Ely North junction upgrade delayed up to seven years

An upgrade to a major rail junction has been postponed by up to seven years by Network Rail.

The upgrade to the Ely North junction was supposed to start in 2017 to ease a bottleneck.

The junction connects Norwich and King's Lynn to Cambridge on to London, and Ipswich to the Midlands.

Network Rail said the work would now start between 2019 and 2024 so as to include safety improvements to nearby level crossings.

Image caption The Ely North junction connects the region from east to west and north to south

MPs, business and rail user groups had been lobbying for the £25m upgrade since 2012.

The Fen Line Users Association said it was "disappointed" with the delay but that "safety has to take precedent around level crossings".

Elizabeth Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk and Environment Secretary, said she accepted many level crossings in the area were "not fit for purpose".

But she would be pressing Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to "find out exactly when" the improvements would start, and if a half-hourly service on the King's Lynn line to London could still go ahead without the upgrade.

Image caption Ely North junction upgrade is said to be "vital" to area's economy

Network Rail said it was looking at the possibility of increasing capacity by adding more carriages to trains during peak times on the Cambridge to King's Lynn corridor to help with overcrowding.

Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership region, said: "Hopefully overcrowding will be solved in the short term but what we want to see in the Ely North junction improvements is the increase in frequency".

A Network Rail spokesperson said: "No infrastructure project has been cancelled and the bulk of our investment programme for the east of England will be delivered by March 2019.

"Some projects, such as Ely North junction, will take longer than originally expected and we understand that people will be disappointed."

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