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Ely Rail Capacity Enhancement: Benefit-Cost Ratio

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 13 October 2022

1. Whether her Department has made an assessment of the accuracy of the benefit-cost ratio in the outline business case submitted by Network Rail for the Ely area capacity enhancement under the rail network enhancement pipeline. (901604)

As a fellow Blue Fox, I always had a lot of time with David, and a great friendship. I join you, Mr Speaker, in your tributes to him and James. I also reflect that last Friday marked 70 years since the collision involving three trains at Harrow and Wealdstone station where 112 people lost their lives in our worst peacetime rail incident. We remember those who were lost.

The benefit-cost ratio for the Ely area capacity enhancement was calculated and assured by Network Rail as part of the development of the outline business case for the scheme. We have no reason to doubt the robustness of the benefit-cost ratio.

I welcome the Minister to his place, and indeed the new Front-Bench team. The project is backed by MPs across the east of England because it would increase capacity by 30%, enabling more passenger and freight services and delivering a major boost to growth. Given the overwhelming economic benefits that it offers, will the Government ensure that this much-delayed project, for which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been campaigning for more than a decade, is now fast-tracked and moves to the next phase?

My hon. Friend is a strong champion for the Ely scheme, and I recognise the potential for the benefits that he highlighted. It is, though, worth noting that the scheme would require significant public funding with a total cost of up to £500 million, so we need to consider that as part of reviewing patterns of rail travel post the pandemic. We will therefore seek to provide as much clarity as possible when we publish an update to the rail network enhancements pipeline.