By DAVID FREEZER
Thursday, January 31, 2013
New train carriages and faster services for the Norwich rail services to Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft are being called for ahead of today’s East Anglian Rail Summit at Westminster.
"I am confident it will help the government understand what Norfolk needs if railways are to take their rightful place in a 21st century transport system."
The priorities for the Bittern Line service to Sheringham and Wherry Line service to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, have been published by Norfolk County Council today ahead of the rail summit.
Among the priorities for the two rural lines in the county council’s Norfolk Rail Prospectus are calls for new or fully-refurbished trains, longer trains for peak times and journey times to be reduced by five minutes.
Both the Bittern and Wherry lines are operated by Greater Anglia and are included in the same franchise as the Norwich to London Liverpool Street service, which expires in July 2014.
The Norfolk Rail Prospectus builds upon the wider scale of the Rail Prospectus for East Anglia, released last July.
All of the work is aiming to put pressure on Network Rail ahead of its February 19 consultation deadline for its Strategic Business Plan for 2014-19. Today’s summit, which is being chaired by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, is bringing together an alliance of politicians, business groups and rail operators and users from across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.
The Rail Prospectus for East Anglia forecasted improvements to the Great Eastern Main Line (Norwich to London Liverpool Street) which could bring an extra £3.7bn to the regional economy.
This would require infrastructure upgrades, better line speeds and improvements to service quality and train carriages.
The county council is backing the calls to reduce the journey time between Norwich and London to 90 minutes and Norwich to Cambridge to 70 minutes, as well as calling for overcrowding to be reduced and route capacities to be increased.
Graham Plant, county council cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “We have what many are calling a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dramatically shape rail services.
“This prospectus delivers a clear message, based upon evidence, and supported right across the community. It is carefully thought through and realistic and I am confident it will help the government understand what Norfolk needs if railways are to take their rightful place in a 21st century transport system.”
The rural priorities include reducing the Bittern and Wherry line journey times by five minutes, to 53 minutes between Norwich and Sheringham and 28 minutes between Norwich and Yarmouth.
A longer-term aim of increasing frequency to half-hourly, intially to North Walsham on the Bittern Line, is another priority, while a year-round minimum requirement of not less than hourly, including on Sundays, is a priority for the Wherry Line. Improvements to railway stations are also cited, with Great Yarmouth station and its surrounds highlighted as being in need of work. Along with potential new stations at Rackheath and Broadland Business Park, in Postwick, there is plenty for Norfolk’s representatives to fight for.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “The Norfolk prospectus helps make sure we have got Norfolk’s needs right, as part of the wider campaign. The Norwich to London line is a real priority for me and all travellers at all points of that line, because of the franchise process which is shortly to start.
“We are passionate that East Anglia and Norfolk get their fair share over the 20 years to come.”
Today’s summit, being held at the Houses of Parliament between 10am and midday, will feature an update from rail minister Simon Burns and the latest on Network Rail’s business plan for 2014-19.
- Follow our live coverage from the Westminster summit using the link at the top-right of this page or by going to www.edp24.co.uk/news/rail-summit-blog