Faster journey times promised for commuters

COMMUTERS in East Anglia could soon be enjoying faster journey times on board a fleet of new trains if ambitious plans to be unveiled today come to fruition.

Jo Thewlis

COMMUTERS in East Anglia could soon be enjoying faster journey times on board a fleet of new trains if ambitious plans to be unveiled today come to fruition.

Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia (NXEA), is due to unveil a vision of better service for customers using the main Norwich to London Liverpool Street line today.

His three part vision, which will be unveiled at the Shaping Norfolk's Future conference in Norwich today, includes cutting journey times from Norwich to London to 90 minutes after 2014, new intercity trains offering a “high quality travelling environment'' and improvements to rail infrastructure.

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Mr Chivers said: “We're pleased to take the lead in proposing a positive future strategy for the Norwich-Ipswich-Colchester-London mainline.

“We are committed to playing a leading role in delivering a faster and even higher quality intercity service on the line in future.”

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National Express developed the ambitious plans after working with the Department of Transport and Network Rail to find ways to improve rail services in the future.

As well as pledging to increase rail capacity in the region with 120 new trains and provide an extra 11,000 seats on Liverpool Street services back in April, the operator hopes to bag extra funding to upgrade services between 2014 and 2019.

David Bigg , chairman of the Witham and Braintree Rail Users Association, welcomed the proposed changes saying he was cautiously optimistic about the scheme.

He said: “The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. This could be a new era for us but, forgive me if I'm a bit cynical, I would like to see a bit more detail.”

A spokesman for NXEA could not provide details of the environmental improvements or estimated travel times from Ipswich and Colchester to the capital.

But he added the next two years were a “window of opportunity to make the case for upgrading the trains and the infrastructure''.

Mr Bigg said: “On the face of it, it looks like a very good idea. Commuters just want seats and loos, it's as simple as that.”

Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users Association, also backed the scheme but said he would like to see the specifics of the possible new programme.

He said. “A quicker service would be great but we just don't know the detail at the moment.

“The trains that go from Norwich to London are old so new ones would certainly be a benefit.”

NXEA now plans to garner support for the project from stakeholders in the region and gather economic evidence for the proposal in a study led by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

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