Suffolk's plans jeopardised by rail problems

SUFFOLK'S Olympic legacy and its ambition to become Britain's greenest county are being jeopardised by uncertainty over the future number of rail services, it was claimed last night.

Graham Dines

SUFFOLK'S Olympic legacy and its ambition to become Britain's greenest county are being jeopardised by uncertainty over the future number of rail services, it was claimed last night.

National Express East Anglia has been stripped of the franchise in the region and consultations are currently taking place before the Department for Transport awards a successor to take over in 2011.

However, Choose Suffolk - the umbrella organisation for tourism in the county - says it has yet to receive any invitation to comment on the new franchise.


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Tourism manager Alex Paul is concerned that the hiatus following the announcement of the franchise change means he cannot negotiate improvements to the East Anglia line which will ensure that the county has a robust rail service to cash in on the Olympic legacy.

“We don't know what level of service will be provided after the Games in the summer of 2012. Once the Games are over, we need to have a strong railway link which will encourage visitors to the area so that Suffolk can take full advantage of the Olympic legacy which we have been offered.”

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The Department for Transport will lay down a base level of service which is the minimum required from the new operator. This will include guarantees for commuters and bidders for the franchise will then include whatever extras they think East Anglia requires and it is expected the Government will award the franchise this summer.

Mr Paul said: “The uncertainty is frustrating. Naturally, National Express East Anglia will not involve itself in future timetabling and until a new operator is appointed, we cannot bid for the county to receive an increase in the number of trains.

“We are about to launch a poster campaign on the London underground network with the slogan that Suffolk is just an hour away. We don't know if that will still be the case after the Olympics.”

He is also worried about the decision to end through services from Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds to London from this December.

“Accessibility and connectivity are essential for the Olympic legacy. But at the moment, Suffolk's hopes of becoming a green, sustainable destination are in jeopardy.

“We are about to launch a poster campaign on the London underground network with the slogan that Suffolk is just an hour away. We don't know if that will still be the case after the Olympics.”

Endorsing the concerns, Paul West, county council portfolio holder for the greenest county, said: “It would be very unfortunate if Suffolk's ambitions were hit by bureaucracy at a national level.

“A proper, regular rail service is essential if we are to ensure Suffolk achieves the Olympic legacy we have been promised..”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said that Suffolk was welcome to contribute to the current consultation on the Greater Anglia franchise. “A level of service that meets passenger demand is likely to form part of any future franchise agreement.”

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