Vital Ely rail project remains on track following local enterprise partnerships funding boost

Check before you travel. Picture: Archant Library.

Check before you travel. Picture: Archant Library. - Credit: Archant � 2012

An agreement to move forward work to improve rail capacity through the Ely area has taken a significant step forward thanks to funding from two local enterprise partnerships (LEPs).

The project, which is the first of its kind in the UK, will see both the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP and New Anglia LEP fund technical and feasibility work associated with the Ely area, including Ely North Junction.

This study, carried out by Network Rail, will provide options for funders to increase rail capacity and provide improvements for both freight and passenger services from King's Cross to King's Lynn, Ipswich to Peterborough and Felixstowe to Nuneaton and beyond.

Of a total investment of £8.8m, £3.3 million each will come from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP and New Anglia LEP to fund detailed feasibility work that needs to be done before options for improvements to rail infrastructure in the Ely area can be considered for funding.

Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk and a member of the Ely Area Taskforce, said: 'I am delighted that funding has now been confirmed by the LEPs for the preparatory work on the Ely North rail junction along with the adjacent roads and level crossings.

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'This is a project I first raised with the Department for Transport in 2011, meeting rail ministers as well as lobbying the Transport Secretary on the significant benefits of upgrading the rail junction.

'During the past two years, I have held rail summits pressing for all parties to work together so that a clear understanding of what will be needed in terms of costs and design can be produced.

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'All credit to the local councils, Network Rail, LEPs, rail companies and DFT who fully engaged with this task. Meeting every month under the Chairmanship of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council chief executive Ray Harding, they ensured the scheme remained on track with all necessary expenses fully accounted for.

'This is a key infrastructure project in the East that will provide a fantastic boost not only to the economy of South West Norfolk but the wider region as well. Work can start on developing the scheme in a couple of weeks and will take 24 months to complete. This will then place the Ely Area Enhancement Project at the front of the queue for the next round of government funding.'

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk and a member of the Ely Area Taskforce, said: 'Faster East-West rail links are critical to giving more people in Norfolk access to the new jobs and opportunities being created in Cambridge. For too long the Norwich-Cambridge line has been a 'Dads Army tank engine' when it should be an 'Innovation Express'. It is good news that we have got the funding to tackle the Ely junction bottleneck - the key to getting half-hourly services from Norwich to Cambridge, and the upgrade of the Norwich-Cambridge line I have been championing since 2010.'

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