Talks in Downham Market hear work to end East Anglia's rail bottleneck at Ely could begin in three years' time
PUBLISHED: 09:37 27 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:39 27 January 2017
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MPs and officials met today to discuss upgrading a key junction in Cambridgeshire.
They heard £8.8m had been set aside for a feasibility study into what Network Rail regards as a complex scheme.
Both the New Anglia and Greater Cambridge and Peterborough local enterprise partnerships have agreed to put £3.3m towards the work, while the Freight Network is contributing £2.2m.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who chaired today’s meeting, said: “This the key in fixing this junction. I want to do everything to make sure the project is ready for a chance of getting in early for control period 6.”
Control Period 6 is the next round of funding for major rail projects, which runs from 2020 - 2029.
She added: “We are competing with the rest of the country so we need to get ahead of the queue when there are other projects in the country.
“It is in all of our best interests to get this started and nail down the funding programme so network rail get cracking on with the job. It is complicated but infrastructure is absolutely necessary to get right.”
Improvements to Ely North were originally expected to cost £35m. But Network Rail now believes improvements to the junction, where the main north- south and east - west lines meet, will cost far more.
Experts say upgrading the Ely North junction would boost East Anglia’s economy by £500m and enable trains to run haslf-hourly between King’s Lynn and London.
Before the summit got under way, one MP said the region’s ageing rail network left people “cut off from opportunity”.Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: “Ely junction is the bottleneck holding back our entire East Anglian economy, forcing passengers and freight onto our congested roads by preventing rail expansion.
“Our area is home to some of the most exciting new companies, jobs and opportunities but an old-fashioned, fragmented and under-funded rail network is holding us back and leaving people cut off from the opportunities.
“our rail network is fundamental to spreading opportunity to all in the east. The Prime Minister is determined to build an economy that everyone has a chance in. We are committed to a new east - west rail link, but we need to clear the Ely junction to allow it to run.” Improvements to the junction were originally expected to cost £35m.
Work was due to start this year. But a review published in 2015 postponed the upgrade for up to seven years.
Today’s summit comes a year after South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss hosted a meeting calling for all organisations to work together to ensure the upgrade takes place as soon as possible .
Councils, LEPs, Network rail, freight and passenger train operators and Department for Transport all agreed to form a task force and work together on the scheme.