Travellers' group steps up pressure for through trains from East Suffolk

Woodbridge train

An East Suffolk Line train heading toward Ipswich after leaving Woodbridge. - Credit: Paul Geater

The group that supports the East Suffolk Line is stepping up calls for a return of through trains to London with a 10-point list of reasons about why they should return in line with the 2016 franchise agreement.

The East Suffolk Travellers' Association says that communities along the line have grown because of the better rail links, and a through service is needed to cater for commuters from places like Saxmundham.

These people may not all be travelling to Liverpool Street - they may be making connections at stations in Essex to places like Harwich, Clacton or Braintree and would welcome only having to use two trains to complete their journey.

ESTA says a through train service would encourage more potential passengers to leave their cars at home and travel by train to places like London, Colchester and Chelmsford.

With more people working from home, more people are likely to move out of London to places further from the capital but would need to travel in once or twice a week - and would want a through service when they do that.

And ESTA warns that with large numbers of passengers trying to change trains at Ipswich, it could be very difficult for people to observe social distancing as the get off one train and on to another.

The group is also concerned that the need to change trains could put off tourists interested in coming to the area by rail - if they have to move a lot of luggage and sometimes walk across the station.

A spokesman for the group said that while the provision of through services on the line had been part of the original franchise agreement, Greater Anglia had since told them that congestion on tracks south of Ipswich now made that very difficult to introduce.

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Since the start of the pandemic and the dramatic fall in passenger numbers, the government has been pumping billions of pounds into rail services and has been telling rail companies like Greater Anglia what services they should offer. 

In the last two weeks it was confirmed that a new structure for train services was being set up, co-ordinated by a new body Great British Railways which will decide what trains should run - the decision will not be for the existing train operating companies.

 A spokeswoman for Greater Anglia said that the greatest factor in increasing passengers was in frequency of trains - not whether they went to London.

Between 2005 and 2010 when there were through trains, passenger numbers went up 10%. Between 2010 and 2012 after an hourly service interval was introduced passenger numbers went up 110%.