Quicker rail and no more dial-up - roadmap for our future laid out

The reception held by the East of England All Party Parliamentary Group and East of England Local Government Association

The reception was held by the East of England All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and East of England Local Government Association (EELGA). Front row: Tim Hawkins from Stansted Airport, George Freeman MP, Daniel Zeichner MP, Jo Churchill MP, Peter Aldous MP. Back Row - Cllr Stephen Robinson, Cllr James Jamieson Chairman LGA, Paul Kenward from British Sugar, Tom Keith-Roach from AstraZenica UK - Credit: Andrew Wiard

"Bottlenecks" in our railway lines, remaining reliance on dial-up internet and not overlooking businesses in rural areas is key to seeing growth across Norfolk and Suffolk.

MPs, business leaders, councillors and entrepreneurs from across the East of England attended a reception in parliament on Tuesday as they launched a ‘roadmap’ for the region’s future.

The report outlines several priorities to ensure the east grows in an eco-friendly way and so that nobody is left out.  

“Bottlenecks” in the region’s railway lines have created “challenges” to the local economy, the report says, and cash boosts are needed at two crucial junctions just outside Norfolk - Haughley in Suffolk and Ely in Cambridgeshire.

Work on Ely North junction will improve services on the Fen Line between King's Lynn and King's Cros

More investment is needed to reduce the detrimental impact of "bottlenecks" in the region's railway infrastructure, the report argues. - Credit: IAN BURT

Haughley junction, north of Stowmarket, is on the Great Eastern mainline from Norwich to London, while Ely North junction is the only way to travel directly by train from Norfolk to the midlands and north of England. 

Local councils must be given more freedom and flexibility with how they fund themselves, the report argues. Many councils rely heavily on income generation through tourism, car parking charges and planning processes - revenue streams which have been severely hit by Covid. 

Some of the east is still reliant on dial-up internet, which the report says contributed to “digital exclusion experienced by our most hard to reach households during the pandemic”.

It argues that the government “should commit to 100pc coverage of either Gigabit internet or 5G (4G as a minimum) to each household in the East of England".

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When it comes to tackling climate change, the report points out that the region is home to industries based in rural locations, such as British Sugar in Wissington, west Norfolk. 

Steam pipes out of chimneys at the British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds.

The British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Su Anderson

It says those businesses are just as ready as those in more industrialised areas to help the government with its energy aims, but have been overlooked by schemes enabling them to do so because of their rural location. 

The threat of flooding due to high tides and strong winds was avoided at Walcott today (Thurs 19/11/

More investment is needed for better flood protection, according to the report - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

More investment is also needed to boost “left behind” communities economically and for better flood protection, the report argues.  

George Freeman MP

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, speaks at the East of England All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) Parliamentary reception - Credit: Andrew Wiard

Speaking at the reception event, Mid Norfolk MP and science minister George Freeman said: "It would be a fitting tribute to Sir David Amess MP to build an inclusive eastern England so everyone - from windiest Norfolk to muddiest Essex and the north of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - feels part of the innovation economy that is so crucial to our future.”

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