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Ely Area Capacity Enhancement Consultation

Q: What is the EACE programme?

The Ely area capacity enhancement (EACE) programme is a proposal to upgrade the railway to allow more trains to run through Ely. At this stage, we are looking at options to improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and meet the demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe, the West Midlands and the North to support sustainable, long-term economic growth

Q: Why is the railway around Ely Important?

The railway around Ely is an important and busy part of the network where five railway lines converge, providing routes for trains operated by Greater Anglia, Great Northern, East Midland and Cross Country services.

It is also an important part of the strategic freight network connecting the Port of Felixstowe to the West Midlands and the North.

Ely station is a key interchange for passengers when travelling to destinations including Cambridge to the south, Peterborough to the north-west, King’s Lynn to the north and Norwich to the north-east.

Q: Why does the railway need to be improved?

Owing to the existing layout of the tracks and junction, signals and existing speed restrictions across key bridges, the railway through Ely is operating at full capacity.

This means that we cannot increase the number of services through the area.

Q: How many trains are running currently?

The current capacity of Ely allows approximately six (off peak) to eight (peak) train services to run through Ely per hour in each direction.

Q: How many more trains do you want to run through Ely?

The EACE programme is looking at what interventions could be needed to increase capacity through Ely to be used by up to 10 train services per hour in each direction.

Q: What are the benefits of improving capacity?

In general terms, increasing capacity on the railway is expected to bring benefits to the national, local and regional economies and help ease road congestion across the region by taking freight off the road network.

Q: Why is it better to move more freight by rail?

With rail freight demand growing, increasing the capacity of the rail network will support a shift from road to rail thereby providing a faster, greener, safer and more efficient way of transporting goods across the country; helping to remove lorries from the roads and further reduce pollution and congestion.

Q: How many more trains will run to (Peterborough/King’s Lynn/Norwich Cambridge)?

The decision on which extra trains will run to which destinations has not yet been established. The projections on train patterns will form part of the overall business case to ensure that we utilise the extra capacity for maximum benefit. Even then, the train timetable will not be established for many years while upgrade work is being delivered.

Q: How big is the scope of the programme?

The programme is looking at all the railway systems between Cambridge and Ely, Ely and Peterborough and Ely and King’s Lynn. This includes:

  • 126 level crossings,
  • The Ely north junction track modifications
  • Bridge structures
  • Ely station and track modifications
  • Signalling systems
  • Ely station changes

Q: When would you expect to deliver the programme to allow extra train services to run?

It is too soon to say exactly when we could see more services running through Ely. We have several stages of work to get through including, consultation, design, funding decisions and authorisation which we hope we can achieve by 2024 subject to funding.


Q: What are you consulting on?

This first round of consultation is being run to gauge the views and opinions of communities and rail users on the aspiration to increase capacity through Ely and the benefits that could be delivered.

Q: Are there any options/plan to show?

For this first round of consultation, we are setting out the challenges of increasing capacity, what the aspirations are, how we will plan and deliver public consultation and the funding position. 

Q: What challenges are you consulting on?

We are using this consultation to explain the challenges we face to increase capacity and highlight which areas of the railway may need to be changed to allow capacity to be increased.

Q: Will there be more rounds of consultation?

We are setting out how we will consult with the public over the next two years and explaining when the public will be able to submit their comments related to options we present.  

Q: Why are you consulting on the current funding level?

We need to explain the current level of funding that the programme has secured and what this will allow us to do and perhaps more importantly, what it will not allow us to do at this stage.  


Q: How is the programme funded?

Network Rail has secured £13.1m funding from the Department for Transport and £9.3m funding from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Strategic Freight Network to understand the scale of the challenge to increase capacity through Ely.

Q: What will the current funding package enable you to do?

This funding will enable Network Rail to develop the Outline Business Case (OBC) and submit this to the DfT to consider the case for further funding.

Q: When do you need to seek more funding?

We are currently funded to develop an outline business case (OBC) and submit this to the DfT by mid-2022.

Q: What will happen after you have submitted an Outline Business Case?

The DfT and Network Rail, following their Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline (RNEP) will assess the Outline Business Case and decide whether there is sufficient justification to fund the next stage of the programme.

Q: What is the Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline process?

The Rail network enhancements pipeline (RNEP), sets out the DfT’s and Network Rail’s approach for rail proposals that require government funding. This approach creates a rolling programme of investment, focused on outcomes that provide benefits for passengers, freight users and the economy and moved government investment in enhancements away from a rigid 5 year cycle.

Q: Where can I find out more about the RNEP process?

The PDF document can be downloaded from the website by clicking here

Project Cost

Q: How much will all this work cost to increase rail capacity?

The programme has only secured funding until mid-2022 so it is too soon to say what the programme will cost to deliver all the works necessary to increase capacity.

Q: Don’t you have an idea of the cost?

The Outline Business Case (OBC) which will be submitted to the Department for Transport by mid-2022 will make a case for funding the next stages of consultation, design and development. We will have a much better idea of the likely costs at that time.

Q: Recent reports have stated that the project could cost up to £500 million. Is this correct?

The recent cost estimates reported in the media are projections only. Since then we have secured more funding to continue the development work to understand in more detail what the options are and what the likely cost could be for each of those options.


Q: What are the stages of consultation?

The stages of public consultation are currently:

  • Autumn 2020 Public Consultation Round 1 – entire scope
  • Spring 2021 (TBC) Public Consultation – expected to be Ely South focus
  • Summer/Autumn 2021 (TBC) Public Consultation – all areas outside Ely South
  • Mid 2022 Submission of Outline Business Case to seek further funding for next stage
  • *Autumn/Winter 2022 Public Consultation on preferred options – area to be confirmed
  • *Winter/Spring 2023 Transport and Works Act Order submission
  • *Late 2024 TWAO determination
  • *Delivery TBC

*Subject to funding being secured

Q: Why are some consultation stages subject to funding?

We are following the DfT’s and Network rail’s Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) process which is a rolling process of investment. We will need to submit an Outline Business Case in 2022 to the DfT to seek more funding to progress to the latter stages of consultation and authorisation to build the programme.

Q: When do you intend to submit the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO)?

Subject to funding, we currently anticipate that a TWAO could be submitted to the Secretary of State in 2023 with a decision by the end of 2024.

Q: When would the works start/finish?

It is too soon to say exactly when and how the project could be delivered as we are still at an early stage of development and there is no secured funding beyond 2022 but we are looking at how we could streamline the design and development stages.

Land Acquisition

Q: Would you need to acquire land as part of this programme?

A lot of the work could be undertaken on existing railway land, though we may have to temporarily acquire land to carry out the works. Some land could be permanently acquired subject to the options that are put forward but no decisions have yet been taken.

Q: When will anyone affected by land acquisition be consulted?

Anyone potentially affected by land acquisition identified as part of the option selection process will be contacted early for full discussions to take place before we submit any preferred options as part of a Transport and Works Act order.

Q: I have seen railway workers undertaking surveys close to where I live. Does this mean the land will be acquired?

No. We are undertaking surveys above ground and below to understand the layout and the composition of the ground. This is because the railway is built on fen land and so we need to understand the composition of the land surrounding the railway. This is part of our general survey work. 

Q: How will you acquire any land if needed?

Any preferred options will be part of a consent to seek authorisation to build (such as a Transport and Works Act Order). If any land is required, we will seek permission to acquire the land through the authorisation process.

Ely north junction

Q: Where is Ely north junction?

Ely north junction is located approximately 1.5 miles to the north east of Ely station.

Q: What do you need to do at Ely north junction?

The current track layout of the junction would need to be remodelled to provide a more efficient way to allow services to move through the junction.

Q: Wasn’t there a scheme to upgrade Ely north junction before 2016?

The Ely North junction scheme was a proposal to improve the track layout of the main rail junction to the north of Ely station, however, this work was put on hold following the Hendy review in 2016.

This has given us the opportunity to review the wider capacity constraints around Ely which also need to be considered.

Ely north junction is now part of the scope of the Ely area capacity enhancement programme and any proposed changes will be included as part of the consultation process.

Level Crossings

Q: How many level crossings could be affected by these proposals?

Within the scope of the current programme, there are 126 level crossings which could be affected by these proposals.

Q: Where are these level crossings?

The level crossings are spread across the scope of the programme and includes the lines between Cambridge and King’s Lynn, and Ely to Peterborough.

Q: Why will increasing capacity affect the level crossings?

Running more and faster trains along a given route means that we have to assess the level crossings to ensure they meet the required safety measures set out by the railway industry.

For example, we may need to upgrade the barrier equipment and/or the detection systems to accommodate the higher frequency of train services. 

Increasing the frequency of trains also means that level crossing barriers will be closed more frequently and so we also need to look at the impact to road users.

Q: Why do you need to upgrade level crossings at all?

Level crossings introduce the greatest risk to the railway because of the interface with the roads and pavements and footpaths, bringing motorists and pedestrians in contact with an operational railway.

If we want to run more and or faster trains across these level crossings, we have to undertake additional risk assessments to make sure the safety measures in place meet strict safety standards.

Q: Will you need to close any level crossings?

In some circumstances the frequency of trains running across a level crossing may mean that the barriers are down for significant periods of time, especially in peak hours impacting on traffic flow. If this happens, it may be better and safer to close a level crossing permanently and seek an alternative way for motorists to cross the railway safely.

Q: Will the public be consulted before level crossings are closed?

Any such proposals would need to be consulted with the local authority and the public to determine if an alternative route across the railway would be required to maintain road connectivity.

Q: Do you know which level crossings may close?

We have made no decisions at this stage regarding level crossing closures, but we know that level crossings will need to be upgraded or where necessary closed if we are to increase rail capacity through Ely.

Options for specific level crossings will be part of future consultation rounds when we will ask the public for feedback.  

Cutters Bridge (1569) and Common Muckhill Bridge (1572)

Q: What bridge structures are you looking at?

There are several bridge structures we need to look at to accommodate more frequent and faster trains.

The two significant railway bridges that cross the River Great Ouse, which currently have speed restrictions imposed on them. In order to remove these speed restrictions, we would need to strengthen or replace these structures. These are Cutters Bridge and Common Muckhill Bridge

Q: Where are these bridges located?

These two bridges are located just outside Ely station (to the north east) and span the curve of the River Great Ouse.

Q: What is wrong with these bridges?

These bridges have speed restrictions on them which limit the speed at which freight and passengers’ services can travel across the bridge. This is one of the limiting factors to running more trains through Ely.

Q: Why do these bridges have speed restrictions?

Cutter bridge and Common Muckhill bridges is predominantly made of wrought iron and constructed around 1896. While structurally sound, the bridges are not able to withstand faster train speeds owing to their age and design (steam trains where much slower than today’s modern trains).

Q: I don’t understand why train speed is a factor?

A train travelling at speed exerts a greater downward force than a train travelling at slower speeds. If we were to allow heavy freight trains to run faster than 20mph and passenger trains to run faster than 30mph, the forces exerted onto the structure could exceed the current tolerances and may affect the structure. 

Q: What are you planning to do with the bridges?

We have made no decisions at this stage regarding the bridge structures but we know that we would have to alter/upgrade or replace the bridges to remove the speed restrictions.

Q: When will the public be able to see your options for the bridges?

Our second round of consultation, planned for early 2021 is likely to include the bridge structures across the River Great Ouse, as well as Kiln Lane level crossing and Ely station.

Q: The marina at Ely is accessed by passing until the two bridges. How would this impact on the marina?

As we are in the early design stages we are not yet in a position to be able to explain the potential impacts of this work. The second round of consultation in 2021 will include options for how to remove the speed restrictions across these structures.

Ely Station

Q: What do you need to do at Ely station?

The current track layout at the station would need to be remodelled to provide a more efficient way to allow services to move through the station. We would also need to do some works to the station itself in conjunction with the track remodelling to accommodate the more frequent train services.

Q: When will we see more plans for Ely station?

Our second round of consultation, planned for early 2021 is likely to include options for Ely station and the track layout.


Q: Why do you need to change the signalling system?

In order to increase capacity through Ely we will need to look at changes to the signalling system to maintain a safe distance between trains (called headway) while accommodating more frequent train services.

Q: Why is this important?

The signalling system is the brain of the railway, controlling the speed of the trains, when they can run through a section of railway and maintain the gap between services (called headway) which is a very important to provide a safe railway system.

Q: What changes could be needed to the signalling system?

In order to increase capacity through Ely we would need to look at changes to the signalling system to safely accommodate more frequent train services.