A massive economic boost to West Norfolk looks to have been held-up with a review into rail services.
An already-agreed £35m upgrade which would allow half-hourly train services between King’s Lynn, Downham Market and London, is now unlikely to go ahead until at least 2019 – two years later than hoped.
The review by Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, looks at the five-year funding programme up to 2019, and suggested that the Ely North upgrade be put back to the next five-year funding period.
Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk was yesterday in talks with the Secretary of State for Transport to discuss the situation.
“The Hendy Review has recognised the importance of the Ely North rail junction to local MPs, councils and business. I want to see the upgrade as soon as possible.
“The half-hourly service on the King’s Lynn to London line is scheduled to start in 2017,” she said.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said there was ‘no excuse’ for the scheme to be completed sooner than the now predicted 2019-2024 period.
“We are surprised and disappointed with this news.
“I am requesting an urgent meeting with both the secretary of state and Network Rail. In the context of the wider investment in the rail system, this is a relatively small sum,” he said.
The only works from Network Rail’s original CP5 programme for the Anglia routes to be knocked back to CP6 are Ely North Junction and Bow Junction.
It is, however, developing a scheme to allow the lengthening of trains at peak time between Cambridge and Lynn to double in length from four to eight carriages next spring.
The news came days after assurances from an investment company that Downham Market would be at the centre of a £350m project creating 4,500 new hi-tech jobs. Rail links were cited as among reasons for the choice of location at the old airfield.
The Hendy Review, published on Wednesday, said Network Rail was aware of the ‘strong aspiration’ of the local MPs and user-groups to see improvements.
The cost of all the upgrades across the country has increased, says the review, and the ‘vast majority’ of programmes will be delivered for 2019. These include the Norwich in 90 service to London.
But the King’s Lynn to King’s Cross line has been earmarked for delay: “To allow co-ordination with safety critical level crossing works nearby,” said the review.