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New hope for London rail link

PUBLISHED: 13:05 22 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:04 05 July 2010

THE dream of hourly direct trains running between Lowestoft and London could be realised within three years now that Network Rail is drawing up formal plans to construct a passing loop at Beccles.

THE dream of hourly direct trains running between Lowestoft and London could be realised within three years now that Network Rail is drawing up formal plans to construct a passing loop at Beccles.

Train users have been calling for a passing loop to be put in place for nearly 30 years and now the company which owns the railways has announced that designs for the £5m scheme are already on the drawing board.

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 down the line towards Ipswich.

A passing loop - an extra line to allow a train travelling to London to pass another heading for Lowestoft - would mean that the frequency of the service could be doubled to offer hourly direct trains to London Liverpool Street from stations including Oulton Broad, Beccles, Brampton, Halesworth and Darsham.

Now the finer details of the project are being put down on paper. A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We have recently started our design work for what the passing loop is going to look like. We have already made a commitment to this project and now we are keen to move things forward.

“We're still holding discussions with Suffolk County Council and other stakeholders about funding. We are definitely making progress, and quickly.”

In September this year, Network Rail completed a £25,000 feasibility study into the project and confirmed that a passing loop would benefit train users in north Suffolk and in October, train operator National Express East Anglia also got behind the proposals.

It has been suggested that the loop will be built when Network Rail carries out major work to replace the radio signalling along the whole East Suffolk line from Lowestoft to Ipswich, which needs to be updated by 2011 to meet European standards.

The £5m cost of building the extra piece of track at Beccles is too low for Network Rail to apply for national funding, so the company is looking to work with local councils and train operators to raise the money.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads and transport, said that building a passing loop could be the start of a major redevelopment of Beccles railway station.

He said: “The passing loop project is now moving into the design and costing stage. We have had aspirations for an hourly train service here for a long time and this is the only way we can achieve that. It is due to everyone's relentless enthusiasm for this scheme that things have managed to get this far.”

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