Members of Parliament and business leaders from across the eastern region this week confirmed that a round table meeting will be held in the New Year to explore the options for upgrading the Ely North rail junction. The round table discussion comes after Elizabeth met Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Trains in Ely to investigate the reasons why the planned upgrade of the Ely North junction will now take place in Control Period (CP) 6 (2019 -2024) rather than CP5. The Hendy Review into Network Rail, published on 25 November 2015, reviewed all of Network Rail’s programme of works and re-scheduled the upgrade of the Ely North Junction to CP 6. Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, commented in the document that ‘Network Rail is aware of the strong aspiration of the Department for Transport and local user groups and MPs to see improvements to services on the Cambridge to Kings Lynn corridor as soon as practicable.
Following the publication of the review Elizabeth, George Freeman MP and Lucy Frazer MP met the Transport Secretary to highlight the importance of the Ely North Junction to East Anglia. With a number of passenger and freight trains passing through the junction, the MPs are keen to see works commence as soon as possible. Norfolk County Council has assessed direct economic benefits once the upgrade has taken place as £220 million and this does not factor in new jobs, business and housing that will be generated once the junction has been improved. Work undertaken by Atkins for Norfolk County Council looked at the likely passenger demand for half hourly King’s Lynn services. This work found that there would be a good case for improved services with demand increasing by an average of 60%. An additional 2 million passengers were expected to use the service by 2026 from stations north of Cambridge.
Elizabeth Truss MP for South West Norfolk commented ‘During the meeting with Network Rail and Govia Thameslink it became apparent that work needs to take place to the four level crossings around Ely and further surveys have to be done. What I am keen to ensure is that this happens as soon as possible so I have called for a round table discussion with the LEPs, council leaders and fellow MPs to see how this can be implemented sooner rather than later. The Transport Secretary has also confirmed that he will write to MPs by the end of this week detailing Network Rail’s plans for future works. East Anglia is a thriving and dynamic area of the UK and I am keen to see the rail infrastructure in place to support this growth and that residents in South West Norfolk can benefit from half hourly services on the Kings Lynn to London line and more frequent trains on the Thetford route.’
George Freeman MP for Mid Norfolk said ‘The Norwich to Cambridge line through Mid Norfolk could be an artery linking rural Norfolk with Norwich and Cambridge to attract investment and new jobs.’
Lucy Frazer MP for South East Cambridgshire said ‘The upgrade to the Ely North Junction is vital for our area. I am pressing to ensure that this takes place, and I am pleased to take part in this roundtable discussion to ensure that we get the investment we need for these rail improvements as soon as possible.’
Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP said: ‘The Ely Junction is a critical cross roads for connections to and from the East to the rest of the UK – investment to upgrade the line is essential to unlock the growth potential of our key towns and cities and development of the important freight corridor. We are keen to see the improvements happen as soon as possible as are the hundreds of businesses and commuters who travel through this vital junction every day.’
Mark Reeve, Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP Chair commented; “We are of course frustrated that vital improvements to the Ely North Junction are being delayed, we understand that safety is the ultimate priority. However, these improvements are a key part of our strategic infrastructure plan. Upgrading the Ely North Junction will unlock a number of benefits for the local area including creating new jobs by drawing out the growth of Cambridge further into Ely. Looking beyond the immediate area, this work will have a wider positive impact on the network stretching from Birmingham to Stansted and Felixstowe to Nuneaton, as routes are currently constrained by the junction. We therefore look forward to a positive discussion in the new year to help move this scheme forward'.
Notes to editors:
The roundtable discussion will take place in Downham Market on Friday 26 February 2016 1.00 pm – 2.30 pm. Attending the meeting will be MPs from across the region, LEPs, Councils, Network Rail and train operators. Further details will be sent closer to the time.