Rail users call for 24-hour trains from London to Ipswich and Colchester
A rail users group has called for an hourly service around the clock on the main line from London to Ipswich as part of the franchise to be awarded for East Anglia’s rail services next year.
And a second group has backed the call for 24-hour services at weekends – and has added a demand for later rail services from London north of Colchester.
David Bigg from the Witham and Braintree Rail Users’ Association said the round the clock service should run at least to Colchester, and ideally continue to Manningtree and Ipswich.
He said: “These days people are working at different times of the day, and if you are out and about in London until late you need to be able to get home.
“The London Underground is experimenting with 24-hour services and in America they have had services around the clock in many of the large cities.”
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Network Rail does a great deal of maintenance work overnight, but Mr Bigg felt this could still be done by closing one of the two tracks and running all the trains on the other.
Derek Monnery from Manningtree represents the Federation of Essex Rail Users and felt there could be problems for Network Rail if the lines were operating every night of the week.
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“I do feel it is worth looking at running services around the clock on Friday and Saturday nights,” he said.
However the major issue that should be tackled more immediately was the timing of the last trains from the capital.
Mr Monnery said: “The last train to Manningtree and Ipswich is now at 11.30pm – there used to be a train at 11.59pm.
“The earlier time makes it very difficult for people going to a show in the West End that might go on until 10.30pm or 10.45pm and that can make it very difficult to get back to Liverpool Street in time.”
At present the last train to Colchester leaves London at 12.46am and arrives at 1.58am. The first train of the day from Ipswich to London leaves at 5.14am and the first train from Colchester leaves at 4.43am.
Space on the lines has to be negotiated between train operating companies and Network Rail many months in advance.
Bosses at Abellio Greater Anglia recognise that last departure at 11.30pm does cause problems for some travellers and would like to be able to run a later train to Ipswich – or even beyond – but this could take some time to arrange.
Within the industry there are doubts about whether 24-hour running would be possible because overnight a considerable amount of freight is moved by train – and maintenance work is necessary throughout the year.
Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for transport Graham Newman said he supported the aspirations for trains over more of the day – providing there were no problems for the maintenance of the network and the proposal did not damage the aspiration of introducing new, more reliable trains.