Norfolk MPs share hopes for better rail in the East

George Freeman, Clive Lewis, James Wild, Chloe Smith, and Duncan Baker next to a Greater Anglia train

Norfolk MPs were asked about what improvements were needed to the region's rail infrastructure - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography/Chris McAndrew/Stuart Anderson

Norfolk’s MPs have shared their hopes of better rail  connections  - with one suggesting the creation of an Eastern region mayor to oversee the work.

On Thursday, the government published its Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, which outlined future rail investment in that region.

Asked what improvements were needed to the East’s rail infrastructure, North West Norfolk’s Conservative MP James Wild pointed to Ely - a crucial junction for Norfolk’s railway users.

North West Norfolk MP James Wild

North West Norfolk MP James Wild - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

“While there’s been much attention on rail in the north of England, it’s important not to lose focus on the planned major investment to upgrade Ely junction to boost capacity and drive long term growth,” said Mr Wild. 

“I’ve campaigned for better rail services for North West Norfolk and a £30 million investment means that longer trains have now been running from Lynn to Cambridge for the last year as part of the government’s plans to boost economic growth.

“The Ely enhancement will unlock more frequent off-peak trains, as well as supporting freight, and other connections and consultation on the options is underway now with final proposals due next year.

“Improving capacity at this bottleneck will bring benefits to passengers and businesses as well as attract new investment.”

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who serves as parliamentary under-secretary of state for science, research and innovation, also pointed to past successes. 

George Freeman MP

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

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“Upgrading rail infrastructure in the East is essential if we are to level-up here, build back better post-Covid and deliver healthier, cleaner and more sustainable green growth,” he said.
 
“That’s why I’ve worked for 13 years - since before I was elected - to consistently fight for Eastern Rail investment - including securing new trains on the Norwich-Cambridge line, leading the Eastern Rail Prospectus with Chloe Smith, securing investment in our stations and disability access.

“But rail investment is far too slow, which is why I’ve suggested Network Rail be broken up into regional companies to better serve our needs.

“Ultimately, I think we need a mayor for the eastern region,” he added.

Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis said: “This government routinely leaves Norwich and the East of England behind, so it's no surprise at all we've been denied significant rail investment yet again.

Clive Lewis MP

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis - Credit: Chris McAndrew

He added: “There is a much bigger picture here. If we're going to stand any chance at all of getting to net-zero carbon emissions we need hugely increased backing for all forms of public transport - not just for Norwich and the East but nationwide.” 

Conservative MP for Norwich North Chloe Smith pointed out that the Integrated Rail Review was not intended to address rail issues in the east. 

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

“The announcements this week were specifically about the north, and the campaign for East Anglian rail improvements continues separately,” she said.

She added:  “We’ve secured the big win of brand new trains for our line, worth billions of pounds, and we’re campaigning for improved tracks in various pinch points too.

“This remains a really important campaign which stands to encourage thousands of jobs in our region.”

North Norfolk’s Conservative MP Duncan Baker said: "I am really pleased that in the short time I have been an MP we have seen new trains on the Bittern Line [from Norwich to Sheringham], seeing the result of record investment locally.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

“I have also been in touch with Greater Anglia to ask them to look at direct trains from  London to North Norfolk, with no changes in Norwich, so people can discover the wonder of the Norfolk coast as a tourist destination by train, just like they used to".

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, was less positive, saying: "I am very frustrated that we did not benefit here in the East, especially in Norfolk.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Transport. Picture: Dan

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

"We all know the Trowse bridge is a big issue that needs dealing with,” he said, referring to a busy junction just outside Norwich. 

"I find it very frustrating how long projects take to come to fruition,” he added.

"We continue to lobby and lobby hard at every opportunity we get."

David Welsh, convenor of Norfolk for the Nationalisation of Rail, said: “East Anglia needs a bold new plan for rail services to provide better connected communities especially given the climate emergency that threatens rail services on the east coast.

Dave Welsh, convenor for NOR4NOR speaks at Thorpe Railway Station for a rally as part of the nationa

Dave Welsh, convenor for NOR4NOR speaks at Thorpe Railway Station for a rally as part of the national Action for Rail day. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

“This means a long-term vision for a rail and integrated transport network that would take cars and freight off the roads.

“This means electrification and infrastructure upgrades to increase line-speeds, capacity and station facilities especially on all branch lines.

“This means road/rail vehicles in all cities linked with tramway systems and local freight distribution centres.”

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