East Anglia: Network Rail apologises

NETWORK Rail bosses are disappointed with the performance of the main line between London and East Anglia.

But there is no firm commitment yet to the massive infrastructure investment needed to provide a long term solution to the region’s railway woes.

MPs from across the region held a rail “summit” at Westminster yesterday.

It brought together local and national politicians as well as representatives of National Express, new train operator Abellio, Network Rail, and business leaders.

Many people heading to the summit were delayed by signalling problems in the Stratford area on the way down.

Network Rail director Richard Eccles admitted this was his company’s fault.

And he added: “We are disappointed in our performance on this route.”

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He could not explain why the Great Eastern had not had the level of investment of other parts of the rail network over the decades.

There is a new investment period between 2014 and 2019 being drawn up but he was not able to make any promises about this region’s main line.

The summit was chaired by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and included Ipswich MP Ben Gummer.

Witham MP Priti Patel spoke up for Essex travellers, who were also represented by local users’ groups.

There was some tension between those from Norfolk who want to see faster journey times and those from Essex who fear this could end with more trains rushing through their stations without stopping.

Mr Gummer said the two issues were not necessarily linked.

He said: “If we don’t do something we will end up with trains getting from London to Leeds quicker than they can reach Norwich and to Birmingham faster than they get to Colchester.”

North Norfolk Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb said investment on the line was vital - especially on the line in Essex.

“We have to press for work to start on turning the section from Shenfield to Colchester into four tracks to solve the chronic capacity issues,” he said.

The number of MPs at the summit was restricted to try to ensure a strict timetable was maintained and as many voices as possible were heard.

However this irritated Colchester LibDem Bob Russell who feared his constituents could be ignored.

He said: “I represent Colchester – no other MP can “represent” my constituents!

“Any proposals for the ‘Norwich in 90’ campaign which involves fewer trains stopping at Colchester will be opposed with vigour and determination – as I have already made clear.”