I know for many readers of the Village Pump, the issue of broadband is always a topic for discussion and a number of parish councils from across South West Norfolk had the opportunity to quiz the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock MP on this very subject. During a recent meeting I hosted in Weeting with the Culture Secretary and representatives from Openreach and Better Broadband for Norfolk, many parish councillors took the opportunity to raise their issues with the Minister and Openreach. I am pleased to report that the Culture Secretary gave a commitment for every household to have access to minimum speeds of 10 Mbps by 2020 and announced that a voucher scheme worth up to Â£3500 is soon to be available for business to connect fibre to the premises. This is great news for our rural industries which often struggle to secure adequate broadband connectivity.
One place where catching up on emails will be a lot easier is at the recently opened Platform One Café at Downham Market station – the transformation of the building is a very welcome development at the station. Early risers will certainly appreciate the 4.30 am opening, serving a variety of teas, coffees, croissants plus light snacks. The café will be family friendly with free wifi and charging points. The new tenants Jason and Darren Sutton are keen to provide locally made cakes and scones so I look forward to some light refreshment on my train journeys from Downham to Westminster.
Passenger numbers at Downham Market station continue to rise and the drive to improve our rail networks, with the upgrade of the Ely North rail junction, is even more important. This critical junction serves a multiple of routes, so relieving the congestion is a priority allowing for increased services on the Fenline and Thetford routes. I am also pressing Network Rail in ensuring their commitment for eight car trains for use on the Kings Lynn line is delivered on time; this is a scheme that certainly does not want to hit the buffers! The eastern region really is soaring to new heights and during a recent meeting with the Chief Executive of Stansted Airport, he showed me the work taking place for the new arrivals building that will be ready for passengers in the next two years. Emirates Airlines will be launching a daily service to their central hub in Dubai in June, and with onward connections all over the world, this is a fantastic boost to the airport’s credentials. More transatlantic routes are set to take off with Danish carrier Primera Air providing flights to New York and Boston; recognition indeed that East Anglia is the place to invest.