December 11 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Monday, September 9, 2013
Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell has hit out at colleagues for leaving him out of a ministerial visit about the train line from London to Norwich – claiming he was suspicious plans to cut back the number that stop at Colchester were on the agenda.
The Liberal Democrat MP said he was peeved that the first he knew of transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s visit to Ipswich was when he read it in the paper.
But Conservative MP for Witham Priti Patel, who pointed out that she was also an Essex MP, said that was “categorically not the case”.
“It was very much a lobbying effort to the secretary of state from businesses so he could hear from business leaders around the area.”
Ms Patel said that the business case had to be made to the Department for Transport.
She added that the three MPs who were at the meeting, which also included Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, were leading the East Anglia Rail Manifesto, which all the region’s MPs have signed up to.
But Sir Bob said: “The first I knew about this was when I read it in the paper. I was a bit peeved to put it mildly. It is disappointing that on an official visit by the secretary of state for transport to discuss the railway line from Norwich to London, which has a significant impact on Colchester as the largest main line station in the locality, that I wasn’t there, yet the MP for Witham was.”
In written parliamentary questions Mr McLoughlin told Sir Bob the visit was in an official capacity.
Sir Bob said: “Doing it in an official capacity it should have been more broadly-based than the MPs for Norwich, Ipswich and Witham.
“My concern in the early days of the manifesto it was being driven by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which is Suffolk and Norfolk. One of the bright ideas to speed up the rail service from London to Norwich was to no longer stop at Colchester.
“I managed to jump on that one quite early on. The only way they were going to get a unanimous voice was to agree that they would stop at Colchester with the same frequency.”
“My concern is are they trying to put it back on the agenda. I don’t know, I must be suspicious.”