Councillor labels plan to re-open Wisbech to March rail as ‘madness’ with money better spent on roads and young unemployed
14:46 29 March 2014
A Wisbech county councillor opposed to the reopening of the rail line to March says the £50million or more cost is “madness”.
A Wisbech county councillor opposed to re-opening of the rail line to March says the £50m or more cost is “madness”.
Councillor Gordon Gillick, one of three UKIP councillors elected in Wisbech last year, said the money would be better spent on roads or helping young unemployed.
“Did you know for instance that in Wisbech 46 per cent of the 18 to 25 year-olds are out of work?” he said. “That ought to be someone’s priority surely.”
Cllr Gillick said: “It would be madness to resurrect the ancient railway from Wisbech to March. Times have changed! Nowadays, cutting through a landscape that is criss crossed with public and service roads would create chaos.”
But outgoing leader of Cambridgeshire County Council Martin Curtis criticised Cllr Gillick and said that “once built the line will wipe its feet operationally and will work.”
He said the rail line would open up the potential for commuting to Cambridge where, in coming years, up to 45,000 new jobs will be created.
Cllr Curtis said the initial capital cost of £12m- now expected to be £50m- was never realistic but we should put the costs into figures.
“What it will cost probably equates to half a mile of tunnelling for the HS2 railway and that makes it sound more realistic,” he said.
Cllr Curtis said Wisbech “needs better than what the UKIP councillors have to offer- they need to either come up to speed or recognise they are not doing the job and stand down”.
But on the March rail link Cllr Gillick remains adamant it is unlikely to happen with the number of level crossings needed and a possible rail bridge over the A47 putting it beyond reach.
“On flat ground such as we have in the Fens, road and rail are at odds with each other,” he said.
“It is a common experience to find oneself sitting in a long line of traffic at a level crossing, watching a four million pound train passing by with less than a dozen, heavily subsidised passengers on board.
“Passenger rail travel has not covered its costs for mover a hundred years.”
Rail travel, said Cllr Gillick, needed vast subsidies “which over-spent governments take out a pay day loan from interest sharks and then expect you to pay back through your taxes for generations to come.
“In any case this railway idea was never more than a fantasy proposal, as it has had no real money allotted to it”
He said: “It is in fact just a promotional exercise to placate the poorer people in the north of the county while huge sums are actually being spent in the rich south.
“Road transport has become the engine for our national economy in recent decades. It provides personal freedom, flexible workings hours 24/7 and is an independent, profitable, self funding system that generates tens of billions in taxes for wasteful governments to squander.”
Cllr Gillick added: “The Fenland area has 50 or more firms of hauliers who deliver our fine local products hourly throughout the year to the nation.
“Just build us proper roads and dual the A47 and there will be no need for these patronising fairy tales about railways.”
On Tuesday the county council passed a motion in support of the rail link but Cllr Gillick was one of those who abstained in the vote.