Chancellor George Osborne in pledge to give our East Anglia an improved rail service
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2013
MPs and business leaders hailed a win for their better rail campaign as the Chancellor said he would “do what it takes” to get faster trains between East Anglia and London.
Writing for the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, the Chancellor said he had seen for himself the old trains and low average speeds on the Great Eastern Main Line.
His significant intervention will ensure that the next private company to win the contract to run the line is likely to be forced to provide fresh trains.
The Department for Transport has already asked Network Rail to continue developing improvements to the speed of the line over the next few years.
Network Rail has said it already has its plans in place for work to the track, signals and overhead lines to achieve the faster, more reliable services set out by a taskforce formed a year ago – estimated to cost £470million.
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And George Osborne said that “starting now”, he would be demanding that private operators who want to bid for the right to run the route when it comes up for renewal come up with clear plans to make services faster and better.
“That means things like a fresh fleet of trains and work on the track. And we will pick the bid that is best for East Anglia,” he added.
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The Department for Transport will start drawing up a contract, known as a franchise agreement, later this year, where the investment a private company would need to win the contract will be set out.
Last month shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said an incoming Labour government would honour any commitment to upgrade the main rail line from London to East Anglia. There had been fears that any major investment of that size could be lost if a change of government at next year’s general election sees priorities change.
Local Enterprise Partnership bosses and the MPs have worked with the Department for Transport and Network Rail officials to draw up the blueprint for improved rail links, which has now been “backed” by the Chancellor and Department for Transport.
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the announcement was the “result of the hardest, most intense campaign” he had led as the MP for Ipswich.
“It will result in hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in our railway. It will give progressively better, more reliable and faster and more comfortable trains.”
He added: “The achievement of this campaign however will be far greater than the investment in the railway. It will mean bringing new businesses and jobs to Ipswich and East Anglia.”
Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP and co-chair of the GEML Taskforce said it was “another vote of confidence” for the future of our region.
“The voices of many thousands of rail passengers and businesses across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex have been heard, loud and clear,” he said.
“The priority now is to make sure that we have momentum and that passengers begin to see improvements to the standard of service as soon as possible.”