Lowestoft to Ipswich hourly service?

RURAL train services were paralysed this week in a second two-day strike, but there are hopes of long-term improvements for passengers in the Lowestoft area.

RURAL train services were paralysed this week in a second two-day strike, but there are hopes of long-term improvements for passengers in the Lowestoft area.

All trains on the East Suffolk Lines were halted yesterday by strike action by RMT and ASLEF members and further disruption is expected today.

However, there is hope for hard-pressed commuters and passengers as National Express East Anglia is proposing to introduce an hourly service on the Lowestoft to Ipswich line.

This will be possible as Network Rail carry out �1bn improvements in the region which will include a 'passing loop' at Beccles.

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If the hourly service goes ahead it will mean the end of the through-train service from Lowestoft to London with all passengers having to change at Ipswich.

The diesel units currently used on the through service to London would be redeployed elsewhere.

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A spokesman for National Express East Anglia said: 'An hourly service on the East Suffolk Line is something we have wanted for many years and now we have a window of opportunity to see it happen. It is a prize well worth having but we will have to make sure that the connections at Ipswich are in place and run smoothly.'

The train operator is currently undergoing a consultation exercise with passengers, business representatives and other stakeholders expressing their views.

The consultation period ends on September 11 and the spokesman said all views will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.

The Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce is currently asking its members for their views on the proposals.

While an hourly train service is welcomed some businesses are concerned about the loss of a direct service to London Liverpool Street.

A statement from the chamber said: 'The proposal most affecting this sub region to remove the through services to London would only be compensated by an improved hourly service to Ipswich if the Beccles loop goes ahead. If that doesn't happen we are worse off.'

Waveney District Council is co-ordinating the chamber's responses.

A spokesman for the council said: 'The consultation has only just started and we will be spreading the word through our partners.

'We will be collating all the responses we receive and making a co-ordinated representation.'

The East Suffolk Travellers Association is also carrying out a survey among its members before responding to the proposals.

It is hoped an hourly service from Saxmundham to Ipswich could begin from December 2010 and from Lowestoft to Ipswich by December 2012.

Comments on the proposals should be sent to: Metro, Mainline and Rural Timetable Consultation, National Express East Anglia, Oliver's Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1HQ or email nxeattconsultation@nationalexpress.com

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