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Passing loop plan to boost rail links

PUBLISHED: 10:46 09 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:14 05 July 2010

The dream of hourly direct trains running between Lowestoft and London, via Ipswich, moved a step closer to reality last night after Net-work Rail gave its backing to a scheme to build a passing loop at Beccles.

The dream of hourly direct trains running between Lowestoft and London, via Ipswich, moved a step closer to reality last night after Net-work Rail gave its backing to a scheme to build 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 agreed that the £5m scheme makes good business sense.

At the moment, there is only a single length of track between Beccles and Lowestoft, meaning that trains cannot pass one another until they are about 20 miles down the line.

A passing loop - an extra line to allow a train travelling to London to pass another travelling to 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.

Network Rail, which runs the country's rail infrastructure, has now completed a £25,000 feasibility study into the project and confirmed that the passing loop would benefit train users in north Suffolk.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The passing loop would give us the ability to double the services on this route. We are still in the early stages of the project, but we have a preferred option that potentially involves utilising our own land and a redundant platform at Beccles station.

“We are now in talks with stakeholders to discuss the possibility of finding funding for it.”

Rod Lock, secretary of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, welcomed the news. “It has already been shown that the benefits of the passing loop would outweigh the costs, so I'm glad they have confirmed that things are still on track,” he said.

The £5m cost of building the passing loop 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 find the money for the project.

It was announced earlier this summer that Suffolk County Council will be putting forward a bid for regional funding for the passing loop.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads and transport, said: “This particular scheme is well supported in the community and by local councils, now it has a good chance of being in place within the next three and a half years.

“The radio signalling along the east Suffolk line from Lowestoft down to Ipswich needs to be replaced before 2011 to meet European standards, so it makes sense to build the passing loop at the same time.”

A spokesman for train operator National Express East Anglia said that the company supported Network Rail's plans for the Beccles loop but said that no decision had yet been made on whether it would help to provide funding.

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