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Appeal for Network Rail to make ‘vital’ improvements to Newmarket's trains

Representatives of Newmarket’s racing and business community, MPs and councillors, have joined forces to put pressure on Network Rail to invest more in the town’s passenger rail services.

At a conference held at the Jockey Club Rooms, speakers outlined the rail priorities for the town including a half-hourly service to Cambridge and direct rail links with Oxford, London, the Midlands and the north of England.

Newmarket Racecourses boss and East Cambridgeshire district councillor Amy Starkey said investment in Newmarket’s rail infrastructure was vital to make the town more accessible for the community and for visitors and racegoers.

Rachel Hood, Amy Starkey, Lucy Frazer, Matt Hancock, Frances Stanley at East West Rail Conference (16432168)
Rachel Hood, Amy Starkey, Lucy Frazer, Matt Hancock, Frances Stanley at East West Rail Conference (16432168)

Currently the town, which once had three stations, has one train an hour leaving for Cambridge, with frequency limited by the single line which exists between the town and the city.

Network Rail was asked to carry out a study into the feasibility of doubling part or all of the line and provide a cost estimate. But, as part of its Cambridge Corridor study, it concluded it did not need to do any work doubling the track until at least 2043, despite the use of the service from Newmarket station increasing by 56 per cent in five years from 2012 to 2017.

The glory days: Newmarket's 'new' station in 1905 with its double track
The glory days: Newmarket's 'new' station in 1905 with its double track

“We want to get something done now and we can achieve a double line between Newmarket and Cambridge,” said Cllr Starkey. “Wehave an opportunity and we can’t sit around and wait until 2043. We don’t want to and we don’t need to.

“Rail has played a crucial role in the history of horseracing in Newmarket and it has a vital part to play in its future. We have exciting ambitions for the town, including plans to open a new all-weather racecourse,but in order to ensure that our growth is sustainable we need a high quality and well connected transport system to make our town more accessible to our community, visitors, racegoers, employees and investors.

“Opening Newmarket to a wider audience cannot be achieved by relying on roads alone. It is rail that has the potential to better connect our town across the county, the region and the country.” And appealing for support from the community, she added: “We can do this, we all need to work together to achieve change.”

Newmarket MP Matt Hancock said: “We needed a plan to plonk on the desk of the Secretary of State for Transport and, for the first time,there is a plan to back. We have a clear message that key organisations across Suffolk and Norfolk must continue to work together to make the case for improved rail connectivity in the east of England and I will continue to press the government and Network Rail, which is accountable to Parliament, to invest in more frequent passenger rail services at Newmarket and provide wider rail connectivity through East Anglia and the UK.”

A plan setting out actions and timescales for delivering rail improvements is now being developed with further meetings scheduled.

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