Beccles rail loop is on track for December completion
This year will be fantastic for the East Suffolk railway line.
That is the view of Abellio Great Anglia's head of corporate affairs Jonathan Denby who confirmed that the work to build the new passing loop in Beccles is running to schedule.
The loop is due to be opened in December and will allow for hourly trains through Lowestoft, Oulton Broad, Beccles and Halesworth.
Speaking this afternoon, Mr Denby said that the work was progressing well and that the group was currently developing the timetable for December.
'I really passionately believe that 2012 is going to be a fantastic year for the East Suffolk Line,' he said.
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Mr Denby said that there had not previously been the opportunity to create the passing loop, but with Network Rail conducting resignalling work, this had been the first time since 1984 that the opportunity had arisen for it to be built.
'We saw an opportunity there, for the first time in more than 25 years to get an hourly service. Network Rail put in funding but we needed a third party and talked to Suffolk County Council about how this was a once in a generation opportunity.
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'It was the first since 1984 and you could guarantee another 20-30 years until another chance. To Suffolk County Council's credit they committed the money.'
He said the hourly service would be Monday to Saturday, and expected to see passengers numbers increase with the improved regularity.
'It is probably the best service frequency there has ever been on the line,' he added.
Mr Denby was talking to the East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA) at their spring meeting.
More than 50 people had crowded into the URC Church Hall, in Quay Street, Halesworth, this afternoon to listen to Mr Denby and hear about the other latest transport developments in east Suffolk.
He also told the group about the company's aims for the regional franchise, which focused on a reliable, safe, clean and punctual service, as well as work on smart ticketing, which would be similar to Oyster cards used in London, improved phone updates for passengers, and cycle storage at stations.
However he warned that many requests for faster journey times were not achievable without major investments from a number of groups, and spoke of the regret at the poor punctuality experienced by train passengers across the region in the first 10 days of their operation of the franchise in February.
ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod said there was much good news with an improved bus service between Halesworth and Southwold from April, better bus-rail integration, and a bus shelter installed at Tesco, in Gunton, Lowestoft, as well as the work being done to create the loop at Beccles.
He said: 'These are things that ESTA have campaigned for for quite a few years and it is good to see they are coming to fruition.'
Further issues discussed included the impact of rail engineering works, the time between catching connecting trains at Ipswich, further co-ordination between bus and rail services, and the need for Sunday, Bank Holiday and evening bus services.
There was also a request for Beccles train station to be improved, with the shelter a particular focus.