Ministers set to approve upgrade for Norwich rail connection to London and Cambridge

The government is poised to give the green-light to funding for a key rail upgrade in the East of England costing �25m.

The EDP understands that on Monday ministers will announce they have approved finance for improvements to the Ely North rail junction which is a current bottleneck on both the Lynn/London and the Norwich/Cambridge lines.

The decision will be widely welcomed by passengers and business leaders as opening the way for better services and also acting as a catalyst to economic growth.

It follows intense lobbying by MPs and business groups that an upgrade of Ely Junction is a vital first step in bringing the region's rail services into the 21st century.

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss said: 'It will be great news for Norfolk. It opens up not just one track, but about four different routes for future development.

'Passenger numbers in particular on the Fen Line and the Norwich to Cambridge line have shown a massive increase and more frequent services will result in economic growth and jobs.'

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who has strongly argued the benefits for Norwich and in particular Norwich Research Park, said: 'Ely Junction is top of our menu of key projects for the next 20 years. It's a key bottle neck not just for the freight links to the coast and the London links to Lynn, but for the all important Cambridge to Norwich line.

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'That is at the heart of an innovation corridor which has the potential to drive growth and prosperity in our region for the next generation.'

Chris Starkie, of the New Anglia local enterprise partnership, a grouping of council and business leaders from Norfolk and Suffolk heavily involved in the campaign for investment, said: 'Ely Junction is an extraordinary bottleneck because it affects growth on so many different routes. We'd be delighted to see the upgrade go ahead.'

Monday's Commons announcement will follow intense lobbying of ministers - and will be part of a raft of infrastructure projects in what is a broader push by ministers to bring forward transport and other investment projects in a bid to boost economic growth.

Earlier this month the campaign for rail improvements produced a paper setting out what needed to happen to transform the East of England's rail network to maximise economic growth over the next two decades. 'Once in a Generation: A Rail Prospectus for East Anglia' highlighted an upgrade of the Ely North Junction as a vital first step.

Campaigners were given a strong signal last week that good news was coming. Ms Truss said last night: 'When we met the transport secretary Justine Greening she said this had been an opportune time to raise the issue.'

The project has been awaiting approval from the Treasury.

Now all that appears to remain is details of what form the funding will take - whether it might be financed directly from Whitehall or tied into a new franchise agreement which would lever in private investment.

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