Press release -
Completion of rail project doubles space and seats on Great Northern trains for Fen Line passengers
High-resolution images from stations including Cambridge, King's Lynn, Waterbeach and Littleport are available to download below
Great Northern and Network Rail today (Friday 11 December) gave passengers on the Fen Line between Cambridge and King’s Lynn a taste of the new twice-longer eight-carriage service that will boost space and seats on trains from Sunday (13 December).
The first all-stations eight-carriage train departed Cambridge at 11:37 and arrived at King’s Lynn at 12:31, to the delight of local supporters and representatives of the rail industry.
Network Rail, in a programme funded by the Department for Transport, has built a new siding outside King’s Lynn station for Great Northern’s longer trains, and extended platforms at Littleport and Waterbeach to allow eight-carriage services to stop there.
Previously services for all stations to King's Lynn had only four carriages beyond Cambridge, and trains turning around at Ely had eight carriages but could not stop at Waterbeach. The hourly service at Waterbeach will now be half hourly.
Great Northern has revised its operational procedures and made carriages available to provide the longer trains. They’ll add over 2,000 extra seats to morning trains arriving in Cambridge. This will make it easier for passengers to socially distance and, when passengers return post-pandemic, help passengers find a seat on busier services.
The Fen Line has seen significant improvements over recent years to provide better services and improved connectivity for passengers, including the introduction of new air-conditioned Class 387 Great Northern trains and the opening of Cambridge North station, both in 2017.
Right now, while social distancing remains in place, passenger numbers remain historically low. Providing more space on trains at this time will help passengers feel more confident about travelling on the network and maintain social distancing until passengers return in greater numbers.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “These improvements to the local rail network will provide better connectivity for passengers on this important commuter route.”
“Longer trains will give passengers a better service, improving the network in a key part of the country as we continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Great Northern and Thameslink Managing Director Tom Moran said: “This long-awaited news will make a real difference for our passengers on the Fen Line between King’s Lynn and Cambridge.
“I’m so impressed by the collaborative work we’ve seen between Great Northern, Network Rail and the communities along this route.
“By doubling the length of so many trains, we’ll add 2,000 seats every morning which will make it easier for passengers to socially distance and, when people return after the pandemic, get a seat.”
Sarah-Jane Crawford, Network Rail’s Principal Programme Sponsor for Anglia, said: “I am extremely proud of everyone that has worked so hard for the last 15 months to deliver the infrastructure upgrades that will allow longer trains to run on the Fen Line from this weekend.
“The upgrade work on this busy commuter route has been long in the planning and I want to thank passengers and line side neighbours for their support and patience while we have been working on their line and in their communities to deliver this important project.”
John Grant, chairman of the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA), said: “We welcome this major boost to Great Northern services for Fen Line passengers, which will help with social distancing now and relieve overcrowding when ridership gets back to normal. We are pleased that Waterbeach now has a half-hourly service and would like to congratulate Network Rail for completing the work on schedule despite the pandemic.”
Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said: “It is great news that the eight car trains will come into service this month. This is an issue I have been campaigning on for some time and in 2017 met the then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to secure the commitment for the longer trains.
“I know the improvements will be welcomed by all travellers on the Kings Lynn to London route and with future ambitions for increased economic growth and housing in West Norfolk. The additional carriages will significantly ease the over-crowding on what is an extremely popular rail route.”
James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, said: “It is great news that this important upgrade has been completed and the introduction of longer trains on this key route will boost capacity and make for a better experience for passengers.
“This multimillion-pound investment is part of the government’s plans to help boost economic growth in North West Norfolk and more widely. I congratulate Network Rail, Great Northern, and everyone involved in delivering this infrastructure project in challenging circumstances that will benefit so many people in King’s Lynn and along the Fen Line."
Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, said: “I welcome the news. I am particularly pleased that this Government-funded project has been undertaken alongside the extension of the platform at Waterbeach station, which will increase capacity so that more of my constituents can make use of this improved and important service. I know both Network Rail and Great Northern have been working hard to complete this project safely despite the restrictions in place due to Covid-19, and I look forward to hearing from my constituents about their experience of using the new service.”
Notes for editors
- Longer trains will start to call at all stations on the Fen line from Sunday 13 December.
- Network Rail’s principal contractor, VolkerFitzpatrick carried out the work to construct:
- A new siding just outside King’s Lynn station to provide the operational capacity to park and store the longer trains ready for the first and last service of the day.
- A platform 2 extension at Littleport to accommodate longer trains with platform lighting and , new stairs and ramped access to platform 1.
- Platform extensions to both platforms at Waterbeach to accommodate the longer trains with platform lighting and a shelter.
- Number of standard class seats on 17 services arriving in Cambridge from King’s Lynn or Ely up to and including 11.36am increases from 3,654 to 5,887 (60%). Reduction in ‘passengers in excess of seats’ by approximately 80%, assuming passenger numbers are the same as pre-Covid. Example: 07.49 from King’s Lynn arrived pre-Covid at Cambridge with over 200 more people than there were seats. When this service is doubled in length to eight carriages there should be a seat for everyone if they use the full length of the train.
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
- Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
- Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
- Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria
www.southernrailway.com, www.thameslinkrailway.com, www.gatwickexpress.com, www.greatnorthernrail.com