Services on the 29 mile route between Ely and Peterborough, which also serves Whittlesea, March and Manea, will continue to be operated by train companies, including Abellio Greater Anglia. However, this will now be with the support of the Hereward Community Rail Partnership (CRP), comprising of local organisations, train operators, councils, rail users and other interest groups, which will have direct input in securing better services and station facilities.
Enabling the community to design train services according to local needs will help increase passenger numbers and improve connectivity to key destinations.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said:
This railway provides a vital link for rural communities, businesses and visitors across the Fens. It makes perfect sense that locals should be directly involved in improving these services and identifying priorities for developing the route.
I look forward to seeing the Hereward Line Community Rail Partnership help give a new lease of life to the route, ensuring its long-term future. This is good news for the local economy and means better journeys for customers.
Hereward Line Community Rail Partnership Chairman, Councillor Simon King, said:
This official designation will give the partnership the formal recognition it deserves. It will help us continue to play our part in improving services for local people, not least by giving us access to some additional funding.
In the 3 years since our launch we have already achieved a great deal, both in securing better train services and improving facilities at local stations. Having this more formal status will undoubtedly help us to build on those achievements.
Jamie Burles, Managing Director for Abellio Greater Anglia, said:
We’re very pleased that the Hereward Line has gained community rail designation status. The Hereward CRP has already played a valuable role in the development and promotion of this important route. Designation will provide more opportunities to build further partnerships, secure more funding for more projects and help the line continue to thrive in the future.
We have already helped increase passenger demand and community involvement, especially at Manea, where the introduction of stops on our Ipswich to Peterborough services in December 2013 has led to an increase in passenger numbers of over 135%.
Community Rail Partnerships are made up of local councils, community groups and other volunteers, which decide how lines and stations should be run. Research shows that Community Rail Partnerships are good value for money and support economic, social and environmental development in local areas. Infrastructure such as track and signalling remains under the authority of Network Rail.
Nineteen rail lines around the country have been designated by government as community lines since 2005, along with a further 20 as community rail services since 2005. These include the Wherry Lines services between Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft, which were designated in February 2007, and the East Suffolk Lines between Ipswich, Felixstowe and Lowestoft, designated as community rail services in February 2015.