A blueprint for desperately-needed improvements to the railways in Norfolk was unveiled today, calling for crucial track upgrades, faster trains, new stations and more frequent services.

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MPs, councillors and businesses have drawn up the Norfolk Rail Prospectus to make the case to the government and the rail industry that Norfolk has been stuck in the sidings for too long.

They hope the document, which they insist is not a wish list but has genuinely achievable goals, can be used to put pressure on Network Rail and the companies which will be bidding to take on the franchises for the Greater Anglia and East Midlands two years from now.

The draft prospectus was unveiled at a meeting today and includes calls for:

Trains which get from Norwich to London in 90 minutes.

Services from Norwich to London, Norwich to Cambridge and King’s Lynn to London, via Cambridge, at least every half hour.

A target over the longer term for half hourly services on the Bittern Line and Wherry Lines.

Later last trains from London and Cambridge.

New stations at Postwick, Broadland Business Park and possibly at Rackheath.

Electrification of Norwich to Cambridge, Bittern and Wherry Lines.

All stations to be made fully accessible.

Longer trains between Norwich and Sheringham at peak times.

New or fully refurbished train carriages.

Extending the Norwich to Cambridge service to Stansted.

Continuing support for an East-West rail link, connecting Cambridge to Oxford.

Possible freight interchanges at King’s Lynn, Snetterton and Great Yarmouth.

The launch of the prospectus comes after a campaign by MPs, business bosses and council leaders, which led to the East Anglian Rail Prospectus earlier this year.

That document looked at the wider picture for East Anglia and the economic benefits which better train services would bring, but the Norfolk blueprint drills down into further detail.

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, who made a speech at the public unveiling of the Norfolk prospectus, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to get it right for the long term in the region’s rail.

“That means jobs, because businesses will be able to grow with better infrastructure. We have achieved good progress so far through the East Anglian Rail Prospectus campaign, which I led to Parliament, and now is the time to focus again on Norfolk’s part of that.

“The Norwich to London line is a real priority because of the franchise process which is shortly to start. Over the next 20 years we want more reliable services, faster services, and better quality stock. We are passionate that Norfolk won’t be left behind.”

In July, the government announced that £25m would be spent upgrading Ely station as part of a £9bn package of rail improvements.

While that money was welcomed as paving the way for half-hourly services on the King’s Lynn to London service and Norwich to Cambridge lines, there was no mention of improvements to the Norwich to London Liverpool Street line.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, wrote to new transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin expressing the authority’s disappointment, while calling for future investment.

He said: “For too long Norfolk has been at the end of the line for rail investment, despite it being clear that improvements are needed to boost the county’s economic prospects.

“However, I believe that this picture is changing. MPs, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships from across East Anglia have supported the vision for rail set out in the East Anglian Rail Prospectus, and it is becoming clear that the rail industry and the government is listening. We were extremely pleased that the government has included money for a crucial upgrade at Ely.

“While we have got their attention, we must go a step further and set out in detail what we hope and expect to see on railways serving Norfolk in the years ahead.

“Our prospectus will feed into ongoing government decision-making over the next few months. Crucial decisions will be taken about the five-year spending programme on track infrastructure, and government will be re-letting the franchises to decide which train companies run the services in and out of the county.

“These are major, important decisions that will shape the quality and frequency of train services for a number of years to come.”

One of the key elements of the blueprint is getting faster trains on the Norwich to London line, following on from the Norwich in 90 campaign launched two years ago.

That campaign, backed by the county council, appeared to have suffered a major blow in January when Network Rail revealed the potentially prohibitive price tag of replacing the single track, 26 metre long railway bridge at Trowse.

But, in the new prospectus, the commitment to Norwich in 90 remains, with a suggestion that re-timetabling services could avoid the need for costly work on Trowse bridge.

The blueprint also calls for Bow Junction on the approach to Liverpool Street to be remodelled and a new third track north of Chelmsford to overcome capacity issues on the route to London, with other improvements allowing trains to run at 110mph.

The document suggests it might be possible to tap into a £300m pot available from the government to fund journey time and performance improvements, to help speed up the trains between Norwich and London.

The Norfolk prospectus will go out for consultation following today’s launch at the King’s Centre in King Street, Norwich. It is expected to be rubber-stamped by the county council early next year. Council leaders say that will then enable them to work with the government, the rail industry and others to deliver the schemes outlined in it.

Please leave your views in the comments section below

20 comments

  • The present government has proven itself completely inept at handling the Department for Transport. It isn't then much of a surprise then to hear that a touted figure of between £40-100 million has been wasted by them due to a lack of governance of civil servants who have managed this debacle. The privatisation by a Conservative Government of the railways achieved nothing but misery for rail users and has not realised any of the benefits promised. The only people who have gained from privatisation have been shareholders and foreign train companies. In the meantime our rail network continues its inevitable decline!

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    Douglas McCoy

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Currently cross country trains operate Birmingham new street to Stansted Airport. This train should be Birmingham-Norwich with a Norwich-Stansted service as well. As a matter of course the rolling stock needs to comply with disabled regulations, accessible toilets, provision for wheelchairs. The nature of the franchise means that this wont be carried out until the long term agreement is signed. The Breckland line to Cambridge is the only realistic line that might be electrified and that would only be the case if you were to extend some of the Kings Cross-Cambridge trains to Norwich, currently the 8 carriage trains split at Cambridge with 4 going north to Kings Lynn. They could potentially split at Ely with 4 for Lynn and 4 for Norwich. In terms of the Norwich-Liverpool Lime Street train which nobody has cared to mention that needs some looking at because this is a route that connects us with major midland and north western cities and currently it is quicker to travel to London then Manchester than to just get our train direct to Manchester, by an hour. We all stress the importance of London and all that is really required from that is knocking maybe 20 minutes off the journey and minor improvements. We can obtain a little more from London's economy with improved times, but we can get a massive benefit from the economies of growing cities in the north and that can be achieved with bridges and junctions being built so the trains aren't waiting for a slot to cross busy main lines. This route has Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham and Peterborough on it. Big cities with a lot of growth ahead of them. Whereas between Norwich and London we have Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford and we have a bigger economy and population than all of them and all they will do is have first take on any benefit from London's economy. A freight depot at Yarmouth is unrealistic unless the line is dualled because you face a trade off between freight and passenger services. Yarmouth station is a disgrace, the station needs rebuilding, the Liverpool train should run through from Norwich and the line needs dualling.

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    cm85

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Norwich and Norfolk need a tram that operates on BR gauge and serves commuters. We also need our central line sorted out. the Trowse bridge problem is substantial but not impossible to solve. Modern civil engineering has moved on. But why this publicity for something that might not happen, why ask us now, when nothing is happening, ask us what we think of your costed plans at the next elections.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, October 5, 2012

  • Once again all we see is the obsession with rail times to London. What would be an imaginative plan would be have a network of commuter light railways connecting to Norwich and other towns. The present county bus service is woefully inadequate.Just think a forward thinking programme that turns back time to when there was an excellent village train service. The main stumbling block to all our transport problems is the entrenched idea that it must make a profit. Most European countries with excellent transport networks accept that it will be a cost to the nation.

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    norman hall

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Don't mind what improvements they make just as long as the costs of them are fully undertaken by the people who actually use the trains .... save the taxpayers subsidies for better cycle paths in Norwich instead.

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    expat

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Once again no mention that I can see of the cross country service linking Norfolk with the Midlands network and the East Coast line at Peterborough. Not everyone in Norfolk wants to travel to London and the South. Also no mention of the dire state of Yarmouth station and the almost complete lack of parking, which is a serious deterrent to using the train. Also Greater Anglia's failure to provide enough carriages GY to Norwich at times of peak demand and instead we get an insulting sign saying rural passengers may need to queue at busy times! GY is the second largest town in Norfolk and the station is being steadily down graded to the status of a rural halt.It would be useful to be able to get a train out of GY before 8am on Sundays too.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Just which party was it that was short-sighted enough to close all the rural stations and cut Norfolk off in the first place? Governments need vision for the future, not quick bucks for today..

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    Sandy.L

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Maybe a simple start would be to make the bridge over the river near to Laurence Scott And Electromotors a dual line, at present it is a single line, the problems leaving Norwich really start there.

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    chebram71

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Travelling to London at peak times is a complete nightmare. The coaches are over crowded, passangers standing, toilets smelly, and I always seem to end up sitting next to someone who sees it fit to stuff his face with a stinking pasty.

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    Mellow_Yellow

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Even if any money for improvements is not blocked by the treasury none of this will actually happen before the 2015 election and,if previous Coalition plans are anything to go by, never.If the West Coast fiasco is any guide and with this governments continuing incompetence I would not hold your breath.

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • I agree with expat. Those who use the trains should pay the full cost. Too many people move to Norfolk then complain the commute to London is a nightmare. Well I think the nightmare is those moaners who come to Norfolk with their London wages pushing up house prices so our young people can't afford the ever rising cost of housing. If you don't like the set up then stay put.

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    smithrob

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • One fine and sunny day we decided to go to Cromer - along with a few hundred other people. There were messages over the station tannoy to take water and get off at the next station if you felt ill throught he heat. The usual two carriages were rammed with people, many foriegn holidaymakers, having to stand all the way. On the way back some Japanese tourists covered the windows with their maps to escape the blistering heat. What a backward country these travellers will think we are. We can't be bothered to invest in nice air-conditioned carriages or even tint the windows. Couldn't even be bothered to put on an extra carriage for a day where demand would be obvious. Cancellations, delays and carriages so packed that a conductor wouldn't dare to show their face are so common on the London line. We all used to moan about British Rail but at least there was the possibility of Government intervention and investment.

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    oldowl

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • I look forward to the improvement of trains in the region which doubtless will take even longer than the completion of dualling the A11 between Thetford and Barton Mills. There are less users for whatever reasons on the trains although it was, could and should be an efficient, affordable network. Let's all live in hope ........ as for action rather than hot air, news print and jolly coffee mornings at the King's Centre, I'm less confident.

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    F G HOB

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • These lines are always going to be poor they literally need billion spending on them, the whole system is archaic like the rest of the infrastructure in this country.

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    John L Norton

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • These lines are always going to be poor they literally need billion spending on them, the whole system is archaic like the rest of the infrastructure in this country.

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    John L Norton

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Please can we consider improving Norwich's links with the midlands and the north? Better services - with better trains - to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham. Regarding the Norwich to London service, what we really need is much better reliability, rather than faster trains.

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    Trevor Ashwin

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Well done Norfolk County Council for taking the lead in trying to and set out a blueprint for the future of rail in Norfolk and it's connections across the Country. Very happy to see everyone getting behind the cause and making sure Norfolk is not the poor relation of the rest of the Country. Maybe if we all tried to be constructive and feed back sensible suggestions it would be more constructive. The prospectus can be viewed on www.norfolk.gov.ukrailinnorfolk

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    A business with big ambitions

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • I note the Prospectus document does include sensible suggestions for improving the Norwich to Liverpool Lime Street route.One hopes an hourly through service to Peterborough and beyond is not sacrificed for a more frequent service to Cambridge. Sorting out Ely will be a start.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Whilst chebram71 is quite right about the desirability for the Trowse bridge to be double tracked, I fear that actually doing it would be far from simple and very expensive. When the present bridge was installed (in place of the previous 2 track one - grrrr.) there were months of disruption with trains terminating at the temporarily reopened Trowse station. Presumably we would have the same again.

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    Chris Booty

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • expat - you must be joking! more cycle lanes - when cyclists ride on FOOTpaths anyway! Why this fixation with Norwich and all points south? How about to the midlands and the north? The poor relation, as usual - even on the roads!

    Report this comment

    biglingers

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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