East Cambs Council leader James Palmer says the decision to postpone rail improvements in Ely is “very disappointing”.
- Credit: IAN BURT
Council leader James Palmer says the decision to postpone rail improvements in Ely is “very disappointing”.
Cllr Palmer, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, is to write to Network Rail expressing his disappointment that further work in the district is being put on hold.
Network Rail’s new chairman, Sir Peter Hendy said that following his review of the enhancement and investment programme in railway control period 5 (2014-19), plans for a £35million upgrade to the Ely North Junction have been delayed.
The news follows a previous announcement earlier this year putting on hold plans to double a section of rail track Ely and Soham.
Cllr Palmer said that despite the setbacks, the council is determined these decisions will not hold up building the Soham Railway Station.
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“It is yet again very disappointing to hear Network Rail is delaying one of their projects in the district,” he said.
“While I can understand the pressures they face, I do find it very frustrating given the rapid growth we are experiencing it is always our area which is affected by their decision to reschedule their plans.
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“If we are to continue to grow in the future we need the infrastructure which was promised to help us to succeed.”
He added: “I hope despite these setbacks, we will not see any delay or hold up on the plans to build the new station in Soham.
“I would like to assure residents, I will writing to Network Rail seeking assurances that they will progress this project with no further delay.”
The Ely North upgrade – which was set to start in 2016, meaning half-hourly services between Lynn and London –has been put back to at least 2019, when the next funding period starts.
The review states the upgrade has been delayed to allow co-ordination with safety critical level crossing works nearby.
However, it adds that “Network Rail is aware of the strong aspirations of the DfT and local user groups and MPs to see improvements to services on the Cambridge to King’s Lynn corridor as soon as practicable”.
The review was released as the chancellor George Osborne announced hundreds of millions of pounds of extra funding for Britain’s railways to ensure Network Rail can carry out the bulk of its five-year plan.
As reported, politicians and business leaders in the region wrote to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in September calling for improvements to the Ely North Junction to take place as soon as possible.
Elizabeth Truss, South West Norfolk MP, George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, and Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, who have lobbied for the improvements, planned to meet Mr McLoughlin.
Ms Truss said: “The Hendy Review has recognised the importance of the Ely North rail junction to local MPs, councils and business.
“I want to see the upgrade as soon as possible. I will be raising this with the Secretary of State for Transport.
“The half-hourly service on the King’s Lynn to London line is scheduled to commence in 2017 and I am keen to work with the Department for Transport so that South West Norfolk can benefit from this increased service.”