CALLING FOR THE RAIL SERVICES WE NEED

The Department for Transport  has fired the starting gun on the contentious process for the retendering of the East Anglia rail franchise. There are plenty of strong and varied views to be expressed as we aim to shape Suffolk’s rails services for the next 7 – 10 years. It is therefore crucial to get it right as rail is so important for the growth and development of our county, on a personal level for the commuters catching the train daily, to the expansion of homes and jobs in key towns such as Ipswich Felixstowe, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.

To inform the franchise work, the DfT has published a consultation document (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/east-anglia-rail-passenger-franchise) and is asking stakeholders to submit responses by the 16th March, 2015. train

At the same time, Network Rail is seeking views on its Anglia Route Study, a plan which will set out rail investment priorities for the next 30 years (http://www.networkrail.co.uk/long-term-planning-process/anglia-route-study/).

On the 23rd January, 2015, Suffolk County Council will be hosting the Suffolk Rail Franchise Meeting, which I will be attending. This event will allow stakeholders to learn more about the rail franchise consultation, the Anglia Route Study, and the county council’s response to both. It is vital that we work with our partners to gain agreement on our rail needs and make our voices heard by Government.

There are a number of rail priorities that must be flagged up – excuse the pun – in both documents. The most pressing needs are to ensure Suffolk receives good rail service frequencies and connectivity on local lines, as well as on the Great Eastern Main Line. A particular focus is achieving improved passenger rail service frequency between Ipswich and Peterborough. The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is lobbying Government for an hourly Ipswich to Peterborough passenger rail service, and rail capacity improvements at Ely to facilitate growth at our ports.