Summer of misery for rail tarvellers

RAIL commuters will face a summer of misery on East Anglia's main line in and out of London.Timetables released todayreveal that when the Ipswich railway tunnel closes for two months on July 11, many commuters from Suffolk will have at least an hour added to their round trips to London.

RAIL commuters will face a summer of misery on East Anglia's main line in and out of London.

Timetables released todayreveal that when the Ipswich railway tunnel closes for two months on July 11, many commuters from Suffolk will have at least an hour added to their round trips to London.

The tunnel closure has been planned for some time, but it is only now that the details of how services will be affected have been released in full.

The £5million project will see the track inside the 159 year old tunnel lowered allowing 9ft 6ins containers to pass through.

Commuter groups said they were resigned to the "inevitable" delays but many said it was worth it for better freight links.

Stewart Davies, chief executive of BTexact, in Ipswich, said: "If you get on a train that's got 4-5,000 people on it and they all arrive in Manningtree at the same time for buses - how many have we got?

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"The half an hour delay is an optimum figure. The 7.30am train from Ipswich to London will have at least 2,000 people on it as well as the 5.30pm from London.

"People can tolerate a few days but we are talking eight weeks of major disruption. We rely very heavily on the train service."

People travelling from Bury St Edmunds in rush hour will have to endure a massive three hours on buses and trains in the height of summer just to get into London.

Commuters from Stowmarket wanting to get into the City before 9am will have to get up 35 minutes earlier. A replacement bus service will run directly between the town and Manningtree so commuters do not have to swap between a train, a bus and then a train again.

Travellers to and from Ipswich will have nearly an hour added onto their working day as the trip into London will take an extra 30 minutes and the return a further 26 minutes.

Passengers will have to contend with delays or pay £10 for a space in the limited temporary car park at Manningtree station created for people who do not usually travel from there.

Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is going to benefit the Suffolk economy getting the freight off the roads and there's very little that can be done to avoid this situation.

"What we hope is that all these timetables and new car park arrangements will be able to work in reality."

Peter Meades from rail operator One Anglia, said there would be six services running an hour in peak times and extra staff had been employed.

He added: "We are doing everything we can to minimise the inconvenience.

"We are not anticipating problems with how this timetable works as it has taken months and months of planning.

Guy Dangerfield, regional director of the Rail Passengers' Committee, said it had championed the interests of commuters when the tunnel work was proposed. People are finding out about the timetables well in advance and the planning was "as meticulous as you can get."

Dick Flower, secretary of the Mid Anglia Rail Passengers Association, said he expected a mixed reaction to the news.

"Not only is the work going to produce more facilities for freight traffic, but we have been told a lot more maintenance work will be carried out and everything is being done to minimise the disruption.

"But if the rail network would have had proper investment, this work could have been done over a period of ten years - unfortunately it now has to be done all at once."

An AA spokesman for East Anglia said it could become up to 25% busier on the region's roads as a result of the disruption.

Each year around 374,000 of the 1.7 million containers landing at Felixstowe, are transported by rail to various destinations. But it is estimated that by 2010 half of all containers landing at the port will be 9ft 6ins in height and currently would not fit through the Ipswich Tunnel.

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