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Opinion: Passengers should not be kept in the dark over train disruptions

PUBLISHED: 11:06 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:03 11 December 2019

Problems with the new trains include software issues and their communication with the track. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme.

Problems with the new trains include software issues and their communication with the track. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme.

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Editor David Powles calls for passengers to be kept better informed of the current disruption to trains in the region.

The fleet of new trains heading to our railway lines over the next few months will be massively beneficial to the region.

For regular travellers on Greater Anglia they will bring better facilities, more comfort and hopefully improved reliability and faster journey times.

This could have positive implications for our economy, businesses and Norfolk as a whole if it helps to smash our reputation of being too hard to reach. There are environmental positives as well.

However, what I think none of us realised, was there would be so much upheaval in getting to that position.

Over the last few weeks we have reported on numerous problems, all over the region, on an almost daily basis. In fact one reader contacted me to ask why we didn't start reporting on days when the trains aren't disrupted, as surely that was now more of a newsworthy event?

This came to a head last week when it emerged that a near tragedy occurred on the Norwich to Sheringham line, in an incident which could have been caused by technical problems on the new fleet. An investigation will determine that. This has seen much more disruption this week as checks are carried out on other routes.

Questions need to be asked, and believe me we are doing so, as to why it took such a serious incident to find out that such an issue exists?

In terms of the disruption in general, I don't have a massive problem with it. In many aspects of life, sometimes you have to go through a period of upheaval and chaos to get to a better place than you were before.

That's the case when you move house, do up your home or, dare I say it, even have children. In all these examples hopefully the pain is eventually worth the gain.

But my issue is with the way passengers have been left largely in the dark as to the fact this upheaval was going to happen.

It's only natural that when Greater Anglia launched the new trains at the tail end of Summer, most people probably expected improvements immediately. That next time they rocked up at a station they would be greeted by a sparkling new service.

However, if it was made 100pc clear to them immediately that for six months or so journeys were likely to be delayed, disrupted and at times maybe even cancelled, but that in the end it would be worth it for such widescale improvements, the paying public would have been left with a choice.

Either put up with it for a short period - or find alternative ways of travelling before returning when the service returns to normal levels.

There is even an argument that train fares should have been reduced for a short period, as a gesture of goodwill, especially when you consider how costly some journey by rail can be.

Instead, from what I've seen, the frustration felt by passengers comes as much from a feeling of being left in the dark, as it does having their lives impacted in such a way.

As Greater Anglia and Network Rail work hard to iron out these problems over the next few weeks I would urge them to keep passengers wholly informed as to what is happening, so they can work out how it will impact their lives and what to do about it.

The last thing any of us want is a fleet of brilliant new trains, but no-one prepared to go on them.

***

This will be my final column of 2019 and can I say a massive thanks for reading our stories over the past 12 months. In 2019 we've reached a record number of people and whether you come to us via print or online your support is massively appreciated. I'm sure that 2020 is going to be a very interesting year both in this region and elsewhere for a variety of reasons and my team and I will continue to try our very hardest to provide all the news, analysis, entertainment and sport you need. I wish you all a fantastic Christmas and very happy new year.


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