Frustrated rail improvements campaigners have hailed a "very positive and constructive" meeting with Labour's shadow transport secretary as they press for works to be carried out at Ely and Haughley as soon as possible.

The group met with Louise Haigh today and urged her to make planned upgrade works a priority if Labour wins the next general election.

Suffolk Chamber's head of public affairs Paul Simon - who was at the meeting - said a number of practical next steps were agreed at the meeting.

The chamber - which argues that the schemes are of national importance - is among a group of stakeholders that have been lobbying hard for the schemes to be actioned.

“The much-need improvements to the rail junctions at Ely and Haughley will be transformational for both national freight and passenger traffic flows from Suffolk to the Midlands and the North, as well as contributing to our country’s wider decarbonised economic future," said Mr Simon.

“Since their approval in last year’s Autumn Statement, we have stepped up our lobbying of both serving Transport and Treasury ministers for the necessary funds to be released, either in total or in a phased manner, as a matter of national urgency and to allow Network Rail to work up the full business case and secure the necessary powers for future work."

The meeting was second campaigners have held with Ms Haigh in recent months. She met with supportive organisations which updated her on what was happening.

"Ms Haigh listened intently and engaged fully. She commented positively on the East speaking with one voice and was clear as to the benefits of the projects," said Mr Simon.

"Our hope is that this meeting will increase the weight of growing political consensus in getting the Ely/Haughley junctions across the funding line before the next General Election.

"Certainly, in the immediate future, it seems as if the issue of the ongoing delays to funding Ely/Haughley will be being raised even more in Parliament than in the recent past.”

The two schemes were approved in principle at last year's Autumn Statement - and the chamber and other organisations have been lobbying the Treasury and Department for Transport to hurry up with due diligence work needed to get the upgrades under way.

The chamber said it was in regular correspondence with transport secretary Mark Harper and rail minister Huw Merriman 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.

The matter was also raised by the chamber when it met recently with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow treasury chief secretary Darren Jones.

Paul Simon, head of public affairs at Suffolk Chamber, said: “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 May 21 has been facilitated by Labour's parliamentary candidate for Ipswich Jack Abbott.

It will include 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.

Mr Abbott  said the Ely and Haughley junction upgrades were "absolutely critical" to the future prosperity of Ipswich, Suffolk and the 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 and Darren Jones on the issue, and why I’m delighted to be pressing our case with Louise Haigh, shadow Transport Secretary."

This is a Supercharge East article which follows the launch of our business manifesto this year. It calls for the delivery of the Ely and Haughley rail upgrades and increases to regional passenger services they enable.

Supercharge East is brought to you in association with the East Anglian Daily Times and Greater Anglia.