Ben Gummer’s frustration over rail delays on the Great Eastern Main Line to London

Ben Gummer and Mark Pendlington at Ipswich rail station.

Ben Gummer and Mark Pendlington at Ipswich rail station.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer told the Suffolk rail conference today that there had been few improvements on the main line to London over the last five years.

However huge progress had been made in negotiations with the government which now saw the importance of the line to the economy of one of the most important regions of the country.

That meant that over the next few years, with the new franchise starting in October next year, there should be clear improvements starting to come through.

The three bidders shortlisted are First Group (which ran Great Eastern from 1997 to 2004), National Express (which ran the Greater Anglia franchise from 2004 to 2012) and Abellio/Stagecoach. Abellio has run services on a short-term contract since February 2012.

Mr Gummer said that in future years the next battle would be to get the east-west rail link, stretching from Ipswich through Cambridge to Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford, included in the Network Rail development plan for 2019-24.

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He said that would give people the chance to travel on the “Arc of prosperity” without having to struggle across London.

Speaking later Mr Gummer said the last five years had been a necessary battle to get the necessity for improvements raised at the very highest level of the government.

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But he also said improvements would also need serious input from Network Rail – which still needed major work to ensure it could deliver its work on time and on budget.

The Suffolk Rail conference brought together rail bosses, councillors, MPs, and business leaders for a five-hour meeting at Ipswich Town’s conference suite.

County councillor for transport James Finch opened the meeting which was chaired by fellow councillor Guy McGregor – who has special responsibility for rail at the authority.

As well as Mr Gummer, it also heard from LEP chairman and co-chair of the East Anglian rail task force Mark Pendlington who said that an efficient rail network was vital for business in the region.

Teams from the three bidders for the franchise were also at the conference to hear what delegates had to say – although government rules meant they were not able to discuss the details of their bids.

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