December 8 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin met regional business leaders and MPs yesterday to hear the case for a major upgrade on the Great Eastern Main Line from London to Norwich through Ipswich.
But although he was able to listen and respond to their concerns, he was unable to make any firm pledges on the demands for improvements to the services.
The MPs and business organisations have put together a prospectus which has three main planks to bring services on the route into the 21st century.
They want: a third track between Witham and Chelmsford to ease the pressure on the track, a number of track improvements to bring the speed limit up to 110mph and new trains for the InterCity services. The cost has been estimated at about £450 million.
Mr McLoughlin liked their presentation. He said: “I have been impressed by what I have heard, and clearly the MPs and businesses have put a lot of time and effort into this.
“We heard from Network Rail that it is investing £2billion in the region over the next few years – the fact is that rail investment costs a great deal of money.
“I’m not here to give false hope, but hearing this is very useful as we look ahead to the future of the rail services in this region.”
Mr McLoughlin pointed out that a great deal was being invested in Crossrail – which will run to Shenfield – and the new Thameslink service.
And he felt it was wrong to compare the cost of improvements to the Great Eastern Main Line with the estimated £42bn cost of HS2.
“There will be a look at improvements here, but HS2 is a scheme that will take more than 20 years to be completed, but it is something we need to look at,” he added.
The meeting was welcomed by current rail operator Greater Anglia. Managing director Ruud Haket said: “I share the MPs aspirations for strategic investment in the region’s rail network, and we welcome today’s forum and visit by the Secretary of State for Transport.
“Since taking the franchise over in February 2012 we have been pleased to play a leading and constructive role in making the case for regional rail investment, working with MPs and stakeholders as part of the East Anglian Rail Prospectus.
“We will continue to work to further improve rail services for our customers and the regional communities we serve.”