East Anglia: Conference looks at key rail options

A PACKAGE of rail improvement options to help generate �3.7billion to the Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk economies has been put forward at a rail conference.

Delegates from the public and private sectors in the three counties met in Ipswich today to consider the options, which have been developed as low-cost improvements to urge the government to invest in the Great Eastern Main Line.

It is thought that the options will speed up journeys, reduce over-crowding and improve passenger services.

Guy McGregor, cabinet member for roads and transport at Suffolk County Council said the success of Suffolk’s and the region’s economies were being harmed by the lack of investment in the line.

He said: “We already have strong economic evidence to demonstrate to government that funding improvements on the main line will deliver excellent economic results.

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“For too long Suffolk and its neighbours have had to make do with such a poor service and that has to change. If central government is allowing an inflation plus a 3% increase in regulated fares then rail travellers to and from Suffolk must have and see investment in the East Anglian railways as a quid pro quo.

“The options presented today will help us with our business case and lobbying of government. However, this is not something that is going to happen over night and we will need to continue to work hard with government and the rail industry to ensure we get the investment we deserve.”

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The proposals include increasing line speeds between Norwich, Ipswich, Essex and London Liverpool Street and the replacement of old rolling stock with new and longer trains.

Other options include providing a new station near Chelmsford, lengthening of platforms at London Liverpool Street, increasing the number of services into London by improving Bow Junction and increasing track capacity in the north of Chelmsford to three tracks.

Recent research by Network Rail has found that by 2031 there will be a peak hour shortfall of 5,000 seats while reliability on the main line passenger services is also poor due to aging rolling stock and infrastructure.

The rail options are being developed in a study undertaken by Atkins, which was jointly commissioned by Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The study builds upon Atkins’ 2008 Economic Evidence Study for EEDA which concluded that improved journey speeds, capacity and infrastructure on the Great Eastern Main Line would generate �3.7 billion in benefits to businesses and commuters.

Dr Andy Wood, chairman of LEP, said the improvements to the Great Eastern Main Line were about bringing businesses closer together, through fast, efficient services, to help grow jobs in Suffolk and Norfolk.

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