Train services slammed as

By Ted JeoryRAIL companies operating services between East Anglian and London are way behind the times – and other regions – according to a watchdog report published today.

By Ted Jeory

RAIL companies operating services between East Anglian and London are way behind the times – and other regions – according to a watchdog report published today.

The Rail Passengers Committee Eastern England (RPC), the watchdog protecting and promoting passengers' interests, said 21st Century Britain was a round-the-clock world with liberalised pub licensing laws and more unorthodox working patterns.

But its report, Changing Lives, Changing Railways, said rail operators were stuck firmly in the last century and called for better services to the growing towns of Colchester, Clacton and Braintree.

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It painted a grim picture of passengers often alienated by the last trains leaving the capital and Essex's main towns far too early for the modern world and demanded new service standards within the new Greater Anglia franchise, which comes into effect next year.

"Young people are forced to rely on parents for lifts or taking expensive taxis just to enjoy themselves," said the report.

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"There are bizarre anomalies. Why are Saturday night services ending earlier than those during the week, despite Saturday night's rather obvious opportunities for a night out?

"Why do services on Friday evenings have to be just the same as on other weekdays? On Sundays, we believe passengers should be able to arrive in London by 8am and be able to depart no later than 11.30pm."

Comparing London services to and from Milton Keynes and Colchester – both 50 miles from the capital – it noted the first train from the Buckinghamshire town arrived in the capital well before 5am, compared with 5.52am for the first train from the Essex town.

At night, there is no rush for Milton Keynes's party people as their last train back from London is 1.34am, compared with the last departure for Colchester at about midnight.

Although welcoming First Great Eastern's additional 11pm weekday service between London and the growing towns of Braintree and Witham, it also called for later London-to-Clacton services beyond the current 10.15pm train.

Derek Langslow, chairman of the RPC, said: "Clacton is a growing community. The signs of growth are there with house building in Clacton and Walton-on-the-Naze and a new secondary school in Clacton. The railway needs to capture that growth.

"Society has changed markedly in the past 30 years and leisure patterns have altered. Regulators and operators need to catch up and innovate."

Representatives from Anglia Railways and First Great Eastern, which provide train services between London and East Anglia, were unavailable for comment last night.

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