Norfolk could benefit from new east-west rail link vision

PUBLISHED: 17:46 18 August 2014 | UPDATED: 17:46 18 August 2014

Rail links between Norwich and south Midlands could be improved under new plans.

Rail links between Norwich and south Midlands could be improved under new plans.

Council leaders in Norfolk have welcomed plans to boost rail links with the west, which could make it easier for passengers and freight in the county to access the south Midlands.

Officials from the East West Rail Consortium said a new study had shown that there was a “strong” economic case for creating a new section of railway line between Oxford and Cambridge.

A report, which is the first step towards the development of an outline business case and the identification of a preferred route early next year, opens up the possibility to rail journeys from Norfolk to hard to get to destinations such as Luton, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford, and onward journeys to south-west England and south Wales - without the need to cross London between rail terminals.

The study comes after the western section of the East West Rail line between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes was given the go-ahead. The scheme involves reconstructing and upgrading sections of disused and under-used railway in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire for new passenger and freight services to operate between Bedford and Oxford, Milton Keynes and Oxford, and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury. The initiative is being funded by the Department for Transport with a contribution from local authorities in the consortium.

The East West Rail Consortium aims to submit formal plans for the next phase in 2016 to be in with a chance of being in the 2019-2024 investment plans for the rail industry.

Bev Spratt, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s economic development sub-committee, said the project could deliver “substantial economic benefits” and support significant growth in the East West Rail corridor.

“Improving rail infrastructure is vital for the Norfolk economy, and new east-west rail connections to Oxford and beyond would complement the road improvements underway on the A11, that are planned for the A14, and that we are pressing for on the A47. There’s no doubt that improving Norfolk’s strategic links to the rest of the country will strengthen the world-class industries we already have, and make the county even more attractive for further inward investment.”

It comes after fears were raised earlier this summer over proposed changes to the Norwich to Liverpool service, currently operated by East Midlands Trains.

A government consultation seeks views on transferring the Nottingham to Liverpool portion of the Norwich to Liverpool service to the TransPennine Express franchise, which would mean that passengers heading to Liverpool would have to change at Nottingham.

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