Waveney Valley gets hourly trains to London

The Waveney Valley will finally have an hourly train service to London as part of a �35bn investment in Britain's rail network, it was announced yesterday.

The Waveney Valley will finally have an hourly train service to London as part of a �35bn investment in Britain's rail network, it was announced yesterday.

It marks a new era both nationally and locally as Network Rail embarks on an ambitious five year spending programme targeted at building a bigger and better railway.

Of this, more than �1bn will be spent in the Anglia region where a long-awaited passing loop at Beccles is listed as one of the key projects over the next five years.

It will be a real boon for train passengers between Lowestoft and London, as it means they could enjoy hourly train services as early as next year. And the prospect has delighted local campaigners who yesterday welcomed the decision which comes 30 years after the idea was first mooted.

Currently there is only a single length of track between Lowestoft and Beccles, which means trains cannot pass each other until they are about 20 miles down the line towards Ipswich.

An extra stretch of track to let trains pass at Beccles will enable train operator National Express East Anglia to timetable hourly services on the Lowestoft to Ipswich line, doubling the current frequency of trains.

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Rod Lock, secretary of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, said he was delighted with the announcement, following years of campaigning for more frequent trains between Lowestoft and London Liverpool Street.

'It's good news,' he said. 'We kept pressing it and raising it at every opportunity.

'A two-hourly service is rather off-putting to people. There's a year-on-year increases in passengers on the route but I think the numbers will shoot up dramatically if there's an hourly service. An hourly service is what most people would expect with a bus or train company - I don't think there's anybody who would disagree."

Mr Lock added that although hopes had been raised after plans were drawn up in the past, Network Rail had not been able to commit funding to the project.

Yesterday's announcement confirmed that money has now been ring-fenced for the scheme, which a Network Rail spokesman said was scheduled to take place next year.

The ambitious five year rail industry programme details plans for more than 500 schemes and projects nationally, aimed at providing extra capacity or capability for passengers and freight customers, with more seats, more trains, longer trains and faster trains.

Key projects in Anglia over the next five years also include �1bn to renew track, signalling, bridges and telecoms systems, and �125m to renew and upgrade overhead power lines on the Great Eastern Main Line between Liverpool Street and Chelmsford and Southend.

Platform extensions to allow longer 12-carriage trains from Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport and Cambridge are planned, with a new island platform at Cambridge costing �30.7m. There will also be platform extensions to allow 12-car trains from Fenchurch Street to Shewburyness via Tilbury.

Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail route director, said Britain was poised on the brink of a rail revolution, describing the programme as 'One of the most exciting chapters in the history of our railways.'

He said: 'Network Rail is ready to unleash the biggest expansion of Britain's railways since the age of Brunel.

'The next five years will see massive investment in improving the railways for passengers and freight users by adding capacity and relieving overcrowding.'