Rail taskforce wants £9.3bn boost to East Anglia's economy
- Credit: John Day
Business and political leaders from across the region have repeated their calls for a major investment in the main rail line from London to Ipswich and Norwich - claiming it could bring £9.3bn in economic benefits to the region.
But the goal of running all trains between Ipswich and London in 60 minutes - and a 90-minute journey for all trips from Norwich to London - still seems a long way off because vital investment in Essex is still not on the agenda.
The Great Eastern Main LIne taskforce case for investment points out that journey times in East Anglia are still longer for similar-length trips than in other parts of the country despite the new trains being introduced by Greater Anglia.
It calls for a government commitment to invest in the line to improve speed and reliability.
The taskforce calls for new track to be installed at Bow Junction between Stratford and Liverpool Street to improve services in and out of the capital, for new signalling between Colchester and Shenfield to improve capacity - and for improvements along the line to enable all trains to reach "Norwich in 90" from the capital.
Taskforce chair and Clacton MP Giles Watling said that for all trains to run to that schedule there would need to be a long freight loop in the Witham area - and that was not yet agreed with Network Rail.
However, it was important to keep up the pressure because of the importance of the area to the British economy.
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As he handed the taskforce's case to Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, Mr Watling said: “We’re delighted to be able to officially hand this Case for Investment to Government. It is a call to arms not just from the Taskforce partners, but from businesses, education establishments and passengers across the region who demand a faster, more reliable service.
“It will drive sustainable economic regeneration and deliver long-term, clean, economic growth across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and enable our region to contribute more to UK plc. It will also allow for improved freight services from the Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich, which will be brought together to form a new Freeport.
“Delivering an efficient and reliable train service will contribute to our push for Net Zero, helping to decarbonise our economy by encouraging more sustainable travel and freight movement, in addition to the recent introduction of the new £1.4bn environmentally-friendly train fleet.”
Some improvements are already in the system - Network Rail has drawn up a proposal to improve Haughley junction to allow more freight trains to use the cross-country route and reduce pressure on the main line to London. That is waiting for government approval before work can start.
And it is also in the early stages of drawing up plans to replace Trowse swing bridge near Norwich which would improve capacity on both the main line and the Norwich to Cambridge and Peterborough route.