South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has spoken of her frustration following an “extremely frank” meeting with senior rail managers.
Ms Truss and other politicians including Sir Henry Bellingham MP met with Network Rail and Govia Thames Link Railways (GTR) to press them on progress made on upgrades to the region’s rail service.
Discussion focused on the delay in introducing eight-carriage trains between King’s Lynn and London and the Ely North Junction upgrade project, needed to run more regular trains to the capital.
With a decision on government funding for the eight-carriage scheme expected as early as this month, it is now hoped longer trains will be in use by December next year.
Several station platforms will need to be lengthened as part of the work, which could start in October.
Speaking after last week’s summit, Ms Truss said: “We had an extremely frank discussion with Network Rail and GTR about the pace of work and the length of time rail users are having to wait to see any improvements.
“The eight car scheme is awaiting final funding announcement from the Department for Transport (DFT).
“I have raised with the transport secretary that this is an absolute priority for our region and assuming funding is agreed, then work will start in the autumn with completion and delivery of longer trains late 2020.
“I am extremely frustrated that this is taking so long and will be maintaining the pressure so we see improvements on this line as soon as possible.”
Research into upgrading the Ely North Junction has been carried out over the last year.
“Due to the layout of the level crossings, the roads in the area will need to be included in any future improvement plan, Ms Truss said.
“We also questioned why the Ely Junction upgrade was developing into such a significant and wide ranging project with estimated build figures of anywhere from £600 to £800 million,” Ms Truss said.
“I know that the surrounding roads need to be improved as the level crossings round Queen Adelaide junction are creating a number of challenges.
“But, what I don’t want Network Rail to lose sight of is that this is a critical upgrade that benefits not just East Anglia but also the Midlands and the North.
“I want them to remain focused on the original objective and not let this mushroom into a grand all-encompassing project that could take years to be implemented.
“This is a bottleneck that is holding back productivity and it needs to be fast tracked. Yes, we want speedier and more frequent passenger trains, but the highly valuable freight routes will also benefit significantly once this upgrade has taken place.’’
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham welcomed the news that the final investment decision by the DFT was expected this month but said it was disappointing the original promise and commitment to get the eight-car service by this summer had been broken.
He said: “Both myself and Elizabeth Truss have made it very clear that there must not be any further slippage.”
He added that GTR had the rolling stock and drivers ready to implement an eight-car service and said: “Given the overcrowding has now quite simply got to an unacceptable level this is very welcome news indeed.”