Pressure on for investment in East Anglia’s railways as blueprint is launched to put train services back on track
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A blueprint for the future of the region’s rail services is today unveiled in a manifesto which calls for massive investment in the Norwich to London line.
The manifesto, called Once in a generation - A rail prospectus for East Anglia, puts forward the case for faster trains, more track, and better stations.
It warns our trains are “not fit for purpose” with decades of under-investment in the east of England’s rail network threatening our economic future.
The blueprint comes two days after a damning survey showed Greater Anglia passengers were the most disgruntled in the country, rating the service bottom in the UK for reliability and value for money.
The launch today marks the start of an important week for the region’s rail services with a debate on East Anglia’s network due to take place in Parliament tomorrow.
On Wednesday MPs from the east of England will meet with transport secretary Justine Greening to once again make the case for investment in our tracks.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “East Anglia’s rail needs long term improvement and we make reasonable asks.
“We think we can secure improvements over the long term, starting through this united front.
“It is a once in a generation chance to make the case and make it big.”
Published by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and supported by councils, chambers of commerce and MPs across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, the manifesto warns of the “critical need” for investment in our tracks.
It calls for:
•The Ely North Junction to be upgraded to increase the frequency of trains between King’s Lynn and London, and Norwich and Cambridge.
•Increasing track speeds so trains can run at 110mph
•Increased track and platform capacity at Norwich and Ipswich stations
•New trains on the Norwich to London line, with a complete refurbishment of the rolling stock
•A third track north of Chelmsford which will cut journey times between Norwich and the capital
Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said: “Infrastructure is key to the future prosperity of the British economy.
“Investment in our rail networks will put the UK on the right tracks for growth and job creation.”
The manifesto also outlines the case for longer term priorities for 2019 to 2032, including the electrification of lines on the Norwich to Cambridge route, faster journey times between Norwich and Diss and an east to west service between Oxford and Cambridge, which would then link to Norwich.
Increasing train speeds to 110mph would cut journey times from London to Diss to 80 minutes, and Norwich in 90 minutes, which has been the subject of a high-profile Norwich in 90 campaign.
It is not just the main line that the LEP is concerned about.
The manifesto also looks at major improvements to rural and cross-country lines.
It wants services to run at least every 30 minutes and trains travelling a minimum of 75mph on branch lines.
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said: “Fast rail links are vital to our region’s prospects.
“For too long East Anglia has been used by London as a dumping ground for housing without the necessary infrastructure or jobs.
“The Government has unlocked £20 billion for infrastructure - this is our opportunity.”
The manifesto is also being supported by Greater Anglia, which wants urgent investment in the rail infrastructure.
Managing director Ruud Haket said: “Many of the key decisions taken by the government affecting rail investment - both via Network Rail and through the specification and funding of the next Greater Anglia franchise - will be taken in the next couple of years, so now is the time for all of us who care about the region’s railways and its wider prosperity, to make the compelling case for rail investment in East Anglia.”
The manifesto also calls for improvements to the Bittern Line serving the north Norfolk coast.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “We are victims in the east of chronic under investment and neglect. We are paying the price for that.”
The manifesto is launched on the day Labour is set to back a separate report which calls for the rail network to be brought back under public control.