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East Anglia: Investment calls as passenger numbers continue to rise on Greater Anglia trains

PUBLISHED: 13:18 04 June 2013 | UPDATED: 13:18 04 June 2013

A Greater Anglia train on the Suffolk/Essex border.

A Greater Anglia train on the Suffolk/Essex border.

(c) copyright citizenside.com

The number of rail passengers in the region shows no sign of falling – prompting MPs to repeat their calls for a major increase in investment.

Trains being refurbished

Bosses at Greater Anglia have denied that they have “run out of trains” as old rail stock has been pressed into service on some local lines.

Some trains between Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Norwich have been formed by carriages with diesel locomotives dating from the 1960s at each end because there are not enough modern units to operate all the services.

There have also been problems on the Felixstowe branch with some services being replaced by buses.

However a spokesman said it had always been planned to use the older trains on some services earlier in the year because many of the units currently used on local services were being refurbished and updated, one at a time.

“We were using the top-and-tail trains on weekdays earlier in the year, but at the moment we are covering all services with the normal units – but the other train is there if needed.”

He said the refurbishment programme would be completed by the end of the year – which should mean there would be no need to rely on the older trains in the future.

New figures from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) show that the number of people using stations in the Greater Anglia area increased by 10.3% between 2011 and 2012 (Liverpool Street is not included in the figure because it is run by Network Rail).

Ipswich station saw a 5.1% increase, Colchester’s passenger numbers increased by 5% and Manningtree’s increased by 10%.

Away from the main line there was a significant illustration that improved services can attract more passengers.

Stations at the north end of the East Suffolk line – Lowestoft and Beccles saw a fall in the number of people visiting them.

During the year an hourly service was introduced on the southern half of the line, as far as Saxmundham.

Stations on this section of the line were considerably busier – Woodbridge station saw the number of users increase by 27%.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the strong increase in numbers would come as no surprise to regular travellers.

“As someone who uses the car park at Ipswich station I know you have to go higher and higher to get a space unless you get there very early.

“We will certainly use these figures in our talks with the government to show how important it is to invest in the rail services across the region.”

Mr Gummer insisted that the privatisation of the rail industry had helped increase the number of passengers.

“If you look back 30 years the kind of problems we had on the railways were very different – they weren’t on issues like capacity such as the issues we face now.”

He pointed out that East Anglia was one part of the country that had not technically faced recession over recent years and felt it was important that the government should recognise that.

“I still feel that Network Rail’s projections for growth are very cautious. It is important that investment is sufficient for the growth that we will continue to face in this region.”

His comments were backed up by Witham MP Priti Patel, who has joined Mr Gummer in the campaign to boost rail services.

She said: “The increasing numbers of passengers using Witham demonstrates the need for significant improvements to be made to local services and rail infrastructure.

“More passengers are using these services than ever before and they deserve to travel in comfort and without delays for the fares that they pay.”

Rail operator Greater Anglia said the figures showed that rail travel continued to grow in popularity – and service improvements had helped.

A spokesman for the company said: “In Suffolk, the introduction of more capacity and the established hourly service on the Ipswich to Cambridge route and the additional Ipswich to Saxmundham services, now extended to and from Lowestoft, are clearly having a positive effect in attracting more passengers to these services.”

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