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East Anglia: New trains still far away for region’s rural lines

PUBLISHED: 10:03 24 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:03 24 March 2014

A Greater Anglia train leaving Ipswich for Felixstowe.

A Greater Anglia train leaving Ipswich for Felixstowe.

A shortage of diesel units for rural rail services in the region should ease next week when a train damaged in December’s floods returns to service.

But there is little hope of a solution to a chronic shortage of diesel trains for those lines which are not electrified, said transport minister Stephen Hammond.

He said any need for new trains was something that should be addressed in the bid for the long-term rail contract for the region – but that is not due to start until 2016.

The shortage of diesel units has led to trains between Marks Tey and Sudbury being replaced by buses several times – and has also contributed to the same situation on the Felixstowe branch.

However the “bustitution” of Felixstowe branch services has also been caused by problems with freight trains using the line.

Mr Hammond said that diesel units could become available when parts of the rail network were electrified over the next few years – work to electrify lines in the north of England is expected to be partly completed within the next two years.

However diesel units on those routes are expected to stay in the north of England to ease overcrowding on other routes there.

“To a large degree the problem is one caused by the success of the industry in attracting new passengers,” Mr Hammond added.

Greater Anglia’s immediate problem should be eased when a diesel unit that was damaged in December’s floods in Lowestoft returns to service next week.

This should give the company more breathing space when units are in the workshops for routine maintenance or repairs – they have also had diesel units away for refurbishment over recent months.

One other solution the company has adopted is running traditional carriages pulled by locomotives that are up to 50 years old between Norwich, Great Yarmouth and possibly Lowestoft.

A long-term solution could be the electrification of the cross-country route from Felixstowe through Bury St Edmunds to Ely and Peterborough, with a branch to Cambridge.

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