“Positive” meeting for Norwich in 90 campaigners

Campaigners lobbying for improvements to the speed and reliability of train services from Norwich to London said they have had 'positive' discussions with managers from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Representatives from the Norwich in 90 campaign met with franchise manager John MacQuarrie to discuss the improvements it wants to see on the popular commuter line.

The meeting, which took place in Ipswich yesterday, resulted in both parties considering to work together to commission a study into what upgrades are needed and how much they will cost.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future, who among a group of stakeholders including Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Chamber of Commerce launched the Norwich in 90 campaign last year, said he hoped to have such a study commissioned shortly.

He said: 'We met with him (Mr MacQuarrie) face to face to talk about our aspirations for a 90 minute journey and more trains. I would describe it as a positive discussion.

'We talked about the potential of the DfT and us working together to commission a more detailed study into what infrastructure work is needed. I would be looking to commission this piece of work within the next couple of months.'

Campaigners want a more reliable rail service, further train capacity, station improvements, better cleanliness and ultimately a 90 minute journey between Norwich and London.

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Since Norwich in 90 launched, an independent report has concluded that upgrading the line would bring �3.7bn in economic benefits to the region.

Wi-fi has since been introduced on inter-city services along with some faster peak and off-peak trains and additional carriage capacity, while National Express East Anglia has introduced more trains at the southern end of the route to ease congestion.

A short-term rail franchise will be let by the DfT later this year with Abellio Greater Anglia Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen), Eastern Railway Limited (Go-Ahead Group) and Stagecoach Anglia Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group) in the running. A long-term franchise will be let in 2013.

Mr Starkie said campaigners will meet representatives from Abellio and the Go-Ahead Group next week to present their wish list of improvements, while meetings are also being arranged with the Stagecoach Group.

He added: 'The main purpose of the campaign was to raise the profile of the line in government circles and locally. They (DfT) now fully understand our desire to see a more faster and reliable service and are looking at ways of improving the line in the shorter term franchise and in the longer term because the main focus for us is the new 15 year franchise.'

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