Green signal for major rail project

WHITEHALL yesterday signalled its support for a major �4m rail project in east Suffolk that will drastically improve train services.

It committed �3m towards the long-awaited Beccles loop scheme that will allow an hourly service to operate between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

But the scheme is not yet a certainty: it rests with Suffolk County Council honouring a commitment to pledge �1m towards the project.

It is hoped the works, part of a re-signalling project by Network Rail, will be completed by summer 2012, allowing services to run every hour, rather than every two hours at present.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “I am delighted that we have got it because it has been something everyone’s been pushing for, for a long time.

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“There’s lots of things to improve the rail service but the first building block is the Beccles loop.

“Increasingly I’m finding that business are saying they want rail links improved. In particular I was speaking to a couple of renewable companies who are looking to move into Lowestoft and rail links were very important to them.

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“While the ideal would be to have the direct trains from Lowestoft to London retained, for which I will continue to campaign, the construction of the loop will make travelling to and from Lowestoft more convenient and should help attract businesses and more tourists to the area.”

Rod Lock, secretary of East Suffolk Travellers’ Association, welcomed the announcement, saying the region had capitalised on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

He said: “It’s excellent news, it’s been a long time coming and we have secured it in extremely difficult financial times.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because it’s tied in with a [Network Rail-funded] re-signalling project. If it did not coincide with that, it’s a question of how long we’d have had to wait. It might have been decades or more for another opportunity.”

Russell Spink, a spokesman for Network Rail, said: “It is great news that our funding for this scheme has been approved, bringing the possibility of hourly services on the entire East Suffolk Line a step closer.”

The scheme will see new track laid down at Beccles, which will allow faster services to pass slower ones on the single line between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

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