Legacy of privatisation to blame for Norfolk’s rail service woes, claims Labour’s shadow transport minister

Labours Shadow Transport Minister, Lilian Greenwood MP, visiting Norwich to meet with Jess Asato, La

Labours Shadow Transport Minister, Lilian Greenwood MP, visiting Norwich to meet with Jess Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, and Clive Lewis, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South and New Anglia LEP chairman Mark Pendlington, right at Norwich Railway station. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

The legacy of privatisation is to blame for many of the problems with train services between Norwich and London, Labour's shadow transport minister has said during a visit to the city.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour's shadow transport minister, was at Norwich railway station today to meet passenger groups, rail workers, her party's prospective parliamentary candidates for the city and the chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

In the summer, Labour unveiled their new rail plan, including bringing in legislation to allow a public sector operator to take on lines and challenge the train operators and to cap annual fare rises on every route.

Ms Greenwood said she was keen to find out what the 'ask' from Norfolk was of a future government on the investment needed in the railways.

She said: 'We are investing over £4bn a year into our railway and we think we should be getting good value for money for the passenger and also for the taxpayer.

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'There should be a strict cap on rail fare rises. Under this government rail fares have gone up 20pc in just four years. That's an increase of over £1,200 and yet people aren't seeing the improvements to services that they would like.

'We've said there should be the opportunity for the public sector operator to run lines and we would legislate to allow that to happen.'

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On how Labour's vision for the railways would be funded, she said: 'Funding for the railway already comes primarily from the government, either directly or via Network Rail and that's going to continue in the future. Under the last Labour government we had record investment in our railways. I want to see that continue but ensure we get real value for money.'

But she acknowledged there was a need to bring the Great Eastern line up to standard. Yesterday saw services between Norwich and London cancelled or delayed because of damage to wires in Essex, while services to and from Cambridge have today been affected by problems.

Asked whether Labour would be able to solve a problem it and other governments had failed to find a solution to in the past, she said: 'Under the last government we had a lot of problems to deal with in terms of the legacy of privatisation. There was a huge amount invested in renewing track, overhead lines and signalling.

'There's a lot of work that needs to be done on the Great Eastern to bring it up to standards and to improve on the resilience of the line.

'I know punctuality is running at about 88pc. One in trains delayed just isn't good enough. It means people can't rely upon it. Under this government we have not seen the investment going in the Great Eastern mainline.

'What we are talking about is what should go in the next control period and it will be the next government which makes decisions about 2019-2024. What I want to hear, and what I can see has been produced in the LEP task force report, is that there is a really strong argument for saying it's worth investing in this line to deliver for Norwich and Norfolk.'

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, said: 'It's great to have had the shadow minister with us. It's good she's come to Norwich to see for herself the challenges we are facing.'

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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