‘Don’t overlook Stowmarket’ – plea made to rail franchise bidders

Stowmarket Town centre aerial

Stowmarket Town centre aerial - Credit: Archant

A plea has been made to companies bidding for the new East Anglia Rail Franchise not to forget about the second busiest station in Suffolk as focus turns to ensuring ‘Norwich in 90’ is achieved.

Mid Suffolk District Council has urged the Department for Transport (DFT) not to focus all their attention on faster journey times to London at the expense of some intermediate station stops, such as Stowmarket.

In response to the public consultation carried out by the DFT between December 2014 and March 2015, Mid Suffolk pointed out they would not like to see any reduction in stops at mainline stations such as Stowmarket or Diss in order to speed up journey times, making clear that journey times should be achieved by improved infrastructure and new Inter City standard trains with better acceleration and automatic doors to reduce station stop times.

Gerard Brewster, Mid Suffolk’s portfolio holder for economy and Stowmarket regeneration said: “We are very keen to make sure our voice is heard in this selection process and that the significance of Stowmarket and it’s rail station is not overlooked when consideration is given to awarding the next franchise.

“As Stowmarket continues to grow and develop, we need a station that can deliver improvements for passengers as well as providing a regional gateway which helps to stimulate economic growth and attract businesses to our area.”

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Figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show usage of Stowmarket train station has more than doubled in the last 10 years to nearly one million passengers a year and is the second busiest station in Suffolk after Ipswich.

Last week, as bidding for the franchise passed, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, who secured a parliamentary debate on the topic, called for “Stowmarket in 70”.

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She said there needed to be improvements to stations, stock and services from whichever company won the nine year contract to run the railways from October 2016.

Mayor of Stowmarket, Barry Salmon said: “If trains are whizzing through Stowmarket and not stopping, I don’t think that’s really positive. It’s an important station. People don’t use it to commute to London but also to Chelmsford and Ipswich.

“Something we have to remember as well is if less trains stop it means trains that do stop will have more passengers. The train station is crucial to Stowmarket. We want the town to continue to grow and prosper and train links are a vital part to that.”

The three bidders for the franchise are Abellio East Anglia Ltd, First East Anglia Limited and National Express East Anglia Trans Ltd.

A spokeswoman for the current operator of the franchise, Abellio Greater Anglia, said: “Abellio Greater Anglia has also worked with stakeholders and politicians as part of the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce, contributing positively in making the case for the significant improvements to the route for both infrastructure and rolling stock upgrades that we all wish to see.”

It is anticipated an announcement on the preferred bidder will be made in June.

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