BREAKING NEWS - Key rail upgrade halted until at least 2019

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Rail passengers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire may have to wait nearly 10 more years for a vital upgrade to their network, it has emerged tonight

That’s because Network Rail, the company responsible for maintaining the network, has signalled it will not now begin work on the Ely North junction until at least 2019.

The scheme, which had been expected to cost around £35 million to complete, had been due to be completed in the current spending round, which runs until 2019.

However, the company now says the work will take place in the next spending period, which runs from 2019 until 2024.

Details of the new plans have been published in a review of Network Rail’s building programmes by the company’s new chairman, Sir Peter Hendy.

The document says the Ely scheme is being delayed “to allow co-ordination with safety critical level crossing works nearby.”

But it adds: “Despite this, Network Rail is aware of the strong aspiration of the DfT £Department for Transport) and local user groups and MPs to see improvements to services on the Cambridge to Kings Lynn corridor as soon as practicable.”

However, the news is still a major blow to campaigners’ battle for improved services on lines including that from King’s Lynn to Cambridge and London and cross-country services through March and Thetford.

The upgrade has also been seen as a key mechanism for increasing freight traffic on the line to the port of Felixstowe.

However, Network Rail has said it is working on a scheme that could double the length of peak-time trains on the Cambridge to King’s Lynn section to eight coaches in a bid to combat overcrowding.

It says it will report back to the government on how it intends to fund and introduce the measure by the spring. At present, an eight-coach train which runs from London divides into two at Cambridge.