Network Rail unveils second track that boosts prospect of new Soham station but line could close for six months because of scale of works

Network Rail hopes to upgrade the railway between Ely and Soham.

Network Rail hopes to upgrade the railway between Ely and Soham. - Credit: Archant

Network Rail has unveiled plans for a second track between Soham and Ely, potentially opening the way for improved passenger services.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail route managing director, said: “The plans for the railway between Ely and Soham are an important part of our plans to improve the railway in the east of England.

“This stretch of track is currently a major bottleneck and the proposed second track will enable us to create extra capacity on the line for both freight and passenger services.”

Network Rail hopes to begin preliminary work in 2017 with the bulk of the construction completed the following year. Compulsory purchase orders may be required to acquire additional land.

Following testing, it is hoped to have the new track open to trains by 2019.

But the massive engineering works will require the line to close for six months.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The construction of the project would require significant civil engineering and geotechnical works.

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“The scale of these works and the affect they may have on the existing track means that it is not possible to carry out the doubling work in a series of weekend closures of the line.

“Therefore a ‘blockade’ approach would be required to deliver the doubling works which means that this section of rail line could be closed for approximately up to six months. “

It is envisaged that the pre-blockade works could start in the middle of 2017, with blockade works commencing in 2018.

The work will see new retaining walls and embankments built to support the proposed new track, upgrading signalling equipment, replacement of the Middle Fen Drain rail bridge and the creation of replacement habitat for a variety of wildlife.

The spokesman said: “The additional capacity is expected to result in 114,000 return lorry journeys being removed from the roads per annum by 2023, amounting to approximately 2,200 return lorry journeys per week.

“As part of the work we also expect that we will need to close the existing line to allow us to build the new section of railway. This is currently expected to be a closure of around six months.

“As part of this work, we will also need to upgrade a number of the existing level crossings on the route. This is to make sure they meet the required standards for the possible increase in trains using the line.”

Of the proposal for a new station at Soham that is being promoted by Cambridgeshire County Council, Network Rail says they are working together “to ensure that these two projects are compatible.”

Additionally there is a proposal to enhance the frequency of the passenger services between Ipswich, Ely, and Peterborough, which would also call at the proposed new station in Soham.

“The doubling of this section of line supports the proposal to enhance these passenger services,” said the spokesman.

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