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Closed rail lines could be reopened – but a long wait for Haverhill train

PUBLISHED: 17:24 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:14 29 November 2017

Will trains from Ipswich to Cambridge ever carry on to Oxford and Swindon? File picture: PAUL GEATER

Will trains from Ipswich to Cambridge ever carry on to Oxford and Swindon? File picture: PAUL GEATER

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said his department could look at re-opening more lines closed following the publication of the Beeching Report in the 1960s in a bid to boost economic growth.

But officials later accepted there was no immediate prospect of rebuilding long-closed lines like that between Haverhill and Cambridge.

And despite Mr Grayling saying the reconstruction of the cross-country route from Cambridge to Bedford was being “accelerated” there was no firm proposal to speed its reconstruction before its 2030 target.

That route would open the prospect of a new service from Ipswich and Felixstowe to Swindon and connections to the south west of England and south Wales.

Mr Grayling said he wanted to identify new transport projects that will unlock economic growth and housing development across the country, ease crowded commuter routes and meet future demand.

These could include rail services lost under the Beeching and British Rail cuts of the 1960s where – if restored – these could kick-start crucial housing developments or help create new economic opportunities.

Mr Grayling said: “Rail travel has transformed over the last twenty years and our railways are carrying twice as many passengers as they did before privatisation. Many commuter services are full and getting busier and passengers know how much pressure the network is under.

“We need to expand our network to unlock jobs and housing growth across the country. We’re already accelerating plans to reopen the railway line from Oxford to Cambridge. Now I want to see how we can expand other parts of the network to help make Britain fit for the future.”

Reopening the line from Haverhill to Shelford, just outside Cambridge on the main line, has been backed by many – including West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble and Cambridgeshire Mayor James Palmer.

A spokesman for the DfT said there were a number of reopening schemes being considered, but a firm business case would need to be made before any went forward.

And there had been no change to the previously-announced plans to reopen the cross-country route to Cambridge.

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