Politicians from the eastern region pressed Network Rail and Govia Thames Link Railways (GTR) on the future delivery of longer trains on the Kings Lynn to London line, and progress made so far on the upgrade of Ely North Rail junction. The meeting held in Downham Market and attended by Liz Truss MP, Sir Henry Bellingham MP, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Mayor James Palmer and Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Leader Brian Long.
Discussion focused on the delay in implementing the eight car scheme on the Fenline, the time it will take to lengthen platforms and longer journey times. Extensive scoping work has also been conducted during the past year to identify the best and most efficient way to upgrade the Ely North Junction which due to the layout of level crossings will also require the roads in the area to be included in any future improvement plan.
Elizabeth commented ‘‘We had an extremely frank discussion with Network Rail and GTR about the pace of work and the length of time rail users are having to wait to see any improvements. The eight car scheme is awaiting final funding announcement from the DFT which is expected in the next couple of months. I have raised with the Transport Secretary that this is an absolute priority for our region and assuming funding is agreed, then work will start in the Autumn 2019, with completion and delivery of longer trains late 2020. I am extremely frustrated that this is taking so long and will be maintaining the pressure so we see improvements on this line as soon as possible.
‘We also questioned why the Ely Junction upgrade was developing into such a significant and wide ranging project with estimated build figures of anywhere from £600- £800 million. I know that the surrounding roads need to be improved as the level crossings round Queen Adelaide Junction are creating a number of challenges. But what I don’t want Network Rail to lose sight off is that this is a critical upgrade that benefits not just East Anglia but also the Midlands and the North. I want them to remain focused on the original objective and not let this mushroom into a grand all-encompassing project that could take years to be implemented. This is a bottle neck that is holding back productivity and it needs to be fast tracked. Yes we want speedier and more frequent passenger trains, but the highly valuable freight routes will also benefit significantly once this upgrade has taken place. I have asked Network Rail for a thorough analysis of the value of the scheme in order that is can be fully appreciated by the Department for Transport.’’