Vital rail improvements that could benefit thousands move a step closer
PUBLISHED: 10:08 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 27 August 2020
Long awaited improvements to a railway bottleneck have moved a step closer.
Ministers have approved £13.1m of funding for the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement programme, which will increase the frequency of services from King’s Lynn to King’s Cross and deliver wider benefits across the area.
The money will fund the development of a business case for extra tracks at Ely North junction, where five lines from the north, south, east and west converge.
Proposals to improve the junction were shelved four years ago. It later emerged the expected cost of the work had soared from £35m to £600m, after improvements to Ely station, crossings and bridges were added to the original scheme.
After last year’s election, MPs James Wild and Liz Truss called for a fresh discussion over what was actually needed to improve services.
Norfolk MPs have met the chancellor and transport minister to press for funding.
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Now the government has agreed to put up £13.1m, with a further £9m on the table from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Strategic Freight Network.
Network Rail said the money would allow it to “understand the scale of the challenge to increase capacity through Ely and progress early design options for public consultation”.
The aim is to improve reliability for passenger services and provide additional capacity to meet demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe, the West Midlands and the north.
North West Norfolk MP Mr Wild said the funding was “an important step”.
“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,” he said.
South West Norfolk MP Ms Truss added: “It is great news that the £13.1m to develop the business case for the Ely Area Capacity has now been confirmed by the Department for Transport and despite the considerable challenges of the last few months, work has been progressing to develop the scheme.”
Network Rail is set to begin the first round of online public consultation on September 21.
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