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Meeting with Shadow Transport Minister: a chance to show national importance of rail project

The longstanding campaign to secure much-needed rail upgrades at Ely and Haughley Junctions is about to receive a boost as Suffolk campaigners prepare to put their case to Louise Haigh MP, the shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

To demonstrate the national importance of the long-delayed projects, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has brought together a wide range of stakeholders both from across the eastern region and further afield to convince Louise Haigh that any future Labour administration should prioritise the Ely/Haughley projects before any other rail schemes.

Stephen Britt, chair of Suffolk Chamber’s Transport & Infrastructure Groups, explained: “Over many years, Suffolk Chamber has worked with partners to make the case for the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement (EACE) and Haughley Junctions programmes.

“These are catalytic schemes which would massively boost the number of daily freight movements in and out of the strategically vital Port of Felixstowe as well as increasing passenger traffic flows, hence making significant contributions to both economic efficiency with benefits to businesses in the Midlands and the North of England and the country’s decarbonisation ambitions.”

Suffolk Chamber has been at the forefront of recent efforts to persuade both The Treasury and the Department for Transport to accelerate the due diligence needed to commence the schemes, after they were approved in principle at last year’s Autumn Statement.

The Chamber has been in regular correspondence with both Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, Secretary of State for Transport and Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP urging their department to release the development funds required to allow Network Rail to develop a full business case and have the necessary powers to begin work at Ely under a Transport & Works Act Order.

Chamber representatives have also pushed the case for the schemes in recent meetings with Rt Hon Rachel Reeves, shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Darren Jones MP, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

Paul Simon, head of public affairs at Suffolk Chamber, added: “With every pound spent on the projects likely to produce £5 in benefits, the case for Ely/Haughley is overwhelming. It is almost beyond bizarre that such a nationally vital scheme hasn’t been given the go-ahead over the last 15 years or so. Our hour-long meeting with Louise Haigh will give us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the national importance of these vital rail projects.”

The meeting on 21st May, which has been facilitated by Jack Abbott, the Labour Party’s Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich, will be attended by representatives from the Port of Felixstowe, Rail Freight Group, Greater Anglia, sub-national transport bodies England’s Economic Heartland and Transport East, logistics companies, Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, as well as representatives from various metro mayors in the Midlands and the North.

Jack Abbott added: “The Ely and Haughley junction upgrades are absolutely critical to the future prosperity of Ipswich, Suffolk and our wider region.

“We are all so frustrated that two comparatively straightforward schemes have been left gathering dust after nearly a decade and a half of Government indecision.

“It is why I’ve secured meetings with Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Darren Jones, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, on the issue, and why I’m delighted to be pressing our case with Louise Haigh, shadow Transport Secretary, in a few weeks’ time.”

Transport & Infrastructure Group

The Transport & Infrastructure Group brings together transport and business professionals from across Suffolk alongside local authorities to discuss key issues relating to road, rail, ports and aviation, as well as utilities.

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Suffolk Chamber

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