Mayor James Palmer today welcomed the backing of minister Chris Heaton-Harris for the £500 million upgrade to railway infrastructure in the Ely area.
Confirmation of the rail minister’s support for accelerating the project, despite its rising cost, was communicated to the Combined Authority at a meeting six weeks ago, and has now been shared publicly with industry specialists at the Rail Industry Association annual conference.
The Ely area capacity enhancement – EACE – programme should be accelerated despite costs escalating to almost 20 times the original estimate, said the rail minister, reinforcing the importance of Ely to unlocking growth and accessibility, not just locally in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, but across the whole East Anglia region and beyond.
The Ely Area Capacity Enhancement programme proposes upgrading the railway to allow more trains to run through Ely. The aim is to improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and meet the rising demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe, the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth.
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough:
“The local impact of freeing up the Ely bottleneck will be enormous, for example on the options to reconnect Wisbech by rail to Cambridge. And while this upgrade is of great national importance, linking places so as to unlock opportunities for growth – joining up to level up – it is of absolutely critical importance regionally if we are to get the East of England realising its full potential and punching its weight for UK Inc. So this scheme is now more vital than ever, key to helping rebuild the local, regional and national economy after Covid-19, and helping us build back better.
“Since becoming Mayor, I’ve lobbied government for the funding to get this Ely rail chokehold sorted out and I shan’t stop now victory is in sight. Everyone is aware that there are competing demands on the transport purse but we’ve made a very strong business case and I will maintain the pressure when I meet the minister in a couple of weeks. Unblock Ely rail and you unlock opportunity and potential across the whole of East Anglia, and way beyond – and you help the green agenda by getting people and freight off the roads.”