Faster trains to Ipswich as part of new franchise
- Credit: Archant
The average speed of trains between London and Ipswich will be cut to just over an hour in three years’ time – but the Ipswich in 60 ambition will depend on Network Rail carrying out improvement work.
But commuters heading to and from London during rush hours should find more space much more quickly – an extra 72 rail carriages are being introduced from January next year on suburban services from Ipswich, Colchester, and Cambridge into Liverpool Street.
Rail journeys between Ipswich and London will take, on average, 64 minutes from the introduction of the new timetable in 2019 once new “Stadler Flirt” InterCity trains are introduced on trains to the capital. At present the average journey time is 73 minutes.
That is more than the stated aim of the Great Eastern rail campaign to have services running to Ipswich in 60 minutes – but Abellio Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles said the last four minutes could only be shaved off journey times once Network Rail has carried out improvement work to the line.
He said: “The new trains will have improved acceleration and deceleration, and will have automatic doors which will do much to improve turn-arounds at stations.
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“We have been doing a lot of work on timetables and can knock nine minutes off journey times, but to get average journey times down to 60 minutes will require work from Network Rail.”
There will be one train in each direction that does complete the journey in 60 minutes in May 2019 – at present there is one peak-time evening train from London scheduled to complete the trip in 60 minutes, but none scheduled for that time going to the capital.
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Before the new trains are introduced between 2019 and 2020 existing trains will be upgraded and the extra carriages are being introduced.
At present 10 electric units are being refurbished and having air conditioning and wi-fi introduced. This programme will continue so 30 units will be upgraded.
Within three years all the trains operating out of Liverpool Street will have wi-fi and those that already have it will have it upgraded – introducing free wi-fi on all trains is a key franchise commitment.
Away from the main line, the number of trains between Ipswich and Peterborough will be doubled to provide an hourly service. Many of these trains will be extended to Colchester.
Mr Burles said the multi-billion pound deal – the Dutch Railways-owned company is spending £1.4bn on new trains and paying the Treasury £3.7bn over the nine-year franchise – was the most ambitious ever seen in the British rail industry.
He paid tribute to the campaign led by regional MPs and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, backed by local businesses and chambers of commerce, that kept the need for improved trains at the top of the agenda.
Their efforts had ensured the government understood the need to get a 21st rail service into a region that has often seemed to be forgotten when long-distance or more intensively-operated commuter services are considered.
But that had been changed by the campaign.
Mr Burles said: “We have never seen anywhere else getting full fleet replacement, totally new trains and new services. And it’s happening here in East Anglia – it really is something to be very excited about.”