Rail users' group lobby Government for improvements

AN Essex rail users' group is lobbying the Government in its bid for a raft of improvements to train services when a new operator takes over next year.

Annie Davidson

AN Essex rail users' group is lobbying the Government in its bid for a raft of improvements to train services when a new operator takes over next year.

A more frequent service in the Tendring area, better information boards at Chelmsford station and a second platform at Colchester Town station are all on the wish list of the Essex Rail Users' Federation (ERUF).

The group has produced a comprehensive list of changes it would like to see when a new franchise is bought in to replace National Express East Anglia in April next year.

Yesterday representatives including ERUF chairman Derek Monnery presented the document to the Department of Transport which is consulting on the franchise change.

Mr Monnery said: “This is a chance for us to put some ideas forward which we believe will give an improved service to commuters and rail users.

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“We were very keen to have an input into the (franchise) process so the right people are chosen to take it over.

“To be fair National Express have improved punctuality of trains overall and are also bringing in more rolling stock so there is less overcrowding - that is underway now.”

Mr Monnery said the improvements demanded included a more frequent, half-hourly service at all Essex stations but added this was a particular issue in Tendring.

He said: “The Walton line generally gets a shuttle service most of the day and for one reason or other the shuttle doesn't meet the connecting trains and you sometimes have to wait at Thorpe le Soken for three quarters of an hour.

“They could split the Clacton train and have four carriages going to Walton and four to Clacton which is what they used to do but it changed in the eighties.”

The federation has also called for tighter control on unregulated train fares such as those for off-peak services, a reduction in the cost of parking at railways stations and better positioned information boards, particularly at Chelmsford station.

The federation's report also praises an initiative by National Express East Anglia which saw Sunday services run into Colchester Town on a trial basis and calls for a second platform at the station for it to be used to its maximum potential.

It says: “ERUF wants to see this become a permanent service to this station which adjoins this important shopping centre.

“The single platform at Colchester Town restricts train movements and inhibits flexibility of services. “ERUF is of the opinion that the provision of a second platform at Colchester Town is fundamental to the re-planning of services.”

The franchise will be reallocated next April and the Government is currently consulting with the business community and commuters about what they would like to see.

The consultation document the Government would like feedback on can be found at www.dft.gov.uk