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Norwich to Cambridge railway line should be upgraded to an ‘Innovation Express’

PUBLISHED: 06:45 02 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:59 02 November 2015

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Ian Burt

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Ian Burt

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A Norfolk MP is seeking support to upgrade the Norwich to Cambridge rail line into what he has called the “innovation express”.

George Freeman said that a better service between the two cities could potentially bring further investment into the region.

The Mid-Norfolk Conservative MP is to meet with transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to discuss his idea later this year.

Mr Freeman said: “In any other advanced economy, the line linking two world class centres of technology and innovation such as Cambridge and Norwich would be a frequent, fast and high quality service to modern and well equipped stations.

“The Norwich to Cambridge line should be “The Innovation Express” and with wi-fi, smart trains, e-ticketing, bike racks at the stations and a half hourly service this line could bring prosperity and investment to the area.” As part of the improvements, Mr Freeman wants to see:

n Faster delivery of the doubling of the Ely North Junction – work that would be crucial for enhanced services on the line.

n Faster delivery of the upgrades at Ely station to Ely North Junction.

n The doubling of the Trowse Swing Bridge.

n An increase in line speeds between Norwich and Ely to 90mph or 100mph.

n The delivery of Felixstowe to Nuneaton and Norwich to Ely electrification.

n An improvement to day-to-day infrastructure performance to improve punctuality.

n A half-hourly Norwich to Cambridge service.

Other improvements include train refurbishments to include wi-fi and plug points, and more trains to enable increase capacity. Mr Freeman also wants to see upgrades to multiple stations along the line.

Norfolk MP and environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, who is working with Mr Freeman to secure support for the changes, said: “The term Innovation Express is an excellent name and reflects the enterprising characteristics of this part of the UK.”

Abellio Greater Anglia currently operates an hourly service along the line – a total of 34 trains each day. A spokesman said that the company had worked closely with Mr Freeman to try and bring further investments to the line in the future.

“We welcome George Freeman’s support in helping to build the case for future upgrades on the Norwich to Cambridge route.

“We are committed to continuing to work to further improve services as far as is practical for the remainder of our current short franchise and to helping pave the way for further upgrades in the future.”

Mr Freeman has also written to the CEO of Network Rail to see assurances that the company is committed to improving the line.

n A £150m programme of engineering works is expected to cause disruption to a section of the Greater Anglia line, which links Ipswich and Norwich with London Liverpool Street, over the Christmas period.

The line will be closed for five days, with services terminating in Ingatestone, Essex.

Comment – Page 26.

22 comments

  • George Ezekial: "Martin please do not make your wild accusations unless there is some substance to your claims." I note with regret that you have joined the ranks of the barking mad. what 'wild accusations'? I've set out what Mr Freeman does from the public record, not a little of it in is own words! there's no 'personal vendetta' here: I object IN PRINCIPLE. get it. got it? good. and goodbye :-(

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015

  • @Martin, all your comments seem to be expressing a personal vendetta against Mr Freeman. This is an article about a grand proposal to upgrade the railway line between Norwich and Cambridge. I can sit here and pick holes in what he proposes from my half informed stand point. Now if this was someone else, such as the Business Development conglomerate from County Council, would it be fair to assume they we interested in feathering the nests of their constituents to garner votes at the next election? If in the unlikely event I was elected as an MP, as well as asking questions on behalf of my constituents about subjects which I had no previous interest or practical knowledge, I would ask questions which could improve the lives of my constituents which I currently have a professional interest and would have a reasonable chance of securing as a consequence of my prior interest and practical application. Martin please do not make your wild accusations unless there is some substance to your claims. For the record I do believe that you are more likely to see the A47 dualled through Norfolk than to see Mr Freeman's 'Innovation Express' come to practical fruition.

    Report this comment

    George Ezekial

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015

  • steveo: "He's not campaigning or lobbing for the companies he's worked for." how do you know that? Furthermore, you and SMH don't do your argument any favours by wilfully misrepresenting what I actually wrote in a display of confected outrage. grow up.

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015

  • Again, just because someone disagrees with your point of view is no reason to be so vile and insulting. I don't care about George Freeman's connections. He's not campaigning or lobbing for the companies he's worked for. This proposal benefits everyone, so of course it's in his interests in the same way it would be for everyone else. You don't do your own argument any favours by insulting people.

    Report this comment

    Steveo

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Excuse me? So nobody's allowed to support a perfectly decent proposal because you seem to have a personal vendetta against Freeman? So much so that you vehemently attack everyone who agrees with it? I don't see how I'm the one being a troll.

    Report this comment

    Steveo

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • @Martin Wallis, "give it a rest George..." Sounds exactly like you're saying he's wrong to campaign for better facilities. Comparing it to a rich boys' helicopter link is just laughable and you'd never make that suggestion if he were Labour etc. Haters gonna hate, meanwhile everyone else gets on with it and supports a good idea when they see it.

    Report this comment

    Steveo

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Brilliant to further campaign for better links between Norwich and Cambridge, sensible suggestion too about re-doubling Trowse bridge (which would also help all of the other lines in and out of the city). Reopening Hethersett station to serve the UEA, N&N and research park via a bus link would also be a cheap and cost-effective way of reducing pressure on Thorpe station. It would no doubt alleviate some of the congestion on the A11 etc too if the car park were big enough. And @Martin Wallis, funny how you're backtracking on your original comment now that nobody agrees with you! Why is it necessary to point out the MP's past and personal interests? How is it relevant? I guess it's ok to attack him because he's a Tory? Good to see our MPs (of whatever persuasion) campaigning for better facilities and infrastructure in the area AND doing something about it. Exactly the kind of thing an MP should do. Unless you disagree? I don't see Labour or Lib Dems campaigning or suggesting anything, only sniping from their unelectable sidelines.

    Report this comment

    Steveo

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • What's in it for Cambridge ?

    Report this comment

    Chris Green

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • SMH: "The tone was... as if he was wrong to try and improve the line. It sounds like you think his promotion of the line is a bad thing.". Tone? As if? Sounds like? I can't help you out here, SMH. you are plainly determined to read into my comment what I did not intend. is there anything in my follow-up comments about railways? no? might that lead a fair-minded person to conjecture that my beef is with an MP mainifestly using his position to further the interests of a narrow group for whom he was previously a paid consultant and cheerleader? if you don't think that there's anything 'inappropriate' about that, then we will just have to agree to disagree: but please don't try to put words into my mouth: " No part of your responses so far have indicated that you agree with the line being improved." well pardon me for not writing what YOU want me to write! shove it, chum: I don't like that. is that clear, at least? not too complicated for you?

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Well SMH, doing a deal (aka "feathering ones nest") actually does harm the integrity of parliament and local democracy. Generally local councellors withdraw from meetings or make sure their views in support of issues that profit their business interests are well documented to ensure fair play. It doesn't look good for example when any politician suggests following a particular line of expense or innovation when said politician would either personally gain or close friends and family would gain. I think that just a little research in this area would indicate that these practises still happen. In fact just look at the problems surrounding the ofsted and inspiration trust saga to find a prime example of "not looking good", despite assurance after assurance of squeaky cleanness. Fishyness abounds.

    Report this comment

    Davidbrian552

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • So, you have a problem with the man promoting the area that he's worked in and promoting a part of Norwich that is a world leader (according to some reports) on food science. But the tone of your first comment was as if he was wrong to try and improve the line - "Give it a rest George ... Whatever next - a dedicated taxpayer-funded helicopter service between NRP and Cambridge?" It sounds like you think his promotion of the line is a bad thing. No part of your responses so far have indicated that you agree with the line being improved. He might well "garner even more taxpayer support for his friends in the life sciences industry", but if that has a knock-on effect to improve the lot of the general travelling public, surely that's a good thing? I couldn't give two hoots about the MP himself - don't know him and don't care anything about him - but I do want transport links to Norwich to be improved. If that sometimes means making a deal with the devil that doesn't harm us, why not?

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • SMH: and just to be even clearer... "Before entering Parliament, Freeman had a 15-year career in biomedical venture capital. He spent most of his career in and around the Cambridge cluster supporting high tech growth businesses. For the seven years prior to being elected he was Founder and Chairman of the specialist translational medicine consultancy 4D Biomedical Ltd. Prior to that he was CEO of Cambridge start-up Amedis Pharmaceuticals, and before that the Director of Early Stage Ventures at Merlin Biosciences. Shortly after entering Parliament George Freeman was elected Chairman of the All Party Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture. He was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Barker MP, in the Coalition Government’s first tranche of appointments. In July 2011 the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon, David Cameron MP and Minister for Universities and Science, Rt. Hon. David Willetts MP, appointed Freeman as Government Life Science Advisor. In 2014, he was appointed Minister for Life Sciences at the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Freeman is a co-founder of the 2020 Group of Conservative MPs, where he chairs the Innovation Economy Commission. He has spoken and written widely on the potential of UK science, technology and entrepreneurship to lead a sustainable economic recovery." Wiki. the man is on a mission. thus far he has done very very well... Dec 2012 (EDP Minister pledges to continue government funding for Norwich Research Park) Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, when raising NRP in parliament, said: “The rising world population means that by 2050 we will need to double world production, albeit with half as much water, land and energy. “Does the minister agree that British agricultural science, not least at the Norwich Research Park, has a potentially huge role to play in helping the world to feed itself? “May I welcome the agricultural science strategy and ask that it looks to draw in as much investment from around the world into Britain’s science base as possible?” and Hey Presto October 2014 Government hands Norwich Research Park £12.5m bioscience boost (EDP) "Anglia’s successful expansion on the Norwich Research Park is a tribute to the potential of the NRP to not just contribute to, but lead, a sustainable economic recovery in the UK. That's why I am determined to continue my work in Parliament highlighting the importance of the NRP and Norfolk’s science base to our future economic prosperity". (george-freeman-mp-opens-new-norfolk-science-laboratory) from the horse's mouth: a lobbyist par excellence: quod erat demonstrandum. all clear now, SMH?

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • SMH: I'm very sorry that you are unable to understand my comment. it is crystal clear.

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Most of this simply wont happen. The rolling stock has never been refurbished since it was first introduced. The "upgrade" of the signalling is a shambles as the technology which was not pre tested is always failing. And look up at the station buildings. Most of the areas out of direct line of sight have not even been painted since the days of British Rail.

    Report this comment

    John Alborough

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Does it matter what his motives are, if it results in an improvement to the transport links for Norwich? If an MP of any party got the A47 dualling moved forward because they happened to have an investment in a company in the area, would that really make a lot of difference to your life, if it meant we got better roads and reduced casualties? And Martin - if he "gave it a rest" then the improvements wouldn't happen, so it sounds like you're against it. Nothing in your comment indicated that it was purely a personal attack against the MP and that you were FOR the changes.

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Martin wallis wash your mouth out! How could you suggest such a thing? He's clearly acting out of the traditional selfless attitude that we've come to expect from our highly regarded moral politicians. To think that a politician, a Tory one, would do anything other than for the good of the community in which he serves is beyond me. Your grovelling apology is most sincerely needed here. ;-)

    Report this comment

    Davidbrian552

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Sing this: "Pardon me George........is that the Chattanooga condescending choo choo?"

    Report this comment

    One Horse Town

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • SMH, if you read my comment (?) you will see that it is not against improving rail services (any rail services) but against my local MP George GM Freeman using his position to garner even more taxpayer support for his friends in the life sciences industry: when he eventually retires from Westminster (he will never lose his seat here in deepest Mid-Norfuk) he will be showered with directorships from the biotech companies whose nests he has feathered during his time as an MP

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Ah yes !, The 'Innovation Express', I assume that it will be a little like the 'Northern Powerhouse'......'.just words' that MP's and journalists can drop to look good, but with no reality or sub stance! The 'Northern Powerhouse' phrase has got to be the most overused BBC expression in recent months - Emperors new clothes me thinks.

    Report this comment

    Raisedeyebrows

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Martin Wallis - you'd prefer that the line wasn't improved? That the carriages stayed the same? That you couldn't safely park a bike at the station? The improvements will benefit a lot of people who use the line on a daily basis, so why are you so set against it? Aren't a lot of people calling for improvements in the rail services from Norwich, especially towards London, and Norwich-Cambridge-Kings Cross is a valid route as an alternative to the Liverpool St service, so why don't you want it improve?

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Brilliant idea, the service is already much better than it was 10 years ago and faster than the old rattling railcars that used to provide a direct service 20 odd years ago, with such a fast link from Cambridge to kings x this is already a more convenient route to west London than the slow route to Liverpool Street.

    Report this comment

    Jenkins

    Monday, November 2, 2015

  • Give it a rest George, you've already secured millions of pounds of taxpayers' money for your pet project - 'life sciences'- the field in which you earned a crust as a 'start-up consultant-cum venture capitalist' for 15 years before becoming an MP! Whatever next - a dedicated taxpayer-funded helicopter service between NRP and Cambridge?

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, November 2, 2015

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