December 9 2013 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY and DANIEL MANSFIELD
Friday, September 13, 2013
NETWORK Rail confirmed last night they have set aside the money to double the rail line between Ely and Soham- despite having to return £4m to a European transport fund for work in the same area.
The state-backed owner of most of the UK’s track had originally secured funding from the Trans-European Transport Network for the Ely Loops to ease the movement of freight and passenger traffic.
But Network Rail was forced to return the cash when it discovered the project could not be undertaken to the original time scales or specification.
Although the Ely Loops scheme has only been mothballed, Network Rail confirmed they have agreed to invest in a major upgrading of the line between Ely and Soham.
A spokesman for Network Rail said the scheme was in the 2014-19 budget and, subject only to agreement by Government regulators, would go ahead.
“Where Ely sits, between an expanding Felixstowe on the coast and Nuneaton in the Midlands more and more freight trains now use this line,” said the spokesman.
“The best way of accessing this route is via Ely and obviously running freight trains and passenger trains means there is sometimes a waiting period,” he said.
Doubling of the track could avoid congestion and delays and if it works Network Rail may drop the loop project from its forward plans.
“The Ely Loop was to be part paid for by the Trans-European Transport Network (TENT-T) and might still go ahead. But we believe doubling of the line may not mean it is necessary. It could save taxpayers money too if it does not have to be built,” he said.
“In order to create a railway which can accommodate the predicted increase in freight and passenger trains, Network Rail is currently looking at whether combining the Ely-Soham scheme with the Ely loops scheme is the most efficient way to deliver both capacity and performance.”
With better connections it could also give a boost to the campaign to re-open Soham station for passengers but Network Rail says this is not their decision “although of course if approval is given we would be happy to build it”.
Farmer John Lloyd, 68, says Network Rail moved a large depot onto his land in Cawdle Fen, in Ely, in January last year, bringing in building materials and fences, creating a road leading into the facility and employing security to keep watch.
More than a year later, in May, Mr Lloyd said officials came and stripped the depot bare, taking everything they had purchased away with them and moving off the land, returning it to his management.
He said nobody from Network Rail told him why they were suddenly moving out.
He said: “They poured a lot of money into building that depot, they used thousands of tonnes of stone, put up fences all around it and did some work on the drove where vehicles were coming in and out.
“A few weeks ago, back in May, they started to take it all away and it took them a good few weeks to empty it. It seems to me to be a horrendous waste of money if it was all for nothing.”
The Ely freight loops scheme was originally put forward to provide what Network Rail call ‘regulating’ capability – i.e. it would allow them to regulate the mix of passenger and freight train movements through Ely, providing somewhere for passenger trains to overtake the much longer, slower freight trains without being help up.