TRAINS to and from Suffolk could hit a maximum of 125mph under ambitious new plans to improve East Anglia’s rail infrastructure.

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The proposal, which could see journey times from Ipswich to London slashed to 55 minutes, is among a host of improvements recommended in a study published today.

The report, by infrastructure consultancy firm Atkins, also calls for rolling stock to be refurbished or replaced and new track added north of Chelmsford. It says the improvements could boost the region’s economy by £2.5billion.

Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users Association, cautiously welcomed the report, which will be unveiled at Chelmsford railway station today.

“It would be excellent if they can do it,” he said. “You’re probably looking at something like an hour [from Ipswich to London] but south of Chelmsford I’m not sure whether you’re going to get that faster speeds.

“I have always been told the line between Colchester and London is full and that’s without taking freight into account.”

The maximum permitted speed anywhere on the Great Eastern Main Line is currently 100mph, with tighter restrictions at a number of specific locations and a general maximum of 90mph south of Chelmsford.

Mr Skinner said the east and west coast lines from London to Scotland could reach 125mph. “We’ve always been the poor relation in this part of the country,” he added.

Train operator Greater Anglia is working with regional stakeholders, including Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils and the New Anglia and South East local enterprise partnerships, to build an economic case for increased investment in the key route.

Among the improvements recommended in the Great Eastern Main Line Capacity Study are the remodelling of Bow Junction near Stratford, and a new three-tracked section at Boreham, north of Chelmsford, to increase capacity and flexibility.

Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs for Greater Anglia, said faster trains could see average journey times from Ipswich to London cut from 1hr 8mins to an hour, with some services getting there as quickly as 55 minutes.

He added: “This is trying to help create the environment where there is increasing pressure from the region to say there’s a strong economic case for improving the railways in East Anglia.

“We are committed to working with our partners in the region to secure significant upgrades for train services in East Anglia.

“It is clear that this collaborative approach, allied with a strong, evidence-based business case, is the best way to try and ensure we gain the investment necessary to realise passengers’ and stakeholders’ future aspirations.”

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