Norwich could lose direct train link to Liverpool
- Credit: Archant © 2012
Britain's longest east to west rail link could be broken up in a 'regressive' plan which will see the loss of a direct train from Norwich to Merseyside.
Business leaders said the planned shake up will only add to the region's infrastructure difficulties, and has called on the government to rethink its plans. The Department for Transport wants to transfer the track from Nottingham to Liverpool, currently operated by East Midlands trains, to the TransPennine express, meaning trains from Norwich would stop in Nottingham and a change would be required.
More than 4.5 million passengers use the services which directly link Norwich, Thetford and Ely to Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool, and about 350,000 travel through Nottingham on the line each year.
Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia LEP, said: 'The Government has made a commitment to increase investment in east to west high-speed lines between northern cities. These plans fly contrary to that and will result in East Anglia losing a vital direct link to the north and north-west.
'Our growing population and economy demands infrastructure that is fit for purpose, including improved connections by rail, road, air and sea. Now is the time we should be seeing further enhancement and investment to our rail links. We call on the Transport Secretary to rethink this regressive proposal.'
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Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who heads the East Anglian Rail Prospectus, said: 'We lack good east to west links in this country and it will be a great shame to lose one of them that does already exist, and that serves both business and leisure passengers alike going across the country from Norwich westwards.'
A DfT spokesperson said they were seeking views on the plans and no final decision had been made.
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She said: 'We are investing record amounts in building a world-class rail network. This means more seats, improved connections and better journeys for millions of passengers. To make sure we make the most of this investment, it is vital we hear the views of the people who use these services.
'As part of our consultation into the Northern and Transpennine Express franchises, we are seeking views on whether to transfer the Liverpool – Nottingham section of the East Midlands Trains franchise to Transpennine Express. However, no final decision has been made.'
Nova Fairbank, from the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce said: 'The Norfolk business community has long identified that one of the key barriers to growth in Norfolk is lack of decent infrastructure in terms of both road and rail. The proposed changes to the Norwich to Liverpool train service will mean there is no longer a direct connection between Norfolk and Liverpool, which can only add to the difficulties faced by Norfolk businesses.'
A spokeswoman for East Midlands Trains said:
'We believe that in reaching its final decision the DfT needs to consider the value of maintaining a direct train service between the North West and East Anglia. The impact of splitting the service at Nottingham would directly affect around 350,000 passengers a year who use the route to travel through Nottingham, whose journeys may be extended by any timetable change. We believe it would also have a detrimental impact on passenger journeys in the east of the network.'