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Transport links debate boosted by rail meeting

Wednesday, 12th June 2013.

Railway campaigners may not have got much immediate encouragement from last night's consultation meeting, but they have moved the debate about Haverhill's transport links forward.

The Cambridge to Colchester Rail Project had joined forces with Haverhill Town Council to hold a meeting bringing together the main players locally in the rail debate - businesses and local authorities.

But the rail campaign got less support from business representatives than they had hoped. Although all were keen for a railway in an ideal world, they preferred to concentrate on more immediate improvements to the A1307 and to public transport for Haverhill.

Rail campaigners made it clear they wanted the debate to cover these areas as well, and by the end of the meeting it was agreed that representatives of the six main players at the meeting - Haverhill Towen Council, the rail renewal project, town businesses, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council - would meet again to take the ideas which came up forward.

It was also agreed to hold a public meeting in the near future to gauge the view of residents.

The business community felt it was important to know if there was a busness case for a railway.

Robert Maidment from Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Suffolk Development Agency transport group said the railway would only be a social benefit.

For an economic benefit to Haverhill it was necessary to get the A1307 dualled to Four Went Ways, he said. That was what businesses wanted.

Cllr Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's new portfolio holder for transport, said he had had a lifelong interest in railways and knew about the 'tragedy' of Haverhill's rail link being cut just weeks after a major expansion of the town was announced in the 1960s.

He supported a long-term vision for rail reinstatement, but thought improving other links was more realistic.

"I could bring all the support and enthusiasm in the world to it, but the Government just doesn't seem to be keen on re-opening raillines at present," he said.

He said one kilometre of railway recently created near Ipswich had cost 49million.

Ian Gallin, chief executive of St Edmundsbury, said they were supportive of Haverhill's future and were in talks with Cambridgeshire about highway improvements.

Cambridgeshire County Council were not represented but sent a letter saying they would be 'very interested' to hear the results of the meeting.

Currently they were preparing a transport strategy that involved looking at High Quality Passenger Transport along the A1307 corridor, including reinstating the railway.

Public consultation on this would run from July to September.

Cllr Tony Brown, recently elected as UKIP member of Suffolk County Council for Haverhill asked about private finance for a railway and was told by Mr Maidment this would never happen because railways never made any money.

He thought a railway would be of 'small' benefit to Haverhill.

Esther Conell of the A1307 steering group asked if there was a transport strategy for Haverhill, other than a sentence at the end of Suffolk's strategy.

Town clerk Will Austin said Haverhill Town Council had not done one because there was a highways and transport authority to do it, ie Suffolk County Council.

Rodney Kerr, a transport expert who has worked with Suffolk County Council, told the meeting he had liaised with Stansted Airport who had agreed to put up 400,000 toward starting an hourly express bus service from Bury St Edmunds to Stansted via Haverhill.

Greater Anglia had accepted it as a bus/rail route and would denominate Haverhill as a station, with tickets bought on line as rail tickets.

The route would run 23 hours a day and was deliverable in eight weeks, although it might need some support funding.

Nic Rumsey of Carisbrooke, developers of Haverhill Business Park and Haverhill Research Park, said this could be used as a model and, if it was successful, a similar scheme could be set up to Cambridge along the A1307.

Haverhill Online News

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