East Anglia: Minister says there is a sense of urgency to improve rail services

Stephen Hammond at the Suffolk rail conference.

Stephen Hammond at the Suffolk rail conference. - Credit: Archant

There is a “sense of urgency” about improving rail services between East Anglia and London, rail minister Stephen Hammond has claimed following the first meeting of a new taskforce.

Mr Hammond said he believed that getting trains to travel from Norwich to London in 90 minutes and Ipswich to the capital in an hour was achievable, but said he did not want to raise false hopes that it would happen straight away.

He said: “One thing I am acutely aware of is that announcements get made and then you say six months later ‘what on earth is going on?’.”

But he said they had decided to get started before Christmas and good progress had been made in yesterday’s first meeting.

Mr Hammond said: “There is a sense of urgency and something is going on.

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“I didn’t want to let time go by without starting it. There are still three or four more working days until Christmas, so I thought we might as well get on with it.”

He said that it was too early to say what the timings would be, but admitted that much of the spending had already been mapped out between 2014 and 2019, but he said the Department for Transport was urging Network Rail to do things more efficiently, meaning there was an opportunity to get work done before then.

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“I really want this set up so we can promise it and deliver it after the next control period.

“But I don’t want to raise people’s expectations. I want to have this group for about a year to get a proper plan worked out, and then we can move it so it is ready for investment later on.”

The working group will have its next meeting in January and the taskforce will meet in February.

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