Great Eastern Main Line’s �3.7bn boost

IMPROVEMENTS to the Great Eastern Main Line could generate �3.7billion in benefits to businesses and commuters in the East of England, transport experts at the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) have concluded in a report published yesterday.

‘The Economic Case for Investment on the Great Eastern Main Line’ was commissioned from transport consultants Atkins by EEDA working with a range of partners including Regional Cities East, Shaping Norfolk’s Future, the Haven Gateway Partnership, Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council, Essex County Council, Norwich City Council, Ipswich and Colchester Borough Councils, and National Express East Anglia.

The study concluded that achieving the partners’ vision for the line could deliver �3.4bn worth of conventional transport-related economic benefits and �280million of wider economic impacts within the East of England.

The vision for the line includes improved travel times, greater capacity, new trains for longer distance services, improvements to rural stations, longer franchises and better facilities such as wi-fi access.

It was developed by the partners after a transport study by EEDA in 2008 showed constraints on the line were harming the economy in the East of England.

Businesses, commuters and other passengers travelling from and to Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich are most likely to benefit.

Mike Salter, head of transport planning at EEDA, said: “It is fantastic that this study shows we can achieve such a great economic prize which would benefit many businesses and passengers across the East of England. The vision and aims we have worked with partners to devise now has solid economic evidence behind it to help plan investment at the right time and place with the appropriate resources.

Most Read

“We demonstrated how much the constraints on the Great Eastern Main Line were costing businesses and the economy in our ground-breaking transport study in 2008. It showed that it is a major economic artery. Now we have taken that one step further with our partners to investigate what benefits could be gained from making big improvements, and we now need to keep working with the rail industry on how to deliver these. This is a long-term vision for the line and it requires long term commitment.”

“It is absolutely essential that if we want to help our businesses become even more competitive we have to invest in the transport schemes that will deliver the best returns to the economy.“

Rob Bayley, Atkins’ project manager for the study said: “Atkins is delighted to bring our nationally recognised expertise in rail planning and economic appraisal to develop the case for major investment in the Great Eastern Main Line on behalf of EEDA and partners. Our analysis of the economic challenges along the corridor demonstrates that improving train services along the Great Eastern Main Line would unlock major benefits to the region. Atkins is keen to work with regional partners and the rail industry to develop these proposals to tackle constraints on the line and stimulate sustainable economic growth in the East of England.”

Andrew Chivers, managing director, National Express East Anglia said: “National Express East Anglia welcomes the EEDA report. It clearly highlights the major regional benefits which would result from a substantial upgrade for the Norwich – Ipswich – Colchester – London route. When we set out our vision for the route last November - including faster journey times, new trains and infrastructure enhancements – we said it was important that a compelling business case was developed to secure the necessary investment. In the current economic climate, the Great Eastern Main Line project will have to compete in an even more challenging funding environment, so this study is particularly helpful. We will continue to work together with regional partners to help support further improvements for this key rail and regional artery.”

Neil Darwin, Regional Cities East director said: “This research shows just how important it is to invest in the Great Eastern Main Line. The cities of Regional Cities East are some of the country’s best drivers of economic growth, but their businesses have had to rely on a sub-standard rail service for too long. �3.7bn is an excellent return on investment, particularly in the current economic climate. The findings of this research need to be taken very seriously indeed”.

Cllr Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning, Suffolk County Council said: “Suffolk County Council is fully committed to improvements to the railways in and serving the county. We have fully supported the work to make the case for improvements especially on the crucial London-Ipswich-Stowmarket and on to Norwich main line.”

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk’s Future, said: “This research shows that improvements to the Great Eastern Main Line will bring enormous economic benefits to the region. Now we want to see this vision start to become reality with the introduction of new, faster and more reliable trains as part of the new Greater Anglia rail franchise.”

Norman Hume, portfolio holder for highways and transportation, Essex County Council said: “Essex County Council welcomes this opportunity to examine the key role the Great Eastern Main Line plays in supporting the economy of Essex. A long term plan for investment in this line is necessary to make sure that Essex remains a competitive location to do business and gains the full benefit from our location close to London. This study clearly demonstrates that improvements to this line can bring real benefits for passengers and the local economy not only in Essex but also along the entire line to Norwich.”

The report is available to download at