North Suffolk rail boost plea

PUBLIC transport campaigners yesterday urged the Strategic Railway Authority to give a higher priority to a scheme that would boost the railway line between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

By David Lennard

PUBLIC transport campaigners yesterday urged the Strategic Railway Authority to give a higher priority to a scheme that would boost the railway line between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

Members of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA) have written to Richard Bowker, chairman of the SRA, asking him to reinstate a proposal for a passing loop at Beccles on the East Suffolk Line.

Rod Lock, secretary of ESTA, said if the passing loop were built it would enable new railway franchise holder National Express to run an hourly service from north Suffolk to Ipswich and London.


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For the past 20 years campaigners have been battling to improve train services in north Suffolk and the passing loop at Beccles is seen as a vital part of any scheme.

The £600,000 project has been "put on hold" by the SRA after previously being included in successive management statements by the authority's predecessors Railtrack and Network Rail.

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The passing loop scheme was originally tabled by British Rail more than 20 years ago when track was laid at the Beccles end in anticipation of the project going ahead.

Since then, however, the plans have been hit by a series of hurdles and u-turns and for most of the route between Beccles and Lowestoft there is only a single track.

"Installing the loop, together with the acquisition of two additional diesel multiple unit trains, would enable and hourly service to run on the East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Lowestoft, rather than the two-hourly as at present," said Mr Lock.

ESTA say there are several important points in favour of the project going ahead that include:

n An increase in the number of passengers using the line. In 1996/7 the line carried 230,000 passengers but this had increased by nearly 50% to 340,000 in 2003;

n A growth in the population of East Suffolk with the Waveney area expected to see a 6.7% increase in the next 17 years, Suffolk Coastal 9.6% and Ipswich 8.1%;

n ESTA surveys reveal that more people would use the trains if there were a more frequent service;

n An hourly train service on the line would attract more motorists on to the trains and reduce congestion on the A12 between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

The SRA said it did not have the funds to enable the Beccles passing loop project to proceed.

"When more funds become available we will look again at the proposal to put in a passing loop on the East Suffolk Line at Beccles.

"But this is not possible with the funds we have at the present time," said a SRA spokeswoman.

ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod is hoping that Government ministers, Suffolk MPs and councillors will keep the pressure on the SRA in a bid to get the scheme started.

"We have also sent our letter to the Secretary of State for Transport Alistair Darling, all local MPs, and local councils.

"We hope they will all work constructively together to reinstate this scheme which will benefit our growing area," he said.

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