The Ely Area Capacity Enhancements (EACE) Project and WisbechRail

The Ely Area Capacity Enhancements (EACE) Project and WisbechRail

It is a few months since we updated on progress being made with Wisbechrail. However, much does continue behind the scenes.

First a little background to stress that the railway is increasingly busy with freight services and now again after the mandatory lockdowns, with passenger services. Wisbechrail is for a future where there is a need to decarbonise and yet keep people on the move in a pleasant and time efficient manner. Into the future much more is being demanded of our existing railway especially at the junctions at March and Ely.

It is worth remembering that capacity on the railway just as on the road network is determined by capacity at the junctions, and for the desired half-hourly service from Wisbech to Cambridge there will need enough capacity though the junctions in the Ely area. The current work on the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement (EACE) and it’s “South” junction plan are of great relevance to Wisbechrail and was discussed by the Cambridgeshire County Council at its last meeting of the Cambridgeshire County Highways and Transport Committee on July 27th 2021.

It is good to note that the County Council welcomes:

· the increase in rail freight traffic in order to take it off the A14

· and for us, above all, stresses that there must be enough capacity after the new works are completed for Wisbech to Cambridge rail passenger services.

The Committee received a report that set out the proposed response to Network Rail’s consultation on the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement Scheme and sought a delegation to submit the final consultation response to the Executive Director for Place and Economy. It was noted that Local Members had been recently briefed by Network Rail on the scheme.

While discussing the consultation response, Members:

· Highlighted that concerns had been raised by local residents regarding the Kiln Lane crossing and called for assurances that the local area would be protected.

· Welcomed the scheme and noted that one of its benefits would be to reduce levels of westbound freight from Felixstowe on the A14.

· Emphasised the need for Network Rail to ensure the scheme sufficiently cater for a potential increase in future traffic levels due to additional services connecting Cambridge to Wisbech through the junction.

It was resolved unanimously to:

· Note and comments on Network Rail Consultation on the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement Scheme Consultation; and

· Delegate the agreement of the final consultation response to the Executive Director, Place and Economy in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Highways and Transport Committee.

Network Rail will begin to consult on the work on EACE “North” shortly. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has contributed £9.3m to these studies and as a result must have a powerful say in the capacity through Ely and how it is to be used. The DfT contributed £13.1m.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s full response can be read here with the consultion response in Appendix A starting on page 10 containing the following references to WisbechRail:

“Moreover it is important to note that the County Council is strongly supportive of the CPCA led project of Wisbech Rail reconnection and it is vital that train paths through Ely are provided for this service.”

“Increase capacity for a Wisbech to Cambridge service.”

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Transport Committee Hail Network Rail Partnership for Wisbech to Cambridge

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Transport committee members hail Network Rail partnership to bring Wisbech-Cambridge rail nearer.
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, has secured a powerful new partnership with Network Rail which can push Wisbech rail plans forward on the back of work to free up the Ely rail bottleneck.
Steve Barclay, Member of Parliament for North West Cambridgeshire and Mayor Palmer have led the campaign to bring the railway back to Wisbech, including many meetings with rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris.
Today’s Combined Authority Transport & Infrastructure Committee heard how those meetings have paid off, with the minister undertaking to consider funding the Combined Authority’s plans to restore Wisbech Rail as soon as work currently in hand to improve train services through Ely has been completed.
Partnership with Network Rail means the plans to restore rail services for the ‘Capital of the Fens’ promoted by Mayor Palmer and Mr Barclay can be part of a joined-up operation that could free up Ely bottleneck and then get trains running firstly between March and Wisbech, and then between Wisbech and Cambridge.
Members unanimously agreed to recommend the drawdown of £300,000 capital funding from the Combined Authority’s Medium-Term Financial Plan to enable the next steps towards realising Wisbech Rail.
The Combined Authority will work closely with Network Rail during the next phase of work to get Wisbech back on track.
Mayor Palmer’s integrated approach means the Wisbech Rail business case will be developed in accordance with Network Rail’s new project management style, building on work already delivered by the Combined Authority, assessing options for the Wisbech to March line, and finding significant cost savings.
Fenland District Councillor Chris Seaton said:
“I’m extremely encouraged to see that we have Network Rail getting involved in something that the Combined Authority has been solely pushing in the past. We all know that Ely North is the pinchpoint and really needs to be sorted so that the rest of the system can operate in a proper way. I’m fully behind this, I hope it receives support from Members and I’d be happy to propose this.
“I’d like to thank you Mr Mayor for all the work you have put in to Wisbech Rail and the officers for the amount of time and work they’ve put into it, the investment into Fenland, into the various areas is so welcome and so much needed, so thank you all for your support.”
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough:
“Connecting Wisbech and unblocking Ely will get the whole of Cambridgeshire moving and the wider East Anglia region. We’ve demonstrated the good value and good sense of taking forward these plans in a considered, joined-up way where projects dovetail and methods of working are time-efficient and cost effective.
“This breakthrough partnership with Network Rail puts us inside the team, the idea being everything can be aligned and streamlined, with no waste of resources, no doubling up, and no unnecessary delays to getting these projects working for people who’ve quite frankly waited long enough.”
The historic market town of Wisbech is one of the biggest settlements in England with no link to the main rail network. Improving connectivity to Cambridge will transform Wisbech as an investment opportunity, opening up services and a wider field of jobs for its residents.
Initial work to review all documentation, options assessment and provide a programme and cost estimate for the next stage of work would take around 7 months with a budget estimate of £300,000.
The outcome of this work, if given the go-ahead, will be reported at the November Transport and Infrastructure Committee and Combined Authority Board.

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Wisbech Standard reports positive news about linking Wisbech to the National Rail Network

Caravan and rubbish fire in Whittlesey | Wisbech News - Wisbech Standard

The Wisbech Standard newspaper reports more positive news in progressing the linking of Wisbech to to the national network at March.
It is especially pleasing to note that the planning for the  number of trains that have to be timetabled through the critical junction at Ely called North Junction, where the lines from March, Lynn and Norwich all meet to continue onto Cambridge or Ipswich, now include two each hour from and to Wisbech.
Not only is the junction going to be remodelled to offer more capacity, the whole of the line from Peterborough and March to Ely will have the latest and most up to date signaling installed.
Additionally, we have in the past supported the notion that a railway service from Wisbech as far as March should be put into place before the work at Ely is completed in 2028. It seems that is going to happen. So soon we should see the railway right of way being cleared between Wisbech and March, the tracks relaid and a new station at Wisbech being built. As the Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority  says, the people of Wisbech have waited long enough…and we say just get on with it!Well done to all at the CPCA and Network Rail. 

The Editor of the Wisbech Standard, John Elworthy reports:

Joined up thinking boosts Wisbech and Ely rail projects
Network Rail has agreed to link improvements to Ely North with the growing demand to re-open the Wisbech to March line.
Mayor James Palmer says a new partnership with Network Rail can push Wisbech rail plans forward in tandem with work to free up the Ely rail bottleneck.
“This breakthrough partnership with Network Rail puts us inside the team,” he said.
“Everything can be aligned and streamlined, with no waste of resources, no doubling up, and no unnecessary delays.”
He said it would enable both projects to forge ahead and start “working for people who’ve quite frankly waited long enough”.
Paul Raynes, director of delivery and strategy at the combined authority, has put forward proposals to the transport and infrastructure committee to allocate £300,000 for a next stage of the Wisbech line programme.
It would “align Wisbech Rail with the delivery sequence of the Ely Area Capacity Enhancements”.
Network Rail has been discussing – off and on – for years improvements at Ely and secured funding of £22.4m from the combined authority and Department of Transport to develop a scheme.
There will another round of consultations in 2022 as the proposals to increase capacity through Ely progress to design options.
Network Rail says: “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 in order to meet the aspirations to run more rail services.”
Mayor Palmer has met Chris Heaton-Harris, Minister of State for Transport, on two occasions to highlight the importance of both Wisbech Rail and Ely Area Capacity Enhancements.
He said the minister subsequently confirmed that the Wisbech Rail project would be considered for funding alongside the business case for Ely.
An initial service between Wisbech and March could be started with direct services to Cambridge following improvements in network capacity at Ely North Junction.
“Connecting Wisbech and unblocking Ely will get the whole of Cambridgeshire moving,” said the mayor.“

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Goods news for Wisbech and Cambridgeshire

Article by Peter Wakefield, Vice-Chair of Railfuture East Anglia reproduced from the September 2020 edition of RailEast

Jubilation as the business plan for the restoration of passenger trains to Wisbech is approved. 
At its July 2020 meeting the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board approved the Business Plan outlining the best way to restore passenger train services from Wisbech to March. As you can imagine, the decision was greeted with much delight in and around the town and district. 
“Good Value for Money” 
The Business Case decision is based on a service of two trains per hour operating between WisbechMarch-Ely-Cambridge. This produces a very good benefit cost ratio of 4.4:1 and is deemed “good value for money”. It is based around the town’s current population of some 35,000 people and not conditional on the additional housing planned, which nevertheless, will double its population. The railway will enable the housing plans to be progressed. 
Improvements to the adjacent road network and utility costs will be around half of the project’s predicted £184m cost (which excludes risk) as all level crossings will be abolished. Several of them will be replaced by road over rail bridges. 
The rest will be spent on:
a station close to the town centre at Wisbech, together with a 200-space car park and bus interchange 
a passing loop at Coldham 
a cycleway parallel to the railway between Wisbech and March 

The project will involve significant investment at March in addition to the enhancements outlined in the June 2020 issue of RAIL EAST (186). Additional enhancements will include 
the disused platform, now numbered 3, restored for Wisbech trains together with a 200-space car park on the north side of the station 
the historic building on disused platform 4 being repurposed to provide a new north side entrance from this car park 
step-free access from this new station entrance AND the existing southern entrance by the provision of a new footbridge/lifts across the centre part of the station to platforms 1-3 
considerable enhancements to the track layout and signalling with the two manual signal boxes abolished and their work being transferred to a new panel at Cambridge Power Box (see comment about ETCS on next page). 

It is noteworthy that this project is more than the crucial provision of a railway station in Wisbech. The service to and from the town will also hugely benefit March as three trains an hour will operate to Cambridge. The Business Case predicts that the already high numbers of March users travelling towards Cambridge will be tripled by this extra service provision. The expected growth in new residents at Manea, Ely and above all at the new towns planned at Waterbeach and Cambridge North will be well catered for by this frequent Fenland stopping service. The funding for this important project has to be finally established. It may be descoped to make it more affordable, but it is worth considering that these overall high capital costs make for long term low operating costs and to reiterate, the CPCA Board agreed that the project is ‘good value for money’.

Finished and opened by 2028
The Business Case predicts a restoration of train services from Wisbech by 2028. This is several years away, but not long to get the resignalling and all the necessary capacity enhancements throughout the Ely area completed. Without this activity there can be no extra train services. However, there is a lot to do on the Wisbech line and at March. These works must be completed well before the resignalling works. Wisbech has waited too long already. We urge all our MPs and councils to lobby hard to get all these works funded and completed before 2028. 
ETCS – digital signalling 
Subsequently it seems this now may not be the signalling plan as it is reported that the introduction of digital technology on the East Coast Main Line between London King’s Cross over the 160kms through Peterborough to just south of Grantham by 2024, the country’s first major mainline deployment of European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling, will be extended on from Peterborough to March/ Wisbech, Ely and King’s Lynn, allowing the elimination of no fewer than 10 Victorian -era manual signal boxes. This is to be welcomed as ETCS will provide extra capacity along this already remarkably busy railway line.  

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Corby to Peterborough rail link proposal

A welcome addition to local proposals for rail reopenings is the Welland Valley Railway Partnership which is proposing a short railway link near Corby to allow service to run from Kettering on the Midland Mainline, and Corby, through to Stamford and Peterborough with an idea they could be extended to reach March and Wisbech.

You can read more about this scheme and how to support it here:

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Mayor’s plan for Wisbech rail gets green flag

The Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority have shared the following historic announcement about the reopening of the railway to Wisbech which puts the project on course for trains to return to Wisbech in 2028.

In a historic vote, the business case for re-opening the Wisbech rail link was this week approved by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority.

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee was asked to accept the conclusions of the Full Business Case – the FBC –  that restoring a heavy rail link between Wisbech and Cambridge would be practicable and offer value for money –  and give the final version a thumbs-up.  

Members approved the case –  and if the Government backs the Combined Authority’s chosen option and helps with funding, the first commuters and passengers could be travelling into Cambridge by 2028.

Wisbech Standard editor John Elworthy tweeted: “Hugely important day for Wisbech today as @CambsPboroCA signed off the final business plan to re-open the Wisbech to March rail line. I watched the moment live…make no mistake, this was a historic moment. A frisson of excitement running through me.”

The editor’s comments reflect a long and passionate campaign within the Wisbech community and surrounding area. Wisbech – ‘the Capital of the Fens’ – remains one of the largest towns in the UK without a rail connection.  Residents of the town have pushed hard for the restoration of their passenger service, ended by the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, for decades.

James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, joined and elevated the campaign upon his election, and has already met the rail minister the Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP to discuss plans for reviving Wisbech rail link and its potential funding.

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Major milestone reached as initial design work funded for Wisbech Railway reopening

The Wisbech Standard reports the historic decision of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to provide almost £1m of funding for detailed design study and proposed land acquisitions, following on from the successful completion of the business case.

The total £200m+ cost of the scheme includes a significant amount for the seven road level crossings which need to be fully modernised including the A47 trunk road and 15 other crossings along the line. It will also involve the remodelling of March station to allow future through services from Wisbech to Cambridge and Peterborough.

You can read more about the announcement here:

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Railway to Wisbech in the Local Transport Plan

It is sometime since we have posted something, even though a lot has been going on in the background in various offices around the County. But now there is something to report that we can all have a part in influencing. Bear in mind the many responses to previous consultations from all those interested in getting this project up and running have had a huge effect.

Between that last study and now, the Mott McDonald consultancy has been appointed by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to produce a report based on Network Rail’s “Governance for Railway Investment Projects”, acronym “GRIP”. There are 8 reference points and the current state of project is at GRIP3b. Typically a GRIP 3B study carries out ground investigation, topographical surveys, asset assessment, capacity analysis, environmental assessment, design and level crossing risk assessments, as well as the development of the economic case, that in this case is also linked into the development of the proposed Wisbech Garden Town, which would deliver an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 homes over 25 years from 2020. Improving transport connections in Wisbech is seen as vital to bringing forward the garden town scheme. The work on Wisbech to March railway restoration will also need to complement other infrastructure projects, including the Combined Authority’s work to dual the A47 in Cambridgeshire from east of Peterborough to east of Wisbech. The proposed rail infrastructure upgrade at Ely, which is aimed at increasing capacity on the network, has also to be factored in.

Should this economic case prove to be sufficiently positive and the capital cost estimated to be affordable, the project goes onto GRIP 4 and delivery options.

It was estimated the consultants would take nine months to complete the study so it should have completed it by now. However we assume from the following extracts, below, taken from the new Local Transport Plan, its findings are positive for Wisbech Rail.

The Combined Authority has taken over from the County Council the statutory obligation to establish a Local Transport Plan, which must set out the Combined Authority’s “plans and strategies for maintaining and improving all aspects of the local transport system over a set period.” To that end the Combined Authority recently published a series of policies leading to the establishment of the Local Transport Plan and for Wisbech it states under:

Policy 1.1.1: Deliver strategic transport and complementary connectivity infrastructure

1.10 The Combined Authority is promoting a programme of key transport schemes to provide a step-change in transport capacity and connectivity to enable development and a higher and accelerated rate of delivery. This includes nine priority transport schemes: (Including)

Wisbech Rail Link, integrated with the Wisbech Access Package and Wisbech Garden Town proposals

Policy 2.2.2: Improve the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport links to expand our labour market catchments

reopening of the rail line from March to Wisbech, significantly widening employment prospects for residents with the introduction of direct services from Wisbech to Cambridge and Ely, supported by the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement (EACE) upgrades at Ely North rail junction;

Policy 3.3.1: Invest in our rail and highway networks to allow our firms, organisations and workers to trade and travel easily across the country and abroad
Rail connectivity is also particularly important for facilitating business travel: nationally, 9% of rail journey are for business purposes, and our region’s rail links to London in particular are heavily used by business travellers. We will therefore continue to work with our rail industry partners: the Department for Transport, Network Rail and operators, to improve the rail network, as outlined in policy theme 17 (Travelling by train), including through:
exploring options to expand the rail network to link to new settlements, corridors and growth areas, such as a new rail link to Wisbech, a new station at Soham and a travel hub at Alconbury Weald.

Policy 17.3: Explore options to expand the rail network to link to new settlements, corridors and growth areas
Policy 11.146 Wisbech is one of the largest towns in the country without direct access to the railway network, with the nearest station – March – a twenty-minute drive away and difficult to access by bus. Direct rail services to the town would support future development, including the Wisbech Garden Town, and open up new employment opportunities for residents of Wisbech in Cambridge by rail. The Combined Authority is exploring how to better integrate
Wisbech into the rail network, including how a new service to March, Ely and Cambridge could support the town’s future growth and prosperity.

Strategic Alternative 4 – Blended Strategic Alternative 4: ‘Blended’ includes a combination of policies and projects from the strategic alternatives above, including new highway capacity where most required to support growth, significant public transport, walking and cycling investment (including in CAM and Wisbech Rail Link to support social inclusion, access to employment and sustainable development), together with demand management where transport capacity is most constrained. In doing so, it seeks to combine the benefits of the alternatives above to create a balanced, multi-modal transport strategy for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

7.4 Projects
Rail Services The LTP includes new railway stations at Soham, Waterbeach and south Cambridge and is exploring the feasibility of providing new stations south of Peterborough as well as connecting Wisbech. The east-west rail arc between Cambridge and Oxford will connect communities along this route with direct rail services. Improvements to the existing rail system will encourage fewer car journeys, improving air quality. It is considered reasonable to assume no likely significant effect on any European site from this project.

Now it is up to us to influence the Combined Authority as it is organising a exhibition and consultation about its priorities at a range of locations across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in June, July and September as follows:

Sawston, Tue 18 Jun, 3pm-8pm, Sawston Village College
Peterborough, Sat 22 Jun, 10am-3pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Soham, Tue 25 Jun, 3pm-8pm, Soham Pavilion
St Neots, Wed 26 Jun, 2pm-7pm, St Neots Library
Wisbech, Thy 27 Jun, 3pm-8pm, Rose and Crown Hotel
Cambridge, Sat 29 Jun, 10am-3pm, Littleport Library
Peterborough, Thu 04 Jul, 3pm-8pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Cambourne, Sat 06 Jul, Cambourne Library
Cambridge, Thy 11 Jul, 1pm-6pm, Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard
Whittlesey, Fri 12 Jul, 3pm-8pm, Whittlesey Library
Huntingdon, Sat 13 Jul, 10am-3pm, Huntingdon Library
Peterborough, Tue 16 Jul, 3pm-8pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Cottenham, Thu 18 Jul, 3pm-7.30pm, Cottenham Community Centre Coffee Shop
Ely, Sat 20 Jul, 10am-3pm, Ely Library
Cambridge, Wed 24 Jul, 2pm-7pm, Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard
St Ives, Thy 25 Jul, 3pm-8pm, St Ives Free Church
March, Sat 27 Jul, 10am-3pm, March Library
Peterborough, Sat 07 Sep, 10am-3pm, Peterborough Town Hall
Chatteris, Wed 11 Sep, 3pm-8pm, Chatteris Council Chambers
Cambridge, Sat 14 Sep, 10am-3pm, Cambridge Central Library, Lion Yard

We hope that you will be able to attend one of these events and write and comment positively about the need to restore the railway to Wisbech.

Here is a link to information about the Local Transport Plan (LTP) and the consultation form:

We will post additional information as we receive it.

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Restoring a train service from Wisbech to Cambridge

DocumentRailfuture East Anglia and the Wisbech Rail Consultative Group set out the background to restoring a train service from Wisbech to Cambridge and how it could be done.

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Location of the site of a new Wisbech railway station

walk_from_stationDon’t short change us on the location of the site of a new Wisbech railway station

The Wisbech to March Railway crosses the Wisbech A47 bypass at grade about 2 miles towards March. Eventually this level crossing will have to be replaced by an road over-bridge. To avoid that cost some authorities have stated that Wisbech station should be at the A47 bypass, 2 miles from the town centre.


Here we explain why locating the station in the town centre station is important.
Please support us achieving this aim.

Download the document here:

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