Fed-up campaigners seeking long-awaited improvements to the East of England's rail network are urging Labour to make it a priority if they win the next general election.

With Labour well ahead in opinion polls, campaigners fighting for rail upgrades at Ely and Haughley junctions will put their case for the schemes to shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh MP.

Suffolk Chamber - which has brought together a wide range of stakeholders both from across the eastern region and further afield to make the argument - says it wants to convince her that any future Labour administration should prioritise the Ely/Haughley projects before any other rail schemes.

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.

Stephen Britt, chairman of Suffolk Chamber’s Transport & Infrastructure Groups, said the two projects provided benefits beyond the region.

“Over many years, Suffolk Chamber has worked with partners to make the case for the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement (EACE) and Haughley Junctions programmes.

“These are catalytic schemes which would massively boost the number of daily freight movements in and out of the strategically vital Port of Felixstowe as well as increasing passenger traffic flows, hence making significant contributions to both economic efficiency with benefits to businesses in the Midlands and the North of England and the country’s decarbonisation ambitions.”

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.