East Suffolk rail group calls for assurances

PUBLISHED: 08:39 26 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:40 06 July 2010

A RAIL users' group has called for assurance that improvements will be made to services in east Suffolk if direct trains between Lowestoft and London are axed.

A RAIL users' group has called for assurance that improvements will be made to services in east Suffolk if direct trains between Lowestoft and London are axed.

Train operator National Express East Anglia (NXEA) is carrying out a widespread consultation on the future of its services, including looking at getting rid of the direct Lowestoft to London Liverpool Street service and making all passengers change at Ipswich.

Now after several months of consultation, the East Suffolk Travellers Association (ESTA) is preparing to submit its formal response to NXEA, outlining six conditions which it believes need to be met before the direct service from Lowestoft, through Beccles, Halesworth and Saxmundham to London Liverpool Street can be scrapped.

ESTA members have already written to transport minister Lord Adonis and to local politicians to express their concerns about the proposed changes and their final consultation response will be sent to NXEA before the public consultation closes on September 11.

While the direct through service to London would be stopped under the new proposals, there would be an improved hourly service between Ipswich and Saxmundham, extended to Lowestoft every two hours, and an hourly Lowestoft to Ipswich service if a passing loop is built at Beccles, allowing trains to pass one another on the way to and from Lowestoft.

ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod said: “The train company's proposals as they stand depend on too many ifs and buts. They want the government to allow them to backtrack on their franchise commitment. The government should only do this if six robust conditions are met.”

The conditions which the group have set out are:

Guaranteed funding for a passing loop at Beccles.

Network Rail must confirm that the planned resignalling of the line will allow for a passing loop.

Passenger lifts must be built at Ipswich station before December 2010 to help passengers change train.

Measures must be taken to increase line and station capacity at Ipswich.

A minimum of two morning and two evening trains to and from London should continue to be provided.

There must be no reduction in the quality of trains used on the Ipswich to Lowestoft line.

Mr Garrod said that the direct service, which was introduced in 2004, has increased use of the line and that ESTA's members are concerned that business would be lost if their strict conditions are not met.

National Express East Anglia's public consultation closes on September 11 and a decision about the future of their services is expected to be made later in the year.

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