Funding secure for passing loop on East Suffolk line

RAIL users in East Suffolk received some welcome news from train operator National Express East Anglia this weekend.

James Steward, the company's area manager for rural services, revealed at an East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA) meeting, in Saxmundham, that Suffolk County Council had confirmed funding for a passing loop at Beccles, which should enable an hourly train service to run over the entire Ipswich to Lowestoft line from December 2012.

ESTA Chairman Trevor Garrod hailed the work of local councillors and MPs in securing funding for Beccles Loop - an improvement for which ESTA had been campaigning for two decades.

Mr Steward also announced the completion of work at Wickham Market station to extend the car park and said extra car parking at Melton station should be ready in about four weeks' time.

Some passengers, however, raised concerns over the December 2010 timetable change, which saw the withdrawal of Lowestoft to London through trains, resulting in the need to change trains at Ipswich.

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ESTA Secretary Rod Lock reported the outcome of a survey of journeys made by passengers before and after the withdrawal, with nearly half of 75 respondents finding changing trains unsatisfactory and being unclear about policy. But 70% said the alteration would not curtail their use of the service.

Mr Steward also told the meeting there had been problems with winter cancellations due to severe weather but things had settled down by early February.

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Meanwhile, work continues on new lifts and an extra footbridge at Ipswich station but completion is now expected in June - two months later the originally forecast.

Also in attendance was Sammy Betson, manager of Coastal Area Transport Services, which operates demand-responsive buses in three rural areas stretching from Walberswick to Bawdsey, intended for local journeys and as feeders to conventional bus and train services.

In the past three months alone, she said, the service had carried 4000 passengers and had refused only 13 journey requests because a vehicle was not available.

Finally, Ivan Warne, of Anglian Bus, outlined future plans which included a new off-peak Halesworth to Lowestoft direct service. The Sunday bus service between Halesworth and Southwold is to be withdrawn in April but the company hopes to improve frequency between Kessingland, Lowestoft and Yarmouth and has new vehicles on order.

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