Huge boost to rail improvements for Ely as Network Rail secures £13.1m for new study -and you can have your say too

PUBLISHED: 13:21 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:35 27 August 2020

SW Norfolk Liz Truss (right) has confirmed that a meeting with other MPs and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay (left) paved the way for £13.1m funding to Network Rail for the next stage of improvements to rail improvements at Ely. Picture; ARCHANT

SW Norfolk Liz Truss (right) has confirmed that a meeting with other MPs and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay (left) paved the way for £13.1m funding to Network Rail for the next stage of improvements to rail improvements at Ely. Picture; ARCHANT

Archant

Network Rail has secured £13.1m funding to begin the next – and vital stage – in planning massive improvements to the rail infrastructure at Ely.

The aim is to improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and meet the demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth. Picture; NETWORK RAILThe aim is to improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and meet the demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth. Picture; NETWORK RAIL

Residents will get the chance to respond to the proposed changes when a public consultation begins on September 21.

The new funding for Network Rail has been agreed by the Department for Transport.

MP Liz Truss says this builds on the £9.3m secured in 2017 from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Strategic Freight Network to start the feasibility study on the Ely North rail junction.

“Once fully developed this critical rail infrastructure in East Anglia will allow for half hourly services on the Kings Lynn to London line, increased freight services and could see enhanced services on the Thetford route,” she said.

View (looking north east) of Ely North Junction from the aggregate yard, with the lines heading to Peterborough (left), King's Lynn (centre), and Norwich (right) Picture; NETWORK RAILView (looking north east) of Ely North Junction from the aggregate yard, with the lines heading to Peterborough (left), King's Lynn (centre), and Norwich (right) Picture; NETWORK RAIL

Currently running at full capacity, the railway through Ely is considered a vital part of the rail network. It includes a busy junction where five railway lines converge, supplying important routes to key destinations for passenger and freight services.

The Ely area capacity enhancement (EACE) programme is a proposal to upgrade the railway to allow more trains to run through Ely.

This section of railway is a restraint to allowing more trains to run and it needs to be improved to meet the increasing demands.

The aim is to improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and meet the demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth.

Railway line through Ely (looking south) Picture; NETWORK RAILRailway line through Ely (looking south) Picture; NETWORK RAIL

Network Rail says the immediate aim is to “understand the scale of the challenge to increase capacity through Ely and progress early design options for public consultation”.

Further design and development of The Ely area capacity enhancement (EACE) programme will follow in 2021 and 2022.

From September 21 residents and businesses in and around Ely are being invited learn more about the EACE programme.

This first phase of public consultation will close on Monday November 1.

MPs Liz Truss and Lucy Frazer were in Ely to promote efforts to speed up improvements to the Ely North rail junction. They were joined by district council leader and mayorality hopeful (at the time; he's now mayor of course) James Palmer.MPs Liz Truss and Lucy Frazer were in Ely to promote efforts to speed up improvements to the Ely North rail junction. They were joined by district council leader and mayorality hopeful (at the time; he's now mayor of course) James Palmer.

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A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Owing to the current Coronavirus situation and following Government guidance, we are conducting this first phase of public consultation remotely to maintain the safety of the public and our staff.”

The consultation will be run through an online web-portal which will be live for six weeks.

There will also be opportunities to speak to project representatives via webchats at specific times.

In 2015 Elizabeth Truss MP and George Freeman MP met at the Queen Adelaide level crossing close to the Ely North junction to discuss rail improvements in the area. Picture: Ian BurtIn 2015 Elizabeth Truss MP and George Freeman MP met at the Queen Adelaide level crossing close to the Ely North junction to discuss rail improvements in the area. Picture: Ian Burt

Ms Truss said that earlier this year she was among a group of local MPs who met the Chancellor to make the case for investment in rail in the eastern region.

Following a meeting with Steve Barclay MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in July, she said that the rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris confirmed the funding to produce an outline business case to unlock funding for design and consents work.

Ms Truss said that work is also continuing on the Fen Line to accommodate the eight car trains that will operate on the Kings Lynn/ Downham Market to London line. It is expected that the longer trains will be operational by the winter 2020/21.

“The £27 million invested by the DfT (Department for Transport) on this route will greatly increase capacity, significantly improve the travelling experience for regular commuters and will be a tremendous boost to the aspirations and business development opportunities in West Norfolk,” she said.

Commenting on the funding announcement, North West Norfolk MP James Wild said: “I’ve campaigned for better rail services for North West Norfolk and this is a major step in delivering improvements to unlock more regular services between Lynn, Cambridge, and London.

“Investing in rail connections is an important part of the government’s agenda to boost growth across the country. Improving capacity at this bottleneck will bring benefits to existing passengers and businesses as well as attract new investment to drive long-term growth in the local area.”

Network Rail explained what had happened to the Ely north junction scheme.

“The scheme was a proposal to improve the track layout of the main rail junction to the north of Ely station,” said their spokesperson.

“However, this work was put on hold following the Hendy review in 2016.

“This has given us the opportunity to review the wider capacity constraints around Ely which also need to be considered in order to meet the aspirations to run more rail services.”

The spokesperson added: “By taking a wider view of the area and what needs to be upgraded, the Ely area capacity enhancement programme provides the opportunity to deliver more capacity benefits than the original Ely north junction programme on its own.”


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