Rail Minister Andrew Jones visits Ipswich to promise improvements in the future
PUBLISHED: 15:09 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:33 01 April 2019
Rail minister Andrew Jones has insisted that more improvements are on the way for rail track between London and East Anglia in the future - despite the lack of any firm commitments from the government or Network Rail.
Mr Jones was on a flying visit to the region travelling from Norwich to the capital – stopping off at Ipswich and Witham – in a bid to showcase Greater Anglia’s launch of two high-speed off-peak trains a day in each direction.
He was also launching the new Delay/Repay15 scheme which refunds ticket-holders part of their fare if their train is more than 15 minutes late rather than a 30-minute delay.
There have been concerns that while the privatised rail company Greater Anglia is spending £1.4bn on new trains for the region, the government-owned infrastructure company Network Rail is still waiting to hear whether it will have the money to upgrade the line to speed up most services.
Mr Jones said: “There have been decades of under-investment in the rail industry. We are now addressing that with £48bn investment in rail infrastructure over the next five years.”
The Department for Transport was discussing enhancements to track across the country with Network Rail as well as improved maintenance.
However when Network Rail’s proposals for the East of England over the next five years were published last week, there were no firm commitments to improve the route from London to Ipswich and Norwich.
If trains are to be substantially speeded up there is a need for new track in Essex, improvements to Haughley Junction, and a new rail bridge in Norwich.
In its Delivery Plan for the next five years, Network Rail said of these improvements: “While additional funding will be required, we continue to work closely with local authorities and industry partners on various schemes to address bottlenecks and provide additional station capacity.”
After meeting rail officials, Mr Jones met Ipswich Conservative candidate Tom Hunt. He said: “I was pleased to be able to have a chat with the Rail Minister today at Ipswich station. Clearly the new trains and the introduction of a limited Ipswich in 60 service are big pluses.
“However, I raised with the Minister concerns that have been raised with me regarding the disruption there has been to train services at the weekend. I also raised concerns about the cost of train fares.
“In addition to this I called for East West rail to be extended to Ipswich and for an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough.
“It was a positive discussion and I feel confident that the Minister has gone away with a clear understanding of what Ipswich residents want.”