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Minister gives signal for vital East Anglia rail upgrade

A senior cabinet minister has insisted a key bottleneck on the rail network of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire is one of his main priorities during a visit to the region.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling gave his backing to the Ely north junction upgrade as he officially opened the new Cambridge North station on Monday.

He said the site, which is close to the city’s science park and welcomed its first trains in May, was the latest phase of the project to transform the region’s rail network.

But he admitted there was more to do, including the need to “sort out Ely junction.”

The project was originally put on hold in late 2015, following a review of rail improvement schemes across the country.

But a funding package worth almost £9 million to complete a feasibility study on the issue was agreed with the region’s local enterprise partnerships and rail industry figures earlier this year.

Mr Grayling said: “Ely is a priority. It’s one of a number of projects to be done and it’s really important to unlock growth potential across the region. There is a clear commitment to doing it.”

The comments followed fresh demands from politicians, business leaders and rail campaigners in recent weeks for urgent action to improve the borough’s rail services.

Last month, West Norfolk Council, together with the King’s Lynn BID group and the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA), submitted a joint list of areas for action to the Department for Transport.

It included the re-dualling of single track areas of line that were downgraded in the 1980s and a commitment to maintain journey times at their current level, rather than the slower journeys planned in Great Northern’s current draft timetable proposals.

FLUA secretary Andy Tyler, who met Mr Grayling at the Cambridge North ceremony, said: “He was fully aware of how important Ely is and how necessary it is. It was very encouraging.”

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham also welcomed Mr Grayling’s comments.

He added: “Myself, Elizabeth Truss and Lucy Frazer have been working hard on him. I think he gets the point that this is needed to unlock improvement and growth.”

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