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East Anglia: New five-year plan for rail starts but more investment still sought

PUBLISHED: 10:35 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:35 31 March 2014

Travellers are facing rail delays in Ipswich

Travellers are facing rail delays in Ipswich

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Network Rail’s new five-year plan starts tomorrow with the promise of improved services in the region.

But the battle for yet more improvements to East Anglia’s rail network has been raised up the political agenda as passenger and freight demand is expected to soar.

Network Rail’s “Control Period Five” is due to see upgrades to the main line to London and improvements to the cross-country route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton.

However politicians are to keep up the pressure on the Department for Transport and NR bosses to ensure that the full electrification of the cross-country route is completed by 2024.

And there are hopes that a new cross-country electric route from Felixstowe to the west country and South Wales could be opened by the same time.

The next five years will see the long-awaited opening of the Crossrail service under the heart of London which will see trains travelling direct from Shenfield to Reading.

This will ease congestion at the existing Liverpool Street station.

There will be major changes at Colchester station, including an extension built to one of its platforms, and several

level crossings on the main line are to be closed enabling trains to travel faster and safer.

Haughley junction, where the cross-country line leaves the main line just north of Stowmarket, is set to be rebuilt to enable trains to travel over it at full speed.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail route managing director said: “The railway in East Anglia is getting busier and passenger numbers are growing year on year.

“Our response now is to meet the demands placed by the travelling public to deliver more reliable journeys and a safer railway for everyone.

“Over the next five years, we will work tirelessly to deliver real improvements and bring ageing parts of the network into the 21st century. Finally, this vital investment will support and encourage economic growth across the East of England.”

As engineering work gets under way on these projects, planning will be stepped up for the next five-year programme for 2019-25.

This is expected to include proposals to build extra tracks on the main line in Essex north of Chelmsford to ease pressure on the main line.

And there is increased confidence among local MPs and businesses that the cross-country electrification will be included.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “We are at an important point now, but over the next 10 years there is the strong possibility of a real transformation in the region’s rail network. There’s a lot of work to do but we have to keep up the pressure to ensure we get the investment.”

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