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Network Rail pauses Ely and Soham upgrade due to budget concerns

A Network Rail project to upgrade a crucial freight line in Cambridgeshire has been mothballed after the company said it couldn’t afford to carry out the work.

The project between Ely and Soham in Cambridgeshire was put on hold last week when investigations by Network Rail found that the work was “more complex than first anticipated” and as a result would require “more funding” than was available.

The line, an important part of the £35m upgrade to the freight route between Nuneaton and the UK’s biggest container port in Felixstowe, will now miss its target completion date of 2019.

The work would see the line converted from one track to two and clear a bottleneck for trains.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Earlier this year, we held our first feasibility consultation with residents and other interested parties in the Ely area to try to better understand the impact of the proposal to install a second track between Ely and Soham.  

“Since then a lot of detailed work has been undertaken, including surveys and ground investigation works.

“This work has identified that this project is far more complex than we anticipated, meaning the funding required to deliver the project by 2019 is more than the budget available. 

“Owing to this, we have decided to put this project on hold until funding can be identified to deliver it.”

The upgrade of the Nuneaton-Felixstowe route was first proposed as part of the government’s £38.5bn Control Period 5 plan, which includes a £200m investment in the UK’s strategic freight network.

The line is now expected to be completed in Control Period 6.

VolkerFitzpatrick and its design partner Atkins were initially given the contract to carry out preliminary design and planning work for the project, but Network Rail confirmed that a contract for the construction work had not yet been awarded.

The rail operator said the work that had been carried out so far “would inform any future scheme”.

The postponement is the latest in a series of delayed upgrade projects across the UK’s in the CP5 programme.

In June, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that electrification of the TransPennine and Midland Mainline were to be “paused” after “rising costs and missed targets” had made the improvement programme untenable.


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