Commuters in Cambridgeshire received another rail-related boost today with the news that Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has approved Network Rail’s scheme to remove a major railway bottleneck at Hitchin in Hertfordshire, heralding quicker journeys and more trains on the line between London, Cambridge and King’s Lynn.
Today, trains travelling from London King’s Cross have to cross three other lines to switch between the East Coast Main Line and the line to Cambridge. This reduces capacity for other services and makes the railway less reliable when delays occur.
The new rail link will avoid these problems completely, taking the line to Cambridge over the East Coast Main Line, cutting delays to train services by nearly 30,000 minutes every year and helping create the capacity to run more services to and from the capital every hour when future timetables are developed.
Improving the railway at Hitchin Cambridge junction will solve the problems caused by the current track layout and help meet growing demand on the railway. Over the past decade, the number of passengers travelling between Peterborough and London has increased by 35% with an 18% increase in journeys between London and Cambridge. This growth is expected to continue in the long term, as is freight traffic.
Richard Lungmuss, Network Rail route director, said: “As passenger numbers continue to rise it’s essential that we maintain investment in our rail network to provide extra capacity and support economic growth. The new rail link at Hitchin will benefit passengers across Cambridgeshire, bringing quicker and more reliable journeys on the line to Cambridge and King’s Lynn and helping reduce delays on the busy East Coast Main Line to Huntingdon and Peterborough.”
The go-ahead for the Hitchin link comes in the same week that Network Rail announced it had received more than £2m of private investment to improve and expand the main ticket hall at Cambridge station and only weeks before work starts to boost capacity at the station with the addition of two new platforms and a fully-accessible footbridge with lifts.
The new platforms are crucial to train operator National Express East Anglia’s plans to improve train services and provide more seats for passengers on the line to Liverpool Street in 2011, with the introduction of new, longer trains in December.
Work on the Hitchin rail link is planned to start later this year, with trains able to run on the new line in early 2014.