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Passengers, businesses and politicians urged by operator to lobby the government for train cash

PUBLISHED: 18:19 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:57 08 February 2017

Abellio Greater Anglia unveil their first refurbished coach at Norwich Train Station. Jamie Burles, MD of Abellio Greater Anglia. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Abellio Greater Anglia unveil their first refurbished coach at Norwich Train Station. Jamie Burles, MD of Abellio Greater Anglia. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

A 10-point plan which would allow regular Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60 trains has been set out by Greater Anglia - with a plea for businesses, travellers and politicians in East Anglia to get behind it.

The train operator kicked off what is likely to be a two year lobbying effort to make sure billions of pounds of rail infrastructure money comes to this region.

They say passengers will not feel the full benefit of the new trains which are due to arrive on the network in 2019 and 2020, if tracks, signals and junctions are not upgraded.

Among the list of work which would speed up services, increase capacity and make the line more reliable, is the swing bridge at Trowse.

Rail campaigners want it to be replaced with a fixed double track swing bridge. This would allow more frequent services into and out of Norwich, and the long-awaited upgrade to the Ely junction which was postponed by Network Rail after it overspent its budget in the current spending period.

Ahead of the last election former Chancellor George Osborne pledged to deliver trains running from Norwich to London in 90 minutes.

New trains, which will be able to accelerate and brake more quickly and will have automatic doors, will allow Greater Anglia to run two services each way each day. Something which is a condition of their new franchise agreement.

But the major infrastructure work needs to be done if more faster trains are to become a reality.

The promise of new trains came after the Great Eastern Rail Campaign dossier of demands, supported by businesses, passengers and politicians, was backed by the government.

But while it said infrastructure improvements were needed, it did not specify individual schemes.

Greater Anglia hopes that by focusing its efforts on a small number of realistic schemes which will make a big difference they are more likely to be given backing from the government.

Network Rail’s next five year spending plan, which begins in 2019, has not yet been approved by the Department for Transport.

Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles said: “We are looking forward to the transformation of train services in East Anglia when we bring in a complete new fleet of trains in 2019/20, but to fully realise the benefits of that £1.4 billion investment, we need to see a parallel transformation in the region’s rail infrastructure.

“The business case is strong for such investment in a region which contributes positively to national GDP and where financial premiums from operating East Anglia’s train services help finance the operation of other rail services across the rest of the UK rail network. “We have set out a targeted list of priorities, which will make a major difference to reliability, connectivity, journey times and service development.”

He said the “collective effort” which had paved the way for new trains as part of the new franchise - the contract between the private train operator an the Department for Transport - had helped secure a “fantastic outcome”.

He called for the effort to be maintained.

A spokesman for the New Anglia local enterprise partnership, which has helped to coordinate the Great Eastern Main Line taskforce, said work on identifying specific infrastructure projects had been done since its rail prospectus had been published.

“The purpose behind that work was to give Government a clearer indication of where money could best be spent to achieve the aims of the Taskforce.”

A DfT spokesman said: “We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century, investing more than £38 billion in rail infrastructure to improve journeys.

“Abellio won the right to run services in East Anglia last year and their exciting and ambitious plans will make a real difference to passengers, giving them faster and smoother journeys. It will also ensure the region has a rail network that supports its growing economy.

“The new service for rail passengers across East Anglia promises to deliver more than 1,040 new state of the art carriages and cut journey times by an average of 10 per cent.”

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