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MP offers to help rail renewal campaigners

Friday, 26th November 2010.

Enthusiasts campaigning for the revival of Haverhill's rail link received a boost last night when the town's new MP Matthew Hancock turned up to their meeting to lend his support.

The Cambridge To Sudbury Rail Renewal Association meeting at Haverhill Arts Centre, had been hoping for a response to letters it sent out after a previous meeting, stating the renewed case for the project.

Of 17 East Anglian MPs written to in the wake of the General Election in May, only five had replied, some supportive, but Sir Alan Haselhurst, MP for Saffron Walden, expressing 'grave doubts'.

The group had also written to Haverhill's town centre manager Tina Hanks and to Mr Hancock, inviting them to attend the next meeting.

Ms Hanks attended, but in a private capacity as a local resident, and offered to mhelp in any way she could because she said she was 'a great fan of public transport'.

During the meeting Mr Hancock arrived. He told the group money was obviously tight at present, but this was the time to be working up a case for the railway.

"Nobody thinks a spade is going into the ground tomorrow on this project," he said, "but you should be putting the business case together."

The business case would be made up of thge practicality of the project, the cost of delivery and the likely market, but he said other elements like the safety argument about the A1307 were very strong and would be a bonus.

The group had written to the Ministry of Transport and received a reply that it would be 'looked into in due course'.

Mr Hancock said he would follow this up with the transport minister responsible for rail, Theresa Villiers.

Mr Hancock said once a case was put together, he would make sure it reached the right department. If the Government wanted to consider the idea further it would then be likely to carry out a much more detailed study for itself.

Also present at the meeting was Ben Green of Cheffins, representing developers Carisbrooke, who have built Haverhill Business Park and also have land at Hanchet End which is being considered for development.

Mr Green said Carisbrooke were very interested in any transport scheme linking the business and research parks along the A1307 - Addenbrookes, Granta Park, Babraham and Haverhill.

Ms Hanks pointed out St Edmundsbury Borough Council's view was that rail renewal was highly unlikely but that a guided bus might be possible.

The group was extremely sceptical about any guided bus project in the light of the Cambridge experience.

Secretary David Edwards said a guided bus would cost 200million when the railway could have gone back for 50million.

The Cambridge one had been an unmitigated disaster and was still not operating.

"No guided bus system is operating successfully anywhere in the world," he said. "They had one in Australia for six months and the guy involved with it flew over here especially to tell Cambridge not to do it.

"A railway from Haverhill to Cambridge would pay for its cost within five years."

Haverhill is one of the most poorly-served towns of its size in the country for transport infrastructure.

It is high up on the list of larger towns without a railway link, and of those is one of the farthest away from the nearest station. Its main arterial road was downgraded from the A604 primary route to the A1307, and it now has no National Express coach service.

Members of the group pointed out this was ironical in tne light of the amount of new development planners still expected to be built in the town.

Haverhill Online News

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