Councils team up to call for rail work

SUFFOLK and Norfolk county councils have joined forces to urge an early start on overhead line replacement on the main Norwich to London railway line.

SUFFOLK and Norfolk county councils have joined forces to urge an early start on overhead line replacement on the main Norwich to London railway line.

The joint approach to transport secretary Ruth Kelly and the chief executive of Network Rail, Iain Coucher, has been agreed by the two counties after the Norfolk Rail Alliance discussed last month's disruption caused by overhead line problems and a goods train derailment.

A letter signed by Adrian Gunson, chairman of the Norfolk Rail Alliance and Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for planning and transportation, and Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads and transport, points out that some overhead lines date from the late 1940s. It urges Network Rail and the government to:

- Bring forward the replacement of the overhead lines, currently scheduled to be carried out by 2012;


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- Ensure that maintenance standards are maintained and do not fall as replacement approaches;

- Press ahead with bi-directional signalling of the whole main line to reduce the impact when one track is out of use through equipment failure, train breakdown or derailment;

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- Continue the upgrading of cross-country routes to remove more goods trains from the main line.

Mr Gunson said there was growing concern that the age and condition of overhead lines south of Chelmsford were putting hard-won improvements in reliability and punctuality at risk.

“We fear that the sort of disruption experienced recently, when a long stretch of overhead line was brought down, is damaging to the Norfolk and Suffolk economies and gives an undeserved perception of remoteness to the two counties,” he said.

“In particular we would like to see the early replacement of the overhead lines between Shenfield and Chelmsford, because that is where a failure has the biggest impact on inter-city trains.

“We are also concerned that there will be a temptation to resort to 'make do and mend' on the overhead lines as their replacement approaches.”

The two county councils have also agreed to ask all Norfolk and Suffolk MPs for their support.

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