£29m shopping list for rail improvements

New trains, more frequent services and better station facilities are on a shopping list for our region's train services for the next 10 years. Network Rail has published a set of options for dealing with rising demand for trains in the Anglia region.

New trains, more frequent services and better station facilities are on a shopping list for our region's train services for the next 10 years.

Network Rail has published a set of options for dealing with rising demand for trains in the Anglia region, including services from London to Norwich, Cambridge and King's Lynn, the East Suffolk Line and cross-country routes. Overcrowding at peak times, rising populations and more people wanting to travel to London are all identified as issues that need addressing.

But there is no guarantee that the funding will be provided for millions of pounds worth of improvements, the money for which could come from Network Rail itself, the government, or, for smaller improvements, county councils or developers through planning agreements.

On the list is an hourly service on the East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Lowestoft, which would mean a loop being built at Beccles so that trains using the single track line can pass.

The report says the works needed would cost £29m but only make £3m in ticket sales, adding: “The business case at [current] levels of demand is weak. At predicted rates of passenger demand increases it is expected that the additional services would generate a positive socio-economic case around 2012, though this may be sooner if greater increases in demand materialise.”

There are also plans for new intercity trains, probably class 444 trains like those used in the south-west, which will provide 50pc more capacity. This would cost more than £150m but Network Rail says it would pay for itself in extra income as more people would be able to take the train. At the moment, 6pc of passengers are forced to “stand in unacceptable conditions” in morning rush hour on the Norwich mainline, though usually people are only standing from Colchester onwards.

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Network Rail predicts that if nothing is done that will rise to 10pc by 2016, with people standing from Ipswich. And on the West Anglia line between King's Lynn and London, overcrowding will rise from 10pc to 25pc if nothing is done.

One option is for longer platforms at Stratford so that more trains can stop there, though the report points out this will lead to longer journey times for other passengers. There are also proposals to improve the interchange between tube and rail at stations like Stratford and Tottenham Hale, and to improve station facilities such as car parks, which are already at capacity in Norwich and Yarmouth.

A three-month consultation will now be held during which people can say which of the proposals they think should be taken forward. A final report will be published in September.

Network Rail Anglia route director Patrick Hallgate said: “With huge predicted growth in the Anglia region it's imperative that we plan effectively to deliver a network that can respond to this increased demand for rail. The entire rail industry has worked together to assess the situation and work out a range of options on how best to meet this demand with improved infrastructure and passenger services.”

Andrew Chivers, managing director, of 'one' railway said: “We intend to play a proactive role in ensuring that our customers' needs are prioritised in future plans for the railways in the East of England.”