Will Norwich in 90 and twice-hourly trains to London be delivered?

George Osborne at the Norwich Railway Station. Picture: Denise Bradley

George Osborne at the Norwich Railway Station. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

Expectations were high before the election.

The Chancellor pledged to deliver the Norwich in 90 recommendations, and one of the key pieces of work to allow trains to travel between King's Lynn and London twice hourly was high on the list of engineer priorities. It was in black and white and voters took him at his word.

But just weeks after voters unexpectedly put the Conservatives back in power, with a majority, the much vaunted biggest rail investment since Victorian times appears to have hit the buffers.

The government has already shelved promised and vital upgrades to major rail lines in the Midlands and the north of England. The axe has not fallen on infrastructure needed to get Norwich in 90, or the vital Ely Junction - yet.

Everything in the spending plans up to 2019 is under review.

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The Department for Transport has moved swiftly to blame Network Rail - sacking chairman Richard Parry-Jones and bringing in Transport for London chief Sir Peter Hendy.

But the shock announcement has prompted questions, including from Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan, about the ability to deliver big projects, such as High Speed Two.

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Of course, the Norwich in Ninety proposals, and indeed the Ely North junction, are a drop in the ocean compared to electrification or the building of a whole new hi-tech rail link.

MP Chloe Smith and local enterprise partnership chairman Mark Pendlington, the co-chairs of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce, of which Network Rail is part, insist making Norwich in Ninety a reality in the decade originally promised is still the 'intention'.

New trains are a very important component of the plan and the transport secretary reiterated the promise of 'modern, faster trains to Ipswich and Norwich in the next franchise' - so key to speeding up and making journeys more reliable.

Exactly when during that new franchise the trains will arrive, and where the trains will come from, is not yet clear.

And as for what needs to be done to our tracks to speed up the line - Network Rail says the feasibility study is still being written and will report back in November. There is no doubt that there is political will to make Norwich in 90 and twice-hourly trains to London a reality.

South-West Norfolk and cabinet minister Elizabeth Truss MP has a meeting scheduled with rail minister Clare Perry next month. 'The economic benefits to East Anglia are tremendous and this is the message I will make to the rail minister,' she said. But the demands on the infrastructure budget are huge. There will be many MPs fighting their corners.

The Government is relying on Network Rail to deliver on its promises.

The situation will become clearer later this year. But MPs in the region know that the political stakes are high. Big promises were made in their names, and they made political capital out of them. Ultimately, it is up to them to make sure the promises become a reality. Do you have a political story? Email annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk

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