Suffolk: New figures show how rail passenger numbers have taken off since privatisation

More people are using the region's trains.

More people are using the region's trains. - Credit:

The number of passengers using railways in Suffolk has increased by almost two and a half times since privatisation in 1997.

And the number travelling from Suffolk to destinations elsewhere in East Anglia has increased by more than three times – prompting fresh calls for further investment in the region’s network.

Figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show that the number of journeys from Suffolk increased from 2.7 million in 1996/7 to 6.7 million in 2011/12.

The number of journeys from Suffolk to destinations outside East Anglia (94% to London) increased from 1.4million to 2.7 million.

However the number from Suffolk to destinations within the region increased from 1.3 million to almost 4 million.

The rise in the number of passengers from Essex has not been as large proportionately, but much greater in absolute terms – numbers have increased by 1.7 times from 31 million to 51 million.

The increase has been steady – over the last year the number of journeys made by travellers from Suffolk to other regions (ie London) increased by 1.25% but the number of journeys from Suffolk to destinations within East Anglia increased by 7.75%.

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Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who has been leading lobbying attempts to improve rail services in the region, said he would be using the ORR figures in his discussions with the Department for Transport.

He said: “This region is seeing some of the fastest growth in the country, but it has the busiest two-track section of main line in Europe, the oldest trains in the country, and low investment. It is not good enough.”

While the main line was a priority, the cross-country routes were becoming increasingly important, a factor that was clear from the figures.

“When I was a student not that many years ago the train from Cambridge to Ipswich was a single-car thing which rattled along, I was often the only person on it. Now that is a very busy route with comfortable trains full of people – but the investment must continue.”

He was backed up by Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, whose constituency includes the second busiest station in the county, Stowmarket.

He said: “When I started as an MP in 1997 there was never any problem in finding a parking space at Stowmarket – now the car park is usually full.

“And I have often talked about the golden technology triangle of Ipswich, Cambridge, and Norwich as a real growth area for the country.

“These figures suggest that more and more people are using the trains to get around this golden triangle – and we have to persuade the government that it needs the necessary investment.”

Jonathan Denby from Greater Anglia said the figures made the case for further investment in the region’s rail network.

He added: “We believe that a significant proportion of the growth has been down to a number of service improvements – particularly increased frequency on routes from Ipswich to London, Lowestoft, and Cambridge.”