By RICHARD WOOD and PAUL GEATER
Monday, December 10, 2012
Two trains have passed for the first time on a new piece of track which is set to make a big difference to rail travel along the east coast.
There were celebrations at Beccles this morning as trains passed on the new Beccles loop, a 390-metre length of track that is enabling an hourly service to be provided between Ipswich and Lowestoft.
However the first added service was delayed by 10 minutes into Ipswich after two level crossings broke down.
A £4m project, which has been jointly funded by Network Rail and Suffolk County Council, has allowed for the track to be laid and the renovation of the disused second platform at Beccles station.
Before this train services between Ipswich and Lowestoft ran every two hours, as there is 16 miles of single track between Halesworth and Oulton Broad.
Guy McGregor, county councillor with responsibility for transport, said he was delighted the new loop had been completed, but the opening should only be seen as the start.
“This is a great day – the first hourly service we have seen on the East Suffolk Line. But we need to now press for the line speed to be improved and for the number of level crossings to be reduced,” he said.
He said the problems with the level crossings between Saxmundham and Wickham Market showed how the reliability of the line’s technology needed to be improved.
Mark Lawry from Network Rail said there was a review of the number of crossings on the line, with the company hoping to reduce the number as much as possible.
MPs Peter Aldous, Therese Coffey, and Dan Poulter joined the train for all or part of the journey.
Dr Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP, said: “Oh, happy day! I remember when we got a reply from Philip Hammond (then transport secretary) giving the go ahead for the work two years ago.
“It is wonderful to see that it has now been completed – it will transform rail travel in the constituency.”