Suffolk Chamber vows to fight plan to axe direct Ipswich-Peterborough rail link

Stephen Britt, chairman of Suffolk Chamber's transport and infrastructure board.

Stephen Britt, chairman of Suffolk Chamber's transport and infrastructure board. - Credit: Archant

A proposal to end direct train services between Ipswich and Peterborough has been branded by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce as “totally unacceptable”.

The chamber backs a proposal in Suffolk County Council’s Suffolk Rail Prospectus for an hourly service on the Ipswich-Peterborough route, on which trains currently run only every two hours.

But the Department for Transport’s consultation document on the new rail franchise for East Anglia which is due to come into force in October 2016 not only fails to include any improvement in frequency but suggests that the service should terminate at Ely, where passengers to and from Ipswich would have to change trains.

In a section outlining plans for improving rail links between Cambridge and the north of England, the document says that the Rail Executive is assessing whether the current Liverpool to Norwich service run by East Midlands Trains should be diverted to Cambridge, with the replacement East Anglia franchise including a new hourly service between Norwich and Peterborough instead.

And it reveals that this assessment also includes a “sub-option” under which the current Ipswich to Peterborough service would be limited to Ely, where it would connect with the new Norwich-Peterborough service.

With the final version of the document intended to provide guidance to would-be operators in formulating their bids for the new franchise, the chamber is calling for the proposal to be scrapped.

Stephen Britt, chairman of Suffolk Chamber’s transport and infrastructure board, said: “With the Government proposing to keep the two-hourly service from Ipswich to Peterborough, ending the direct link would mean that Suffolk has an even worse service than currently.

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“We welcome Government proposals that the new franchise should adhere to improving passenger services on the Great Eastern Main Line, but we also need to ensure that other services are improved. A proposal to maintain a two-hourly service to Peterborough that is limited to Ely is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Britt added: “We will also be pressing for capacity improvements at Ely since achieving growth at our ports and increasing the frequency of the Ipswich to Peterborough passenger service are heavily reliant on infrastructure improvements.

“The consultation proposals will greatly affect Suffolk businesses. Through our response we will make our position clear on these issues and we will be calling on Members of Parliament, businesses and local authority partners to lobby Government.”

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads, transport and planning, said: “The importance of this service needs recognition.

“It will play a crucial role in supporting additional housing and job growth through the region, as well as improving connectivity within Suffolk and other parts of the country. There are many benefits to Suffolk’s economy by increasing the frequency of the Ipswich to Peterborough passenger rail service.

“This includes delivering £60million to the local economy. The Government needs to listen to the business community on this matter. We are serious in our determination to protect and enhance this service.”

The consultation on the new East Anglia franchise is open for comment until March 16, 2015. The document can be found at