Fears that direct trains between Norwich and Liverpool could be lost
Fears have been raised that Norwich could lose its direct rail link to Liverpool when the new franchise for the East Midlands service is awarded.
Bosses at Norfolk County Council have made clear, in consultation over the future of the franchise, that they do not want to lose the link to Liverpool Lime Street.
The franchise has been run by Stagecoach-owned East Midlands Trains for the past decade, but will come to an end in August next year.
The Department for Transport has carried out consultation over who will get the next franchise.
But Norfolk County Council is concerned that one of the issues which was raised during the consultation was whether the Norwich to Liverpool service should continue as a direct, through service or whether it would be better to split the service.
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Splitting it would mean it would run only from Liverpool to Sheffield or Nottingham, where passengers would need to change for onward services to East Anglia.
The council says the consultation had not made clear how many services would operate from Sheffield or Nottingham to Norwich, or which franchise might operate them.
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Norfolk's principal infrastructure planner David Cumming, said the council had responded with: 'We are completely opposed to any proposals to end the direct rail service between Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street which would be a loss to passengers and the economy in East Anglia and other cities along the line and we would strongly urge government to re-think any future plans to do so.'
The consultation also raised the prospect of a direct service from Norwich to Birmingham.
The Birmingham to Stansted service is currently provided via the Cross Country franchise, but it has been suggested that could switch to the East Midlands franchise, which could improve links to Norwich.
Mr Cumming said: 'The consultation suggested that this could allow direct Norwich to Birmingham trains, but did not suggest that government would require this as part of any franchise agreement.
'It appears that this would be a decision for the operator, who could choose to run Birmingham trains to Cambridge – or elsewhere – instead.'