Metro Mayor to meet with railways minister to lobby for more trains through Ely

Mayor, James Palmer, is to meet with the railways minister to lobby for improved capacity at the Ely north complex and Ely station area.

Talking to members of the Combined Authority overview and scrutiny committee at their online meeting (November 23), Rowland Potter, head of transport, said: “Network Rail (NR), on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT), have produced a business plan looking at improvements to the network at Ely.

“We’d like to have 11 trains per hour running in each direction, compared with the current maximum of 8 trains per hour.

“As members funding these proposals, the Combined Authority have spoken to NR, and with Mayor Palmer imminently meeting with the railways minister, he’ll lobby for capacity at Ely, perhaps up to 14 trains per hour in each direction”.

Chair, Cllr Lorna Dupre, asked: “These are substantial engineering works we’re proposing, but how future-proof are they?”

Mr Potter replied: “The proposal allows for 11 train movements per hour, but we’d like to increase that to 14 trains, and maybe even more.

“The Queen Adelaide crossing, carrying the Liverpool to Norwich East Midlands Rail train service on its way into Ely are the crucial points.

MORE: Huge boost to rail improvements for Ely as Network Rail secures £13.1m for new study -and you can have your say too“It then turns around, going back through the Queen Adelaide crossing on its way to Norwich, albeit on a different crossing to the one it entered; but this counts as two train movements within the hour.

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“The position as it stands is that NR have proposed the 11 trains per hour; the DfT, as major provider of finance, have committed £13.1m to fund that stage – but the Combined Authority are continuing to lobby for additional movements if possible.”

Cllr Grenville Chamberlain asked: “Assuming these modifications allow seamless transport capacity of freight directly from the Midlands through to the east coast ports, will it also allow for seamless connection from Bedford, Milton Keynes and the Oxford-area directly to the east coast ports; and, if so, will those freight trains be running overnight?”

MORE: £650m likely cost of rail improvements at Ely as new report reveals capacity 127 train movements a day has been reachedMr Potter responded: “These particular engineering solutions look very much to maximise capacity in the Ely core area only.

“In terms of maximizing additional train movements elsewhere, there’s a reliance on other activities on the Peterborough-Ipswich route including digital signalling improvements, wider crossing solutions and also between Ely and Ipswich.

“This will result in freight capacity between Felixstowe and the Midlands being significantly enhanced; while HGV lorries will be taken off of the roads that dissect our region, removing a lot of their carbon impact.”

The Combined Authority had intended to write to NR with a letter of support for the proposals to maximise the capacity through Ely, but with Metro Mayor Palmer’s imminent visit to the Railways Minister, they’ve spoken to them directly.