LEP chair backs rail investment at Ely Summit

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The chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has reaffirmed the LEP’s commitment to driving through major investment in the region’s rail infrastructure.

Doug Field was speaking at the 2018 Ely Area Rail Summit, organised by South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.

In March 2017, New Anglia LEP and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority each pledged £3.3m towards a detailed study into the options for infrastructure improvements in the Ely area. This study will then inform Government’s decision on considering projects for funding. The Strategic Freight Network is also contributing towards the £8.8m study, to be carried out by Network Rail.

Enhancements at Ely will have a benefit for both freight and passenger services from King’s Cross to King’s Lynn, Ipswich to Peterborough, Norwich to the Midlands and Felixstowe to Nuneaton and beyond, helping bring closer the long-standing ambition of genuine East-West connectivity across the UK. It will also be an important step in enabling passenger services to run to Wisbech once more.

As a driver of economic growth for Norfolk and Suffolk, a large part of the LEP’s focus is on the huge potential created by better connectivity between the Port of Felixstowe and the rest of the UK. Felixstowe is Britain’s biggest and busiest container port, and one of the largest in Europe. The port handles 27m tonnes of freight and welcomes 3,000 ships each year, including the largest container vessels afloat today. It’s connected to more than 400 ports around the world and plays a pivotal role in keeping the UK’s trade moving.

The Summit included an update on the Ely Area Improvements Task Force from West Norfolk Borough Council, updates from Network Rail and rail operator Greater Anglia, and speeches from local MPs and the Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

Doug Field told delegates at the summit: “These improvements will have far reaching benefits for Norfolk, Suffolk and beyond.

“Greater connectivity will help drive industrial centres like the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse, improving the offer of Felixstowe as a gateway to Europe and beyond and creating countless economic opportunities for the East and the UK as a whole.

“The Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk lists Ipswich, Norwich and King’s Lynn as Priority Places where significant jobs and growth are planned. It is critical to have the right transport infrastructure in place.

“We’ve seen what can be achieved through this kind of partnership approach through New Anglia LEP’s work with the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce.  The Ely Area Enhancements project is just as vital as we look to accelerate the economic growth of the region.”

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