Land and homes could make way for much-needed rail improvements

Ely north enhancement

A King's Lynn-bound train approaches one of the level crossings at Queen Adelaide, near Ely - Credit: Chris Bishop

Villagers could lose their homes and land to make way for improvements to a major rail bottleneck.

Network Rail has launched a public consultation into its proposals to enlarge Ely North Junction, where lines from all four corners of the region meet. It says they would allow more frequent, reliable passenger trains and fewer lorries on the road.

But it also admits the three level crossings on a short stretch of the B1382 Ely Road at Queen Adelaide pose “a significant challenge to increasing rail capacity".

Queen Adelaide

Network Rail says the three level crossings on the B1382 Ely Road at Queen Adelaide pose "a significant challenge to increasing capacity" - Credit: Chris Bishop

It adds: "It is recognised that any changes to the level crossings will have a significant impact on the residents and businesses that rely on the road connection to Ely. It is also recognised that we need to tackle the challenge of potential increases in road traffic volumes over time which may result in vehicles queuing over level crossings at busy times which is a critical safety risk."

It has drawn up four different proposals including new link roads to divert traffic away from the village, a viaduct across the railway lines and two different options for a new southern bypass.

It warns the second and third options "would involve the compulsory purchase of land including residential gardens and potentially outbuildings", while the fourth "would involve the compulsory purchase of land and property including residential buildings, gardens and outbuildings".

A new road with a viaduct would provide a new route for traffic to the south of Queen Adelaide.

A new road with a viaduct would provide a new route for traffic to the south of Queen Adelaide. - Credit: Network Rail

Security consultant Rupert Moss-Eccardt, who lives in Queen Adelaide, said villagers affected by the proposals had been contacted by Network Rail. He said Option Four involved the demolition of two houses.

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"The first response by many people is is it really worth it," he said. "Is the increase in trains needed - the answer's probably yes if our economy's growing.

"Realistically, the general feeling within the village is as long as they're done sensitively it will be all right. No matter what, Queen Adelaide will be a different village when it's done."

Rupert Moss-Eccardt. Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North West Norfolk. Pic: Liberal D

Queen Adelaide villager Rupert Moss-Eccardt - Credit: Liberal Democrats

Simon Harries, district councillor for the Ely North ward, said the consultation was at an early stage and people should make their voices heard.

"There are four different options," he said. "In three of them, no-one has their house taken. In one of them, two of them go.

"My view is we do not want the route that will demolish a couple of homes. I am going to be opposing the route that will lead to compulsory purchase but I also recognise it's above district council level."

Ely North

An aerial view of Ely North Junction - Credit: Network Rail

Trains to and from King's Lynn and Norwich currently share a single track through part of Ely North junction, which limits the number of services which can be run.

Network Rail says adding an extra track for the Lynn and Norwich lines would enable two trains to pass through at a time. That means two services an hour could operate between Lynn and London King's Cross instead of the current single train.

Freight services between the Port of Felixstowe and the north and West Midlands could also be increased from one to two an hour.

Shipping containers are unloaded from a cargo ship at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk

HEADING FOR EUROPE: New rules are now in place for trading with the continent - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Network Rail's consultation papers say: "The Ely area capacity enhancement (EACE) programme is a proposal to upgrade the railway to allow more trains to run through Ely bringing better connectivity and reliability for passenger services while meeting the demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth. 

"Demand for rail freight is also growing and increasing capacity through Ely will support a shift from road to rail thereby providing a faster, greener, safer and more efficient way of transporting goods across the country; helping to remove lorries from roads and reduce congestion.

"In order to realise the benefits of increased capacity, Network Rail will need to seek powers under the Transport and Works Act (TWA) to acquire land and rights over land, as well as powers to construct, operate and maintain the associated railway infrastructure.

Ely NOrth junction

A map of the proposed improvements from Network Rail's consultation papers - Credit: Network Rail

"Subject to securing funding, a TWA order application could be submitted at the end of 2022 following the completion of the public consultation process and the selection of a preferred option to take forward."

A decision from central government on whether to fund the as yet unknown costs of the scheme is expected to be made in 2024.

Public consultation events are being held at Queen Adelaide Village Hall  on Thursday, November 4; Tuesday, November 9 and Thursday, November 11 (1pm - 7pm).

Ely area enhancement

Network Rail says crossings on the King's Lynn and Norwich-bound lines at Queen Adelaide would need to be upgraded and closed for between five and ten minutes an hour - Credit: Chris Bishop

Places must be booked by calling 0800 048 7612 or e-mailing elyareacapacityenhancements@netwokrail.co.uk.

More information on the proposals and the consultation, which runs until November 28,  can be found online at phase2b.elyareacapacity.com/.

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