Watch: Ipswich in 60 launch brings capital within an hour of Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 15:09 20 May 2019
The long-heralded Norwich in 90, Ipswich in 60 train service between the region and the capital has finally launched with Greater Anglia showing how the faster runs can be achieved.
The first train completed the journey from Norwich to Liverpool Street in 88 minutes (55 minutes from Ipswich) and returned to Ipswich in 52 minutes before arriving back at its final destination bang on time.
There are two trains a day in each direction making the fast journey - with Ipswich as the only intermediate stop. They are extra trains on the timetable, they are followed a few minutes later by another train stopping at other stations.
MPs, councillors, and business leaders joined Greater Anglia bosses for the launch of the new high-speed service - and said how important it was to signal how accessible the region is.
However they all emphasised the need for more improvements, especially infrastructure investment by Network Rail, to allow these journey times to become the norm for Intercity trains in the region - not the exception.
Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin said: "It is crucial that Ipswich is seen as easily accessible, both for those commuting and for London businesses looking for new investment opportunities. Coming within the arc of 60 minutes from London is crucial."
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Pressure needed to continue to be applied to get further improvements - and not just on the main line. Mr Martin said it was crucial that the cross-country route was improved to allow freight trains to come off the main passenger route to the capital.
There has been one train a day completing the journey from London to Norwich in 59 minutes for some years, but this has now been speeded up and joined by three other sub-60 minute services.
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill said the faster trains meant that Suffolk was now within an hour of the capital - Ipswich could be seen as the gateway to the rest of the county.
She said: "Once you have reached Ipswich in 60 then you can easily reach other places like Bury St Edmunds - but this isn't the end of the campaign, there is much left to do."
MPs and business leaders, through the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, have been campaigning to improve the region's rail services to London since 2009. In 2012 the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce was formed to focus that campaign.
Current taskforce chair Priti Patel was in London to meet the first high-speed train. She said: "We launched the taskforce in 2012 and have seen a great deal of progress. But we now need to keep pressing Network Rail to make the improvements to the track to allow the new trains to reach their full potential."
Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles told travellers: "Today we travelled on our existing trains, but this service will run on our brand new Intercity trains as we replace all of our existing trains with brand new state-of-the-art modern trains."
Ipswich Central chair Terry Baxter was also on the train, and said that while the new service would be important to attract commuters to live in the town, it would also attract visitors looking to take a short stay in Suffolk and using Ipswich as a base.