Passengers have say on rail industry’s plans to cope with demand surge

Ipswich Railway Station

Ipswich Railway Station - Credit: Archant

A transport users’ group has come up with its own solutions to coping with massive predicted growth in demand on the region’s rail network.

The East Suffolk Travellers’ Association (ESTA) responded to Network Rail’s Anglia Route Study – a plan to ensure the system can handle a forecast 32% increase in travel into London from Suffolk and Norfolk over the next decade.

The study, for which public consultation closed this week, looks at the main lines from London to Norwich and Cambridge, respective branch lines, and the lines from London to Shoeburyness and from Felixstowe to Peterborough.

Following installation of barriers at previously open level crossings between Ipswich and Lowestoft, ESTA recommends a further study to establish whether “excessively restrictive speed limits” could be raised without compromising safety.

The group asked Network Rail to consider closing certain main line level crossings between Ipswich and London. It sees potential to improve journey times on trains not scheduled to stop at Westerfield station, and would support construction of an extra platform at Ipswich, where it argues there is currently “little or no spare capacity”.

ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod said the Norwich to Liverpool service should not be split at Nottingham, as suggested by the Department for Transport (DfT) last summer, because it was currently the only service linking Lowestoft and Yarmouth to much of northern England, with only one change at Norwich.

Mr Garrod said: “We are pleased that Network Rail, with some county council funding, built a passing loop at Beccles in 2012 and enabled a more frequent service to run on the Ipswich to Lowestoft line. This has been a great success, and they now need to be planning to speed up their trains and further increase the capacity of the local network.”

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The Anglia Route Study working group will now consider any further work required before publication of the final document in the summer. The study will then be used to inform the DfT’s strategy for the industry’s next funding period from 2019 to 2024.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “This is a draft plan and we welcome people’s views on our initial proposals to boost capacity, reduce journey times and deliver a better service for passengers. We will consider the feedback we have received before publishing the final version of the study.”