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Rail lines in East Anglia to get £2bn investment from Network Rail

PUBLISHED: 17:35 13 February 2018

Network Rail is planning more investment in track over the next five years  but without the long-term weekend closures. Picture: NETWORK RAIL

Network Rail is planning more investment in track over the next five years but without the long-term weekend closures. Picture: NETWORK RAIL

Archant

Network Rail has given details of how it will spend more than £2bn on improving the rail network in East Anglia between 2019 and 2024 – but it is still waiting for the go ahead for major improvements to the line between London and East Anglia.

The Anglia Route Strategy plan just published gives details of how it will enhance existing infrastructure – replacing track, signalling and overhead wires as well as improving its structures like bridges and earthworks.

However it does not include provision for major improvements that have been flagged up as being necessary to achieve some of the aims of Great Eastern taskforce – including most trains from London to Ipswich in 60 minutes and Norwich in 90.

There are three major improvements that are needed for this – building a third track between Witham and Chelmsford in Essex, rebuilding Haughley Junction near Stowmarket, and installing a new swing bridge at Trowse near Norwich. Improved digital signalling would also be needed for higher speeds to be reached.

Network Rail bosses insisted, though, that this did not mean those developments had been shelved. Industry insiders hope that Haughley Junction and Trowse Bridge could be replaced within the next five years.

Network Rail director of route asset management for East Anglia Eliane Algaard said the investment would make tracks more reliable and would allow Greater Anglia’s new trains to carry more passengers.

She said: “We are expecting to see continued passenger growth into the future and this investment should allow more trains to run more reliably.”

There would be increased investment in the line to Clacton in Essex and on routes in the west of the region. Upgrading tracks in the Ely area should improve cross country services from the region heading to Peterborough, the midlands and the north.

However Ms Algaard did have good news for passengers on the Great Eastern main line which has had major resignalling and electrification work undertaken between London and Shenfield – forcing months of weekend line closures over many years.

She said: “There will be more work to replace and upgrade track on the line but we are not expecting that level of disruption once the Elizabeth Line is fully open next year.”

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill has been campaigning for improvements to Haughley Junction – and said that would continue “until the ink is dry on the contract.”

She said: “I am delighted that Network Rail has committed to investing in the region and particularly delighted that Ely improvements are in the plan.

“I am hopeful but I will carry on pressing the case for Haughley until it is signed and sealed and the ink is dry on the contract.”

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