Transport minister hears rail concerns
Transport minister Lord Andrew Adonis was in Norwich last night to hear the concerns of rail passengers in the region.The minister was visiting on day three of a marathon six-day fact-finding trip by train, which is taking him from Truro to Inverness on at least 45 trains.
Transport minister Lord Andrew Adonis was in Norwich last night to hear the concerns of rail passengers in the region.
The minister was visiting on day three of a marathon six-day fact-finding trip by train, which is taking him from Truro to Inverness on at least 45 trains.
Starting the day in Brighton, he travelled to Norwich via a circuitous route, eventually boarding the 3.02pm Ipswich to Lowestoft train before heading to Norwich, where he met rail users' representatives, council chiefs, rail bosses and business leaders.
He said the 1,500-mile tour had been his own idea. 'I wanted to get to parts of the rail network I don't normally get to see, and particularly those a good distance from London,' he said.
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'I've been impressed by the trains I have seen: the inter-city up to Ipswich was high-quality and so was the train to Lowestoft.
'But there's always room for improvement and we're investing �10bn in providing extra capacity which will make it possible to procure 1,300 extra rail carriages to deal with overcrowding, which is one of the busiest problems facing passengers on the busiest routes.'
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He admitted train companies had known in advance he was coming, but said he doubted he was getting special treatment.
Lord Adonis said the region's railways were receiving 'significant' investment from the government.
'Only last month we signed a big contract to provide new trains on routes to Stansted and other commuter routes to Liverpool Street.
'That will provide 188 additional train vehicles, of which 120 will be new, between the end of this year and 2011. This will deliver an extra 11,000 seats into Liverpool Street during the peak three hours.
'We do realise the desire there is to plan for the long term on that route and we do intend to look at the longer term issues from 2014.'
Charles Clarke, MP for Norwich South, welcomed Lord Adonis to the city and accompanied him to the meeting at the Maid's Head Hotel.
'It was very positive. We had very good discussions and Andrew took full account of the views expressed,' said Mr Clarke.
'We put to him that our economic expansion means we need more investment in rail in the Eastern region as a whole. On the Norwich-London line we talked about our ambition to get journey times down to a consistent time with new rolling stock and investment on the line.
'We stressed the need for a strong Norwich-Peterborough link through Ely. We need better equipment and more regular services. Related to that is the possibility of extending the Norwich-Cambridge service to Stansted.
'And we talked about train services in the county, and introducing half-hourly services between Norwich and Cromer, Sheringham and Lowestoft to encourage people to take the train rather than the car.'
Chris Starkie, of economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: 'New trains for the Norwich to London route are a top priority and would deliver a huge boost to the economic performance of the county.'
Today will be another long day for Lord Adonis. He is set to leave Norwich on the 5.52am train to Peterborough, visiting Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Chester, Crewe, Manchester and Yorkshire before stopping for the night in Carlisle.