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Ely North Junction funding - Letter to SoS Grant Shapps MP

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, the Chair of the Eastern Powerhouse James Palmer expressed our great concern over recent comments that funding for the Ely North Junction upgrade might be cut.

You can find the full text of the letter, below:

TO: SoS GRant Shapps MP

CC: Minister Wendy Norton MP, Minister Andrew Stephenson MP, PUSoS Baroness Vere, PUSoS Trudy Harrison MP, PUSoS Robert Courts MP

30 June 2022

Dear Secretary of State Shapps,

I am writing to you with grave concern regarding a recent letter from Minister Wendy Norton MP. The letter throws doubt on the funding for the upgrade of Ely North Junction, the most egregious rail bottleneck in the East of England.

The constriction at Ely North negatively impacts on passenger and freight journeys from all parts of the East, including Felixstowe, Tilbury, Ipswich, Norwich, Kings Lynn, Peterborough and Cambridge. Currently, freight is sent via London from Felixstowe, cutting availability for rail freight at Tilbury. Lack of capacity on the line means ineffective rail services between Peterborough and Cambridge (and on to Stansted), Ipswich and Cambridge (including Stowmarket and Bury St. Edmunds) and Norwich and Cambridge. The negative effect on the economy, because of restricted growth along the line is tangible. While continuing to stymy the growth of the Cambridge economy, it also creates unnecessary additional heat in the Cambridge property market.

Railfuture have described Ely North as “the East of England’s highest transport investment priority” for the following reasons:

  • for the major East Anglian settlements of Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester their only rail route to the Midlands and North is via Ely

  • passenger growth over the last 20 years has driven an increase in demand for the number of services passing through the junctions

  • future growth both in the size of existing settlements and the planned location of new settlements in the region will see this trend continue

  • the dramatic growth in global trade through the Port of Felixstowe, and the pressure to ‘decarbonise’ this strategic link between the southern ports and the main centres of demand in the Midlands, the North and Scotland, will accelerate this trend as rail becomes progressively more competitive with road over long distances.

Fulfilling these growth ambitions is not possible with the present layout which limits capacity through single lead junctions and the conflicting nature of freight flows (on a south-east : north-west axis) with the majority of other services passing through Ely.

The East of England is the fourth largest regional economy in the UK yet has an extremely poor rail service. This is unacceptable and must be dealt with, starting with Ely North, Soham to Ely and Haughley bottlenecks. Last year, government announced £96bn investment into the North and Midlands, yet in the East, government seem to show little interest at all. Funding for the East/West rail project is not confirmed and now the most vital rail infrastructure improvement in the region is at risk. I urge you to review this decision and invest in the East of England.

The Eastern Powerhouse represents businesses across the East of England. We view the East as a single interconnected region and aim to promote the East as a place for investment. We are member led and politically neutral. The East has world leading industries and world class innovators. The economy of the East can and is leading the world in science, technology and green energy, it is time government recognised this potential and invested in the East of England. Ely North would be an appropriate place to start. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss in more detail.

Sincerely yours,

James Palmer Chair Eastern Powerhouse


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