17:11 Monday 21st July 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: Work starts on Monday to build the new train station in the North of Cambridge. And in Soham they also hope to open a new station. James Palmer is the Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, who is heavily involved in the project. I talked to him a little earlier, to find out just what the timetable is, and why it’s so important that Soham gets a train station again.
JAMES PALMER: It’s of primary importance in my opinion. Soham has grown very quickly. People want to live in Soham. It’s a fantastic place. Of course they would want to live here. But anybody can put houses up. Any council can do that. It’s infrastructure that must come first. So if we are to grow the town the way the town wants and to get the facilities that people who live here expect now, in my view a railway station is an absolute imperative to the growth of a town.
CHRIS MANN: How difficult is it to make that happen?
JAMES PALMER: Well it’s very difficult, because you have to deal with more than one body. Network Rail are the arbiters. They are the people who run the railway tracks in the UK. They have accepted that Soham is a place that would be able to support a railway station. We have done the figures to say that a railway station in Soham will be profitable, and we are pushing very very hard to make sure that it comes in with their timing. They are duelling the line from Soham to Ely in 2018, and we want to piggy-back that and make sure that the railway station is planned for and therefore able to be delivered in that period.
CHRIS MANN: And how much local support do you have to show evidence to them of? How many people are going to be using it, how often and so on?
JAMES PALMER: Well figures have been done by the County Council to say that the service would be used and would be profitable, with the current population. Now Soham currently is 11,000 people. It will probably grow to around 20,000 people in the next fifteen years. So there’s no two ways about it. The more people that live here, the more people will use the railway. I know people in Wicken are very excited for example that Soham Railway Station might open. It’s only a mile across the fields on the footpath from there. Also people in Fordham, Isleham etcetera are also excited that Soham will have a railway station. So we know that it would be well used. I know the people want it. I get people talking to me almost daily, saying please please please please please can you deliver. And I can assure the public that as far as both the County Council and the District Council are concerned it is an absolute primary objective.
CHRIS MANN: So the train stopping at Soham will be when?
JAMES PALMER: The station opening or the train stopping?
CHRIS MANN: The train stopping. (THEY LAUGH) Same thing isn’t it?
JAMES PALMER: Look, how long is a piece of string? I’ve said all the way along we’re aiming for the station to be built between 2017 and 2022. My guess would be, and I’m always eternally optimistic, but my guess would be 2018/ 2019 would be the target we are looking for. It’s doable. It’s possible. I will do everything I can to make sure it happens.