‘Ely Solution’ gains momentum with Cambridge rail summit
A simple answer to getting foreign trade and growth moving through Britain will gain fresh impetus when key players gather for a rail summit at one of the East of England’s newer stations, Cambridge North.
Convened by the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, and co-chaired by the Rt Hon Norman Baker, Campaign for Better Transport chair, the summit calls on big hitters – from politics, business, the rail, freight, and passenger industries – to discuss action to free up a bottleneck at the cathedral city of Ely, where five lines jostle into one single track.
At a stroke, improving capacity at Ely Junction would remove a stranglehold that currently impedes Britain’s trade with Europe and the world. It would boost freight delivery between the UK’s largest and busiest container port at Felixstowe and the rest of the country, including the manufacturing heartlands of the Midlands and the North, and support the Government’s much-touted freeport initiative.
Summit speakers and panellists announced so far will include the CEO of the new Freeport East at Felixstowe, Steve Batch; Beth West, CEO of East West Rail; Jonathan Denby from Greater Anglia; Gareth Powell, MD of London Stansted Airport; Naomi Green from England’s Economic Heartland; Andy Summers, CEO of Transport East; and Jess Cunningham, the Strategic Transport Adviser for the University of Cambridge.
The agenda of the July 7th summit reveals that many of those in the know about improving Britain’s rail network are now publicly identifying the upgrade, dubbed the ‘Ely Solution’, as a quick win, delivering exceptional cost-benefit to the country and a rich return on investment to the Treasury – £2.2 billion for an outlay of well under £500 million.
The summit builds on the success of the Westminster launch of the ‘Keeping Trade on Track’ report from England’s Economic Heartland – which spells out the regional, national, and international benefits of upgrading the Ely junction – and the recent Government announcements of the East-West Rail route, and funding to build the new railway station at Cambridge South.
Opening up Ely would amplify investment already made or planned in stations like Cambridge North, Soham, East-West Rail, and Cambridge South by making possible far more frequent freight and passenger services, getting traffic off roads, reducing emissions, linking key innovation and enterprise clusters into an ‘investment corridor’, and making it possible to loop the racing town of Newmarket into better rail services via the Newmarket Curve.
The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has discussed with his fellow Metro Mayors the impact of the Ely bottleneck on other parts of the country – and businesses in Teesside, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Birmingham and beyond would reap substantial rewards from a fix.
Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson:
“The so-called ‘Ely Solution’ now has a life of its own because there’s no debate that the work is necessary. It’s a rail solution to a road problem. Although Government money is tight and all regions compete fiercely for it, the Ely issue isn’t just regional, it’s national. Unblocking Ely would unleash such a gush of benefit across the whole country that everybody sees the sense, the logic, and the reward. We’re knocking very politely on an open door.
“But what sets Ely apart as a must-have for urgent action is the power it has to derail growth, to hold the entire country back. With Ely, local really is global.
“So money may be tight but doing nothing would cost the UK far more. Instead of increased freight travelling by rail, we’d face an A47, an M11, an A12, and an M1 all choked with thousands of extra HGVs lugging Felixstowe containers around the country; more, not less, carbon emission; nuclear freight from Sizewell C travelling by lorry; and massive Government expenditure to build road capacity for the rise in traffic. All set against our global trade decreasing each year as Ely constrains the ‘one-track UK’ and competitors muscle in to take our space.
“That’s why successive governments and transport ministers have been pro, cross-party politicians agree, both rail and road industries are in accord, passengers, freight carriers, environmentalists, retail giants, you can’t find an opposing voice because the Ely Solution, unlike many other rail projects chasing funding, is not only a local and regional development but one that will substantially uplift the prosperity of the entire country.
“Ely Junction is like the Gordian Knot – a problem with complex effects but a really simple solution. At a single stroke, we can throw open the whole country from Felixstowe to Scotland, and ramp up the movement of freight and passengers, including skilled workers, that Britain so badly needs.”
The summit takes place at Cambridge North Station on July 7th.