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New rail upgrade consultation planned - but no proposals to fix West Norfolk line bottleneck yet

Detailed proposals for how capacity on West Norfolk's rail link could be increased are set to be outlined later this month.

Industry bosses have outlined plans for a six-week public consultation, starting on May 24, for options to upgrade the network to the south of Ely.

But passengers here will have to wait until later in the year to see options for how a key bottleneck to the north of the city might be prised open, enabling more frequent services to run.

Plans to increase capacity on part of the rail link to West Norfolk are set to be outlined soon.
Plans to increase capacity on part of the rail link to West Norfolk are set to be outlined soon.

The new consultation follows an initial survey last year which showed 89 per cent of respondents supported increased capacity in the Ely area.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said this week: “This is a chance for passengers who use the rail network through Ely to have a say on how to deliver better connectivity and more punctual, reliable services in the future.

“I encourage people to engage with the consultation, let us know your views on these proposed infrastructure improvements and help shape the future of your railway.”

Network Rail, the body responsible for maintaining and upgrading rail tracks and signalling, has outlined five potential options for the area, including possible changes to the tracks and platforms at Ely station itself.

Other proposals include upgrading specific bridges, as well as potentially closing a level crossing.

The proposals are part of the broader Ely area capacity enhancement (EACE) programme, which is intended to increase the number of passenger and freight services which can run on all of the lines which pass through the area.

Comments submitted during the consultation, which runs until July 4, will be used to help choose preferred options ahead of further submissions to the government next year.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail's route director for Anglia, said: “Following a successful consultation, which saw a lot of support for the principle of increasing capacity through Ely, we are now in a position to present a number of options on how we can upgrade the railway to achieve these benefits.

"Feedback will help to inform our designs as we progress this important project and I hope everyone who wants to, will take the opportunity to have their say."

A separate process will consider options for the area around the Ely North junction, which has been the subject of consistent campaigning by politicians and business leaders from West Norfolk over many years.

Although the line has benefited from the introduction of regular eight-coach trains to Lynn, increasing capacity there is seen as essential to enabling the long-sought delivery of twice-hourly services between Lynn and London King's Cross.

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