Boost Ely freight capacity to make UK trade more reliable, sustainable and affordable, says trade head

Tue 20 Jun 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Freight train pulling out of Ely

The director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), Marco Forgione, has backed a Cambridgeshire-based project aimed at boosting the UK’s capacity to move imported goods via rail.

Forgione told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Dotty McLeod that the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement scheme was “really important for the whole of the UK” and would help with the cost-of-living crisis, as well as the fight against climate change.

The proposed rail enhancements target the area around Ely in Cambridgeshire but has major implications for the entire of the UK. The town connects the Port of Felixstowe – one of the UK’s busiest trading hubs – with key destinations across the Midlands and North, playing an important role in the movement of goods across the country.

“Something like 10% of UK imports come through the East of England and Felixstowe is the UK’s busiest container port,” said Forgione.


Outdated rail infrastructure has restricted the amount of freight that can moved along this route, resulting in goods taking a longer route via road to get to their destination.

Forgione said:

“Anything that can be done to improve the sustainability and reliability of goods coming into the UK will obviously help.

“It will help with the cost of living and inflation, because things moving more quickly through the ports getting across the UK, which is what happens when they come through Felixstowe.

“Of course, there's a massive improvement on sustainability and the impact on the environment.”

A joint report by England’s Economic Heartland and Transport East has highlighted the benefits of the project, including an extra 277,000 passenger journeys, a reduction in carbon emissions and a high-investment-to-benefits ratio.

‘No brainer’ on environment

The proposal, made by Network Rail, would add more trains to the route and develop additional stations in the South-East region.

The project could result in 270 lorry journeys per day being removed from UK roads and shifted onto railways, improving connectivity throughout the country.

“When you're looking at the impact on the environment, this, frankly, is a no brainer,” said Forgione, adding that this was part of a “genuine multimodal” approach to freight.

The project is also backed by industry groups such as GB Railfreight, Transport for the North and Logistics UK, with England’s Economic Heartland saying that it also enjoys “cross-party support” from MPs, peers and local authorities.

The project is also being backed by mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson.