Norwich in 90 taskforce kicks off this week

Norwich Railway Station

Norwich Railway Station - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC 2

Track and train upgrades will be part of the 'shopping list' for an improved train service between Norwich and London, the MP leading the Norfolk lobbying effort has said, as a newly-formed taskforce meets for the first time this week.

Following the chancellor's announcement last month that he wanted the details of how journey times could be reduced between the east of England and the capital, Norwich MP Chloe Smith said she expected many of their demands to be seen in the next franchise agreement, due to start in 2016.

Her comments come after a regional boss from Network Rail, which is responsible for the track, said travelling from Norwich to London by train was like 'driving a Morris Minor up the M1', branding the replacement of our 'dated' trains as the key to improved journey times, not him 'building a load of stuff'.

Whitehall transport officials, MPs, Network Rail and Mark Pendlington, a board member of the New Anglia local enterprise partnership, will all meet at the Department for Transport on Tuesday to get the work under way.

Rail minister Stephen Hammond is expected to make an appearance at the inaugural meeting of the taskforce too.

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Ahead of the meeting, Ms Smith said: 'This taskforce is a real achievement. It builds on the work we have already done in drawing up the East Anglian Rail Prospectus, and allows for the business case and all the necessary detail now to be drawn up to get us to 'Norwich In Ninety'.

'This will give train passengers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex faster, more reliable and better quality journeys in the years to come. It will involve upgrades to both tracks and trains and I expect that much of the 'shopping list' will be seen in the next franchise, as the campaign has always hoped.

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'I'm proud we were able to deliver on the campaign in this way and pleased that the chancellor and the Department for Transport all recognise the need to invest in East Anglia.'

Mark Pendlington, New Anglia board member and transport lead, who will be part of the taskforce, said: 'We all know just how essential this is for our growing economy, for jobs and for tourism, and for securing the place of the east of England in the global competitive marketplace.

'It's our job now to get down to the detail, and we have all the right people around the table to make things happen.'

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