Major test of new rail timetable

By Rebecca SheppardCOMMUTERS are facing today the first weekday of disruption to the region's train services following the closure of the Ipswich rail tunnel.

By Rebecca Sheppard

COMMUTERS are facing today the first weekday of disruption to the region's train services following the closure of the Ipswich rail tunnel.

Work started yesterday on a two-month project to lower the track through the tunnel by 12 inches so taller freight containers can be transported to and from the Port of Felixstowe.

But today will be the first major test of the replacement timetables and bus services that will operate for the next eight weeks while train services between Ipswich and Manningtree stations are suspended.

Passengers heading between Ipswich and London will now have to take coaches and buses for part of their journey to and from work, which will then connect with trains further down the mainline at Manningtree, adding about 30 minutes to their normal commute.

The roads promise to be much busier today as train passengers opt to drive to work instead or park at one of the limited spaces at Manningtree station, where a temporary overflow car park has been built.

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Laura Dobson, spokeswoman for Network Rail, said yesterday: "Everything has gone according to plan. The work started on time. The main job has been the operation of Ipswich station.

"Buffers have been put in at the station, where the trains will now stop, and there have been some amendments made to the station to do that."

Kerri Worrall, from train operator one, added the work was going smoothly and buses had been running between Ipswich and Witham yesterday as Network Rail carried out other work to the mainline.

"It has worked well. There have not been too many issues. The routes the buses go has taken a bit longer than anticipated because of the road conditions," she said.

"Monday is the biggest test as there are commuters and the buses will run between Ipswich and Manningtree."

n A bus replacement service was running between Ipswich and Felixstowe on Saturday morning after a freight train was stopped by a seized axle at Westerfield.

Ms Worrall said it had taken staff six hours to move the train out of the way as it had needed jacking up off the track and the first service between Ipswich and Felixstowe had resumed at 5.10pm.

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