The Ely area rail “bottleneck” must be sorted before investigating reopening Soham Station or building a new train station in the North of Ely, Chris Grayling says.
The Secretary of State for Transport visited Ely Station on Thursday (January 11) to talk about ways of “improving” track and train reliability in the area.
He told Spotted in Ely that his “core challenge” was to “get this right” first because Ely Station was not just an important link across the region but also between ports and the Midlands.
“Until we’ve sorted out the track problems in Ely itself, we won’t be able to make any improvements at Ely North.”
During the Autumn 2017 budget the government announced funding for the Cambridgeshire Rail Corridor Study.
Expansion of the Ely North Junction was central to future rail growth across Cambridgeshire, Mr Grayling said.
His visit to Ely Station was arranged by South East Cambridgeshire MP Lucy Frazer. He talked with a number of stakeholders including Councillor Charles Roberts, deputy mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.
“It’s so much easier to work on a project if you’ve been and seen for yourself so I wanted to come and understand the nature of the challenge, I wanted to see what needed to be done. I’m very committed to driving forward improvements.”
During his visit, Spotted in Ely quizzed Mr Grayling about whether he would look at the cost of rail fares, which increased by an average 3.4% on January 2.
The average season ticket for an Ely commuter travelling into London has risen by about £178.
Mr Grayling said he wanted to keep fares “as low as possible” and that the recent rise was less than the rate of inflation, which peaked at 3.1% in November.
“What I can’t promise people is no fare increases.”
The Transport Secretary said he wanted to improve both rail and road infrastructure in Cambridgeshire and supported mayor James Palmer’s bid to dual the A10.
“We want to help make it happen. We’re going to sit down in the coming weeks and look at how we can best help him achieve that ambition.”
No timeframe had yet been agreed on, he said.
Ms Frazer said that cycling provisions would be included in improvements to the A10.
The SE Cambs MP also took Mr Grayling to Queen Adelaide to discuss concerns over proposed closures to level crossings.
She said the Ely Area Improvements Programme would bring benefits to the region but she had supported Queen Adelaide residents’ concerns about the potential impact of closures.
“I am grateful to Chris Grayling for taking the time to come with me to Queen Adelaide, to see for himself the situation and to have a clearer idea of the impact certain proposals could have on residents in this area.”