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Transport secretary to meet troubleshooting rail boss over East Anglia rail improvement review

PUBLISHED: 11:40 29 October 2015 | UPDATED: 13:22 29 October 2015

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin in the House of Commons

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin in the House of Commons

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The transport secretary will hold talks with the troubleshooting new boss of Network Rail about the upgrades to the Norwich to London rail track to make journeys faster and more reliable.

Norwich MP Chloe Smith called for Patrick McLoughlin to reiterate his commitment to the recommendations to the Great Eastern Main Line taskforce, which was backed by him and the Chancellor ahead of the general election.

Pre-poll commitments were thrown into doubt just weeks after the Conservatives were elected with a majority in May when the Government was forced to admit that Network Rail was launching a review into whether it would be able to do the work promised in its current budget and on time.

Local MPs have been lobbying hard to make sure that the promises made ahead of the election are honoured, including on the Norwich to London line and upgrades to the Ely junction on the King’s Lynn to London line.

London transport boss Sir Peter Hendy was appointed and the review is not due to report back until later this year.

Mr Mcloughlin told Ms Smith he was committed to the taskforce aims, saying that they had already issued an “invitation to tender” which demands private sector rail companies run trains between Norwich and London in 90 minutes and Ipswich and London in 60 minutes.

However, the current proposals would only force the companies to run two trains between Norwich and the capital in each direction each day.

Another key plank of the Great Eastern Rail Line campaign - which was explicitly backed by the Government - was £476m of investment in the main line, including infrastructure improvements.

Mr McLoughlin said Ms Smith could “take his assurance” that he would be raising the issue of the Great Eastern Rail Line later today.

“She is right about the other improvements we need to look at aswell and she can take my assurance that I will be raising them with Sir Peter Hendy [Network Rail’s new boss] when I meet him later today.”

The Great Eastern Rail Taskforce is also set to meet Sir Peter Hendy “shortly” to put the case for East Anglia’s needs. Ms Smith said: “The taskforce is succeeding, having secured agreement at every level for new trains and track upgrades. “The day-to-day and economic benefits of our work will be immense for each county on our route and we are grateful to all the thousands of passengers who back our campaign to get these results.

“The Government’s commitment means that these improvements will come about within ten years, as promised.”

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