�155m boost for rail services

A �155million investment to reduce overcrowding on commuter services between London and East Anglia was announced by the Government today.

A �155million investment to reduce overcrowding on commuter services between London and East Anglia was announced by the Government today.

Public funding is being used to allow regional train operator National Express East Anglia to add 188 more carriages to its fleet - including 120 new carriages to be built at the Derby plant of manufacturer Bombardier and 68 others to be redeployed from the former Midland Mainline franchise

The first additional capacity will be introduced in December this year and, once all the improvements are in place by December 2011, around 11,000 extra seats will be provided into Liverpool Street in the three-hour morning peak period.

Most of the new carriages will be used to provide longer trains on the Stansted Express service, with the fleet currently operating on that route - together with the ex-Midland Mainline stock - being reallocated to provide longer trains elsewhere in the region too.

This will include the Great Eastern routes from London to Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Clacton, Chelmsford and Southend, with the Clacton depot in Essex being brought back into use as a maintenance facility.

Some timetable changes are also on the cards, which could also affect through services from the main line to Lowestoft and Peterborough. These will be the subject of consultation, with National Express East Anglia (NXEA) due to publish a briefing document giving more details later this month.

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The additional 188 carriages represent a 17% increase in the NXEA fleet and the company is expected to take on more than 100 additional staff while infrastructure improvements to support the longer trains will also help to safeguard jobs with Network Rail.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said: “This is one of the biggest changes to have been negotiated to an existing franchise since rail privatisation with the operator National Express East Anglia playing a key role in developing these plans, which are a mark of our continued commitment to invest in long term projects to improve the railways.

“This will be of major benefit to passengers in terms of reducing over-crowding, while Bombardier's success will help safeguard UK manufacturing jobs and the expansion of the fleet will create welcomed job opportunities with NXEA.”

Richard Bowker, National Express group chief executive, added: “National Express is delighted to work in partnership with the Department for Transport and welcomes the department's �155 million investment in new trains and improvements to seating capacity on our East Anglia network.

“The introduction of these 188 extra carriages will provide our customers across East Anglia with a significantly improved quality of service and demonstrates our commitment to high standards of customer service.”