Rail campaigners will have to continue work for a decade - regardless of mini-budget

New Anglia LEP Chairman Mark Pendlington (second from right) with Suffolk campaigners Stephen Britt

New Anglia LEP Chairman Mark Pendlington (second from right) with Suffolk campaigners Stephen Britt and John Dugmore, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, and Brendan Keaney, DanceEast. - Credit: Archant

A taskforce to improve the rail link from Norwich to London must continue to work together for a decade - regardless of whether the Chancellor gives its plans his backing on Wednesday, the chair of a rail taskforce has warned.

Business leaders and politicians met in Norwich for the third of its regional get-togethers, where they were told there was still plenty to do over the coming years.

Campaigners hope the Chancellor will commit to the rail funding his mini-budget - but with the process of drawing up the contract governing the terms under which a private company will run Greater Anglia set to start in December, and Network Rail project plans up to 2024, New Anglia chairman Mark Pendlington said they wanted to “keep things mobilised” and hold decision makers’ “feet to the flames”.

He said the General Election, which will take place in May, created “uncertainty”.

“Who knows what message a new Government will give us, and what emphasis will they be placing on this. But that is another reason to stay focused and active,” he added. Network Rail’s regional boss Richard Schofield said there were already plans in place to achieve much of the rail infrastructure side of the taskforce’s aims.

“Wednesday will speed some things up,” he said. “It will maybe change the focus, but in reality lots of the stuff is there,” he said.

“There is not list that says this is a good outcome, this is a bad outcome. We want the Chancellor to announce as much as he can, but I will react to that. I am not trying to second guess.”

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Ipswich MP Ben Gummer hailed the group effort of the taskforce and said it had put in place a plan for the costs, and what it wanted.

“We want the Chancellor to see it happen,” he said. “He is not going to tell us that we are going to change a level crossing there.”

He also warned: “There is a risk that if you have a different team in place, you might lost some of that edge.”

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