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New rail study suggests reintroducing direct train service between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 10:35 02 January 2015

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A study into improving Anglia’s rail network suggests travelling times could be significantly reduced between many stations in our region, but would cost around £1bn to implement.

A direct service between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft

A direct hourly service is proposed between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft for the first time since the 1970s. This is a direct train to and from Ipswich via the East Suffolk line and could cut combined average travel and waiting times by 52 minutes.

It would be reopened via a spur at Reedham, (running time approximately 33 minutes by semi-fast service). Reedham Station would need to be relocated approximately 1,250 yards to the east, immediately north of Holly Farm Road.

Use of connections at Reedham would double the frequency of trains to two per hour on the Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Norwich to Lowestoft corridors.

Key proposals in the Network Rail study include:

• Reintroducing a direct service between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft

• Building a new Ely North station

• Introducing an express from Norwich to London Kings Cross via Cambridge, taking one hour 46 minutes

New Ely North Station

The report points out that at Ely “good connections are the exception rather than the norm”. For example, a passenger travelling from King’s Lynn to Ipswich will have a good connection on their outward journey but on their return leg they will be faced with a 53-minute wait.

Instead of developing the existing capacity-constrained Ely station, the study proposes a new interchange hub station in the vicinity of Ely North Junction and an upgrade of the Ely to Norwich line.

Waiting times at the proposed four-platform Ely North station would mean passengers would not have to wait more than eight minutes.

While the plan would improve many journeys across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, the trade-off would be a slowing down of trains on the main line between London and East Anglia.

The document, called “Improving Connectivity”, suggests that trains between Ipswich and Norwich should be slowed down by nine minutes to improve links at other stations and that trains on the main line should stop at more stations.

This runs counter to the “Norwich in 90. Ipswich in 60” proposal of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce, of which Network Rail is a member.

The proposals are endorsed by Peter Wilkinson, managing director of passenger services at the Department for Transport Rail Executive.

Express service from Norwich to London via Cambridge

Two express services are proposed on the West Anglia Main Line: Kings Cross - Norwich via Cambridge and a cross-country service from Stansted via Peterborough.

A cross-country express would cut the Norwich to Peterborough journey time by 19 minutes to one hour 15 minutes.

The London express runs via Cambridge and reduces the Norwich to Cambridge journey time by 18 minutes to 55 minutes and the Norwich to London journey time on this route to one hour 46 minutes, providing a viable alternative route to the already congested Great Eastern Main Line between Norwich and London Liverpool Street.

If necessary infrastructure was put in place the plan would also be to include a stop at Finsbury Park on this route to give passengers from Norfolk links to Gatwick Airport and many destinations on the Thameslink network south of London.

He writes in the introduction: “I welcome this work and we at the DfT are first looking to bring this to life as part of our forthcoming East Anglia franchise.”

Network Rail has used Anglia as a case study to test its ideas for how to improve train connectivity across the country.

It says that Anglia’s rail usage is extremely London-centric, and that a look at the usage of Anglia’s trunk roads shows that existing rail demand is not an accurate reflection of overall travel demand.

The idea of the study is look at shifting the strategic focus of the network’s development towards providing better across-the-board connectivity, to the extent that a viable alternative to other modes of transport is offered across a wide range of routes.

King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth

In the case of a journey from Kings Lynn to Great Yarmouth, it means a passenger who turns up at Kings Lynn, without having consulted the timetable, will, on average, arrive at Great Yarmouth 79 minutes earlier with the proposed timetable than with the existing timetable. Similarly, a passenger who wishes to arrive at Great Yarmouth at a specific time, would, on average, be able to set out from Kings Lynn 79 minutes later.

In this instance, the improvement is achieved through a 64-minute reduction in travel time and increase in service frequency from hourly to half-hourly.

The report acknowledges the changes would mean some stations, including Norwich, would require more platforms.

Other infrastructure improvements needed include an upgrade of the lines and speeds between Norwich and Sheringham, and between Norwich and Ely.

So far the cost of the required infrastructure has been estimated at around £1bn.

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP and co-chair of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce said: “We welcome any ideas that aim to improve the region’s rail network.

Other siginificant reductions

Other significant reductions in combined average travel and waiting times could include a reduction of 67 minutes between Cromer and Wymondham, 38 minutes between Thetford and Lowestoft, 29 minutes between Sheringham and London, 18 minutes between Diss and North Walsham, 79 minutes between King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth, 28 minutes between Thetford and March, and 50 minutes between March and Downham Market.

“But we strongly believe there is no business or financial case for any of these ideas.

“We now have a genuine commitment from Government to all our key recommendations and we will be working hard with all those involved to ensure they are delivered on time and to our detailed specifications.”

A consultation is taking place before Network Rail undertakes detailed development work, so it can gather feedback on this approach to planning the rail network and train service.

To see the full document, log on to www.networkrail.co.uk/publications/long-term-planning-process/improving-connectivity/

What is “Improving Connectivity” all about?

This new study, looking at Anglia, is a test case for Network Rail to apply three “principles”, which it thinks could improve the entire country’s network.

It is a new approach to how the rail network could be planned and organised, based on trying to improve connectivity.

For example, trying to reorganise timetables and services so there are more frequent trains and passengers have to spend less time waiting for connecting services.

Whereas in East Anglia, much focus has been on attaining “Norwich in 90” on the already busy Norwich to London line, this approach aims to improve overall travelling times for many passengers in our region who have to change trains in order to reach their destination.

Network Rail is now asking people for their views on this particular approach to planning rail routes and deciding where investment should be made.

With a £1bn plus price tag for Anglia alone, it remains to be seen whether this approach will ever get the go-ahead to enter a more detailed stage of planning.

To comment on the proposals, email improvingconnectivity@networkrail.co.uk or complete the online survey at the address above.

All feedback must be received by January 31, 2015, when the public consultation period closes.

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