MPs make case for better Norfolk rail service

Norfolk MPs have held their first meeting with one of the companies bidding to provide rail services in the region, to make the case for the sort of service the county expects.

Three firms – Abellio, Go Ahead and StageCoach Rail – have been shortlisted for the Greater Anglia franchise, which is currently run by National Express.

The business is due to be taken over by a new operator in February 2012 and the winning company would be responsible for delivering services to destinations from London and across Greater Anglia – including Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Cromer, Ipswich and Cambridge – until at least July 2013.

This afternoon, four of the county's MPs met representatives from Go Ahead to make clear what the needs of train users across Norfolk are and the levels of service they hope the successful bidder will provide.

One of the key issues raised was the campaign to get a 90-minute journey time between Norwich and London.

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Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis and Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman attended the hour-long meeting.

Miss Smith said: 'We raised all the rail issues affecting Norfolk, starting with the immense importance of achieving the Norwich in Ninety objective which I think the bidders understood very clearly,

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'We also raised the need to perform particularly well in the Olympic period next summer, not only for Norfolk people wanting to get to the Olympics but also for the many visitors who will come up to visit us during that period to see what we have to offer.

'We spoke about customer service and the need for serious investment in a range of ways, both on trains and in stations.

'We also made clear that rural lines are vital to the economy and were extremely strong on that we expect very effective co-operation between train and track.'

The MPs have arranged to meet StageCoach Rail next month, while they have also organised a meeting with Transport Minister Theresa Villiers.

Meanwhile, business leaders from the eastern region are to meet Department of Transport officials next month over the future of the rail franchise.

Representatives of the Norwich in Ninety campaign wrote to transport secretary Philip Hammond urging him to ensure that both the short-term management contract and longer term franchise for Greater Anglia maintained the momentum and aspirations that have been built through the campaign.

The official from the Department for Transport dealing with the Greater Anglia refranchising is to meet with members of the Great Eastern Mainline stakeholders group early in June to discuss the future of the line.

Further meetings have also been organised with the companies shortlisted for the short-term franchise award.

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