Freight train going through a level crossing

Calls for Chancellor to remove growth inhibitions

Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority has announced that the Chancellor has been urged to agree to improvements to transport connections that are currently holding back trade and prosperity.

At a summit hosted last week, transport and business leaders met with local decision-makers to discuss how action at a key rail junction would accelerate growth around the country. The junction in question, at Ely, is currently inhibiting trade and prosperity due to capacity issues, leading to the summit sending a letter to the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, and Transport Secretary Mark Harper in order to inform their decisions on whether to award funding to rail improvements that would improve the capacity of Ely Junction.

The junction at Ely sits on the cross-country route that links the trade zone and port at Felixstowe, to the rest of Great Britain. With the route hosting the UK’s most intensively used freight corridor, the fact that five lines are competing for one track results in restricted speeds and a bottleneck, means that the section of track is currently viewed as one of the biggest things restricting growth in the UK.

Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said:

“The public money spent on rail in many areas can yield a much better return if Ely Junction is widened to release freer and more frequent and reliable rail traffic. The cost-benefit ratio of fixing the Ely pinch point is an incredible return of £4.89 back for every £1 spent. It’s a win-win investment with quantifiable reward far beyond the opportunity that will be felt for decades by people and communities across the country.

“Dividends will include more freight and passenger services and better connections, at least 100k fewer lorries on the road each year, a massive drop in carbon emission, improved air quality and less need to spend government money on roads, as rail freight options for imports and exports become more viable.

“If the Government is committed to delivering UK growth and supporting international trade, it has to commit to investing in Ely junction widening and improvements.

“The problem is longstanding and any delay to delivering a solution to the Ely bottleneck will come at a heavy cost to the UK economy. Our message to the Treasury and Government is clear: Let’s work together – we all want to see good economic development for UKplc. If the Government is serious about levelling up, we must progress Ely. If we are serious about meeting net zero targets and getting thousands of HGVs off the roads across the United Kingdom, then the Government must progress Ely.

“We hope that you will now move to agree the required funding for the Ely rail improvement.”

An additional £2.2 billion being put back into the UK economy would bring further benefits around the country, however any investment that is put into infrastructure improvements at Ely would also be complimented by other funding. The knock on effects of improvements at Ely would help to make the most of projects that have already been granted government funding, such as a new station at Soham, helping to deliver a more joined-up rail network to make new projects work harder.

Interim chair of England’s Economic Heartland, Cllr Liz Leffman, added:

“Our conversations with the freight industry have only reinforced that there is significant unmet demand for increased levels of rail freight. The rail capacity improvements needed at Ely are of national significance. The scheme is an important connector for the economies of the Midlands and North and provides significant potential to relieve congestion on strategic roads while reducing emissions caused by HGV journeys which could more appropriately be made via rail.”

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