Rail services from Suffolk to the Midlands and the north have received a big boost following the cancellation of the HS2 line from Birmingham to Manchester.

The government has given the go-ahead for the reconstruction of Haughley Junction on the main rail line north of Stowmarket and the rebuilding of Ely North junction in Cambridgeshire.

These two projects should double the number of passenger trains that run between Ipswich and Peterborough - and more significantly should lead to a big increase in the number of freight trains that can run from Felixstowe to other parts of the country.

Doubling the tracks at Haughley Junction - which was cut back in the 1960s - is a relatively easy operation for Network Rail which was costed at about £20m two years ago.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ely North Junction is about a mile from the city's railway station.Ely North Junction is about a mile from the city's railway station. (Image: Paul Geater)

But rebuilding Ely North, which handles lines to Norwich, and Kings Lynn as well as the cross-country route to Peterborough, is a much larger project. 

That was costed at £500m - and there have been suggestions that it could cost almost double that because of the engineering challenges in the area.

The Ely work will also allow more trains to run to Kings Lynn and between Cambridge and Norwich.

The work on the two junctions has been talked about for years and Network Rail has carried out a series of consultation exercises - but the costs involved have always been a big barrier.

Greater Anglia has been very keen to operate an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough - which would give a half-hourly service between the county town and Bury St Edmunds - but that has not been possible because of the bottleneck at Ely.

Jonathan Denby, Head of Corporate Affairs, Greater Anglia said: “We very much welcome the approval for the Ely and Haughley upgrade schemes.

"We have long been keen to deliver an hourly Ipswich to Peterborough service and this rail infrastructure investment is key to enabling that positive outcome.

“Previous rail service frequency improvements in the region, such as the provision of an hourly service on the East Suffolk line and, before that, an hourly Norwich to Cambridge service, have led to significant increases in rail travel.       

“We fully expect that a similar improvement for Ipswich to Peterborough services will result in many more passengers taking the train, especially as the route connects into the East Coast Main Line and runs parallel to the A14.  

“With benefits for freight services to/from Felixstowe too, these enhancements are good news for the wider region and are also helpful in creating the potential for future aspirations for additional services on the Ipswich to Cambridge and Norwich to Cambridge routes.”

Transport East, which represents local authorities and transport operators issued a statement saying: "Investment in Ely and Haughley Junctions will change the lives of so many people and businesses.

"It will reduce congestion, boost trade, level up communities right across the UK, increase passenger services and cut carbon emissions.
"We look forward to working with the government to bring this forward as rapidly as possible."