Hopes grow of improved rail services in Waveney
Hayley MaceThe dream of hourly trains connecting north Suffolk to Ipswich and London could be realised within two years now that Network Rail is working to find local funding for a passing loop at Beccles.Hayley Mace
The dream of hourly trains connecting north Suffolk to Ipswich and London could be realised within two years now that Network Rail is working to find local funding for a passing loop at Beccles.
Train users have been calling for a loop to be put in place for decades and now the company which owns the railways has announced that the scheme could be completed as soon as 2011.
At the moment there is only a single length of track between Beccles and Lowestoft, meaning that trains cannot pass each other until they are about 20 miles along the track towards Ipswich.
A passing loop - an extra line to allow a train travelling south to pass another heading for Lowestoft - would mean that the frequency of the service could be doubled to offer hourly trains to Ipswich, and onwards to London Liverpool Street, from stations including Oulton Broad, Beccles, Brampton, Darsham and Halesworth.
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The estimated �5m cost of building the passing loop is too low for Network Rail to apply for national funding, so discussions are currently under way with local councils.
A Network Rail spokesman said: "We have been in discussions with those local authorities, who have a direct interest in the Beccles loop scheme, regarding potential contrib-utions towards the funding of the project.
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"We have had a number of positive meetings, although we are still at a relatively early stage of the process."
It is hoped that the designs and funding will be in place to allow the work on the loop to start when planned work is carried out to replace the radio signalling along the East Suffolk Line, which runs from Lowestoft down the coast to Ipswich, in order to bring the stretch in line with European standards.
The spokesman said: "Network Rail is progressing with the outline design phase of the passing loop in conjunction with the scheme to re-signal the East Suffolk Line, which will improve reliability and performance using the latest railway technology.
"Both projects are scheduled for completion by 2011, and that date is currently looking good."
It is hoped that the project could be the start of a major redevelopment at Beccles railway station.