Virtual Suffolk scrutiny meeting will look at rail crisis during the winter

PUBLISHED: 17:08 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:08 04 May 2020

A train waits to leave Ipswich for Felixstowe - these services are now more reliable than they were during the winter. Picture: PAUL GEATER

A train waits to leave Ipswich for Felixstowe - these services are now more reliable than they were during the winter. Picture: PAUL GEATER


Suffolk councillors are to question rail bosses about the problems that hit passengers earlier this year in what will be the county’s first scrutiny committee meeting held online.

The committee expects to be joined by senior managers from Greater Anglia and Network Rail for the session which will look at why there were so many problems over the winter.

These started after one of Greater Anglia’s new regional trains had a near miss with a car on a level crossing north of Norwich after the barriers lifted just before the train reached the crossing.

This incident prompted a major investigation into whether there was a problem with the new Stadler-built trains – and led to new temporary speed limits and further tests on the trains which led to major timetable changes.

The Ipswich to Peterborough service was suspended for several weeks while the issue was investigated – and eventually it was found that there was no problem with the new trains interacting with the sensors.

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There were, however other teething problems with the new trains’ – especially minor software issues – but these were being sorted out by March. However then the country went into lockdown and trains were only available to take essential workers to and from their place of work.

Now they are running very reliably – but with hardly any passengers on board.

Scrutiny chair Mark Bee said members were looking forward to questioning officials from Greater Anglia and Network Rail next week. He said: “We really want to look into the future and ask about when the infrastructure improvements that we need so the new trains can reach their potential will be brought in.

“And we want to know about the work being done to allow Greater Anglia to meet its franchise commitments to run an hourly service from Ipswich to Peterborough and through trains from Lowestoft to London along the East Suffolk line.”

The meeting will be run using the Microsoft Teams app allowing members and officials from the rail companies to take part from their homes and offices – and will be the first county scrutiny meeting to use that technology.

It is expected to be followed by more virtual meetings in the next few months – including one looking at the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

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