work will be transformed. This is a massive project but it is no more massive than the metro in Tyneside – it is well tried and tested technology.”

If the light railway scheme is proved viable it could stretch to Wisbech, near the border with Norfolk, and to Haverhill, in Suffolk. St Neots could also be included as part of the scheme.

Separately, transport infrastructure in Huntingdonshire market towns Huntingdon, St Ives, and Ramsey, will be looked at as part of a series of master plans.

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“This light rail system is a very innovative way and relatively speaking it’s cheap, cheaper than other modes like a full-blown railway which will need multiple buildings,” Councillor Howe added.

“It will definitely go out to Wisbech and it will go to Haverhill, and go to St Neots.

“The network is being planned at the moment but, of course, it would take multiple years to develop.”

However, there is a concern that with the amount of feasibility studies planned from the combined authority there will not be enough funds left to deliver the light railway and other planned projects.

The concerns were highlighted to Mr Palmer by Councillor Lucy Nethsingha at the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee on June 26.

Cllr Nethsingha said: “There is clearly a danger in your plan that you spend all the money on feasibility studies and you don’t get that investment that comes in and therefore there is no money left to actually deliver any of these projects.”

It is expected that the feasibility study will be completed by December.