Safety fears over no derby day trains

FEARS for Ipswich Town fans' safety have been raised after it emerged train travel to Norwich City for the derby match will be disrupted due to engineering work.

Derek Davis

FEARS for Ipswich Town fans' safety have been raised after it emerged train travel to Norwich City for the derby match will be disrupted due to engineering work.

Track maintenance and improvement work carried out by Network Rail, which is planned up to two years in advance, means that the scheduled National Express East Anglia train services between Ipswich and Norwich will not operate when the clubs meet in this season's first East Anglian derby at Carrow Road, on Sunday, December 7.

Consequently the usual Ipswich to Norwich train services and the rail football special that would normally be provided will not run. A limited coach replacement service will operate for other rail travellers.

The line closure has been described as 'crazy' by Ipswich Town Supporters Club chair Liz Edwards, who is concerned that the risk of trouble between the long-feuding fans will be increased.

She said: “It is completely crazy to close the rail line when it is the obvious way to transport the majority of fans to the match at Norwich.

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“From a safety and stewarding viewpoint, there have to be major concerns, as most Town fans will no doubt choose to drive rather than rely on there being adequate capacity on replacement buses.

“With many more people driving, and parking all around Norwich, it will be much harder for police to manage the match. “Historically they have insisted on it being a lunchtime kick-off, and they escort the vast majority of Town fans from the station to the ground and back, yet this time that simply will not work.

“We will see large numbers of Town fans mixing with home fans before and after the game all around Norwich, with consequent increased risk of disorder.

“Worse still, line closures hugely increase journey times, making it even more difficult than usual for fans from outside of Ipswich to get to the game at all.”

Suffolk Police are working with their Norfolk counterparts and British Transport Police to ensure derby day passes off peacefully.

The work was planned two year's in advance and Network Rail insists it can't be changed and therefore operator National Express can not run a football special.

Ipswich Town plan to put on extra coaches and to with the travel planning, Ipswich Town will be selling their allocation of tickets for this match through October.

Tickets will be sold using the club's priority scheme and full details of sales dates for this match are available under Ticket News on the club website.

Supporters will not be able to purchase official club travel until they have purchased their match ticket through the club.

Edwards added: “As a Supporters Club, we looked to see if anything could be done to stop this closure. It appears it can't, so the provision of more official coaches is welcome. It will offer a far better and safer environment for travelling fans than the rail replacement option."

Norfolk, Suffolk and British Transport Police are working with both football clubs to ensure the revised travel arrangements for Ipswich supporters assist in maintaining the efficient transport operation.

The game was originally scheduled for a 12.45pm kick-off but was moved to 1.15pm to accommodate Sky TV.