Pledge to improve services on Norwich to London rail line

A train company will work closer with infrastructure chiefs to improve the reliability of services in East Anglia, it will be announced today.

Abellio, which will take over the train operating franchise next month, and Network Rail will unveil a more unified structure which will see staff from both companies working alongside each other.

The change should make it easier and quicker to deal with any delays – and both companies hope it will improve the reliability of services because they will know of any issues before they become serious.

The news has emerged after bosses from Network Rail and National Express East Anglia met frustrated passengers at an open meeting in Ipswich.

Dave Ward, managing director of East Anglia for Network Rail, was joined by James Steward of NXEA and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer at the St Nicholas Centre on Saturday.

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Mr Gummer, who has joined all the other MPs from Suffolk and Norfolk to call for major improvements on the line, called the meeting to give passengers the chance to take their complaints to the top.

The reliability of trains on the Norwich to London line was a major issue for the passengers – as were the fares being charged and the cleanliness of trains.

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Mr Ward was appointed to his new position as part of a major shake-up of Network Rail eight weeks ago and has been given the task of improving rail services and ensuring things run as smoothly as possible during the Olympic Games in the summer.

He said the major challenge his organisation faced was the fact that the cables delivering electricity to trains was, in places, up to 70 years old.

There had been two major upgrades during that time, but the basic system dated back to the 1940s and was now being replaced.

The programme would continue until 2015 – and there were likely to be weekend engineering works until 2014.

He said a major cause of delays was continuing metal thefts and the number of fatalities on the line, especially on the tracks between Shenfield and Stratford.

Abellio, which takes over the franchise on February 5, has already said it plans to make customer service and operating cleaner trains a priority.

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