Calls for government to intervene over Greater Anglia problems

PUBLISHED: 12:59 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:11 17 December 2019

A new Greater Anglia train/Chris Starkie/Martin Wilby. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme/James Bass/Denise Bradley.

A new Greater Anglia train/Chris Starkie/Martin Wilby. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme/James Bass/Denise Bradley.

Kate Wolstenholme/James Bass/Denise Bradley

Calls for the government to intervene over the problems plaguing the region’s railways have been backed by councillors and business leaders.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), supported a call by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey for the transport secretary to intervene over the issue.

Greater Anglia services have been hit with major problems over the past two weeks, with delays and cancellations of services.

Investigations have been looking to establish if signalling issues are linked to the introduction of the new Swiss-built Stadler trains for rural and cross-country services.

The issue was raised at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's cabinet scrutiny committee today, where councillors were scrutinising the activities of the New Anglia LEP - the unelected body which helps determine local economic priorities and lead economic growth and job creation in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Steve Morphew, the Labour chairman of the scrutiny committee said the LEP was influential and asked if it backed Ms Coffey's call.

Mr Morphew, who said Greater Anglia should freeze its fares because of the disruption passengers have faced asked whether the LEP could do anything to resolve the problems.

Mr Starkie said: "We would support Therese Coffey's view that the secretary of state needs to intervene to understand what the problems are.

"It's slightly unclear just what the problems are."

And Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: "I fully support moves to involve the secretary of state in resolving these issues, which cannot continue.

"I'm fully aware of the problems people are experiencing on our local rail service.

"I think we would all appreciate a statement from Greater Anglia and Network Rail about how they intend to resolve this, urgently."

The scrutiny meeting also saw questions asked about the LEP's due diligence in awarding money to West Norfolk Council over the King's Lynn Innovation Centre.

External investigators were brought in to look at the relationships between those behind the project after West Norfolk Council loaned money to enterprise agency NWES to build the centre.

NWES then failed to pay back £2.75m.

But Mr Starkie said the centre itself was a success in having created jobs, due diligence had been carried out in West Norfolk Council and the LEP had been repaid in full.

Councillors also asked what role the LEP should have in assisting the care market - something the organisation agreed to reflect on.

And Green city councillor Lesley Grahame urged the LEP to nurture zero-carbon industries and skills and diversify away from awarding money to those which add to greenhouse gas emissions.

LEP chairman Doug Field said they had been talking to the University of East Anglia about such issues and an action plan would follow in the new year, which would feed into how applications for money are appraised by the LEP board.

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