Artful Codger, by Roger May, July 10, 2015

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Seeing is believing, and on that basis I am far from convinced by the statements from Network Rail officials that all is well with plans to upgrade the Ely north rail junction – crucial to the economic future of West Norfolk – and that the project will be completed by 2019.

That date is already two years behind the original scheduled completion date of 2017, deemed as vital for the introduction of half-hourly services from Lynn and Downham to Cambridge and London.

The recent statement from Network Rail that they had “paused” some major projects – immediately raising fresh doubts about the Ely north junction – was most disturbing, as much in the way in which it shed some light into the workings of this body charged with the enormous task of providing the country with a viable rail infrastructure.

What became abundantly clear is that projections made some years ago for just what could be achieved by Network Rail were hopelessly over-optimistic and rather poorly thought-out, taking no account of the limited resources available.

It is pretty obvious that Network Rail in its current format is nowhere near capable of delivering the vast rail infrastructure projects that are needed to make up for decades of under-investment in the railways, something that recent governments of both left and right should hang their heads in shame about – although that is unlikely to happen.

Now that the national infrastructure, both road and rail, is in such a dire mess, the penny is slowly, oh so slowly, beginning to drop with politicians, and unfortunately all that is likely to happen is that there will be changes, with no guarantee they will be for the better.

Network Rail will probably get a real shake-up, possibly being divided into a number of smaller operations aimed at individual regions of the country, but unless the person or persons in charge of the shake-up is an expert on rail infrastructure who knows what he or she is doing, I wouldn’t hold your breath in the hope of better days.

After all, if no-one of the necessary calibre has emerged to revive the railways in the last 50 or 60 years, what hope is there of it happening in the present day?

Facing a tough decision, our political leaders have a habit of going all wobbly and kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with.

Look at the mess over plans for a third airport runway for London. After decades of debate we now have a proposal for the new runway to be built at Heathrow, but that is not the end of the story – merely the beginning of another seemingly endless struggle.

All we can hope for in the battle to get the Ely north junction finished is for our local MPs to keep up the pressure on the relevant rail ministers. Network Rail? 
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