New report highlights Ely’s importance in keeping Britain’s trade on track

June 1st 2023

Nationwide business and political support for increasing rail freight capacity at Ely is showcased in a new report produced by England’s Economic Heartland and Transport East.

‘Keeping Trade on Track’ highlights the importance of delivering the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement scheme, which would significantly increase the amount of rail freight heading to the Midlands and north from Felixstowe, alongside improvements to regional passenger services.

The brochure will be formally launched in Westminster on 19 June at a meeting of the East of England All-Party Parliamentary Group.

The Ely Area Capacity Enhancement scheme supports UK economic growth and levelling-up by increasing access to global markets to and from the Midlands and north, where 70% of containers from Felixstowe are destined.

According to Network Rail, 2,900 extra freight services would be able to operate to and from Felixstowe per annum, removing 98,000 lorry journeys off the road every year, reducing congestion by 5.6 million hours and cutting carbon emissions by 1.7 million tonnes over 60 years. By allowing extra passenger services between Ipswich and Peterborough and King’s Cross-Ely-King’s Lynn, the scheme would also stimulate 277,000 extra rail passenger journeys. The scheme has a very high benefit-cost ratio – returning over £4.80 of benefits to the UK for every £1 invested.

Keeping Trade on Track includes supportive quotes from some of the UK’s largest freight and logistics companies, including Freightliner, Maritime Transport, GB Railfreight and Hutchinson Ports, alongside representative groups such as Rail Freight Group, Rail Partners and Logistics UK. Cross-party support for the scheme from MPs, peers and local authorities is also demonstrated.

The brochure highlights how the strategies of four sub-national transport bodies – Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, England’s Economic Heartland and Transport East – all reference the benefits of upgrading Ely for their regions. As Blake Jones, Rail Managing Director at Freightliner says in the brochure: “Levelling-up is not about where the concrete is poured, but where the benefits will be realised and therefore unblocking Ely will help unlock economic growth across the country.”

Cllr Liz Leffman, vice-chair of England’s Economic Heartland, said: “Our conversations with the freight industry have only reinforced that there is significant unmet demand for increased levels of rail freight. The rail capacity improvements needed at Ely are of national significance. The scheme is an important connector for the economies of the Midlands and North and provides significant potential to relieve congestion on strategic roads while reducing emissions caused by HGV journeys which could more appropriately be made via rail.”

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chair of Transport East said: “Solving these rail pinchpoints would help connect our growing places, energise our rural and coastal communities, and unblock our international gateways. All while helping achieve net zero transport and bringing into the Treasury five times the required investment. We must get these moving.”