Double tracks for Soham to Ely rail line is sidelined

Ely to Soham rail line

Ely to Soham rail line - Credit: Archant

Hopes of opening a new rail line between Ely and Soham have hit the buffers after survey work discovered the project would be much more expensive than originally expected.

A letter from Network Rail to all those who responded to consultation on their proposal to double the tracks from one to two explained: “over the last few months the project team has carried out a series of surveys and ground investigation works and started to develop a construction methodology to help progress the plans further. The information arising from the consultation and survey work has identified that the complexity of the project is greater than originally thought and therefore the cost estimate has increased significantly.

“As a result, we have taken the decision not to progress with the design and construction phase of this particular element of the wider programme of freight improvement.”

The work was to have been carried out as part of Network Rail’s wider programme to provide additional capacity for freight services operating to and from the port of Felixstowe.

The Ely to Soham double-tracking was one of a small number of projects to be funded separately using the Department for Transport’s Investment Fund Framework.

In March and April this year Network Rail began consultation with the local community and other interested bodies to try to under the impact of the plans, and to help them draw up their application to obtain the powers needed to construct and operate the new tracks.

The application would need Secretary of State for Transport approval for the Transport and Works Order which provides the necessary powers. But that has now been put on hold and the on-going consultation with landowners, businesses and other impacted parties will recommence when a revised date for this submission has been set.

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Soham resident Geoffrey Woollard, who was among those to receive the letter having previously responded during the consultation, said: “It may be significant that there was a lot of talk about the planned doubling before the general election. Now, after the election and like the latest with the planned trans-Pennine route (‘paused’ by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in June), the talk is very different. Perhaps I am being exceptionally cynical.”