TRAM-TRAIN AND heavy rail are the preferred options for reopening of the line between March and Wisbech, according to an Options Assessment Report. The report was presented to the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee on 6 March, with a full business case anticipated to be completed by the end of June.

Welcome to Ely: Stadler-built No 755410 draws into the station on 30 October 2019 with a Norwich to Cambridge service.
Alan Wallwork

The two main options have been chosen primarily because a key objective is providing direct services between Wisbech and Cambridge, rather than just a shuttle to and from March, requiring services to run over existing lines east of March. However, provision of such through services is constrained by capacity issues at Ely, which are being addressed through the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement study (see below). The report also sets out a preferred station location at Wisbech, which it says should be as close to the town centre as possible.

According to the report, an interim solution of two trains per hour between Wisbech and March, with one continuing to Cambridge if other services can be retimed through Ely, would require a new platform at March at the west end of the old platform 3 along with an associated revised track layout. Accommodating a resilient two trains per hour service on the single line between Whitemoor Junction and Wisbech would require a passing loop at Coldham, with a single platform at Wisbech station to be capable of accommodating a two-car Class 170 but with passion provision for future extension to four cars.

Construction cost for the scheme is estimated at £200.4 million at 2019 prices, including a risk allowance but not optimism bias or land acquisition costs. Risk assessment will also be needed on the 39 level crossings between March and Cambridge if additional services are to be introduced on this stretch.

Passenger services on the March to Wisbech line ceased in 1968, although the line continued to be used by freight services until 2000.


£200 million has been allocated by the Department for Transport to deliver improvements in the Ely area during Control Period 6 (2019-24), but delivery of a full capacity enhancement scheme would cost considerably more.

A report to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee sets out the current status of the scheme. The area currently has capacity for 8.5 train paths per hour at peak times and 6.5 paths per hour off-peak, which the report says is being fully utilised with 127 train movements per day. The current study is likely to propose enhancements to either 11 or 14 paths per hour all day, with three of these being freight and the remainder passenger. For 11 paths per hour, up to £251 million of additional funding will be needed, and for 14 paths up to £351 million more.

Improvements required in the Ely area include improvements to structures to allow removal of speed restrictions, layout changes at the station, signalling headway reductions, particularly for freight, traction power upgrades and a range of level crossing interventions.