Throughout my time as an MP, I have been consistently campaigning for strategic investment in the East Anglian railway network over the long term. Many constituents get in touch with me to tell me that the Norwich to London rail service simply isn’t good enough.
I hear the same complaints, that the trains are out of date and over crowded, delays are too common, and the journey times are too slow. This affects people’s lives, whether that’s for getting reliably to work or getting home again to tuck the kids up in bed.
After hearing these complaints from constituents, in 2013 I led the work on the Great Eastern Rail Report which outlined the strong economic and business case for largescale infrastructure investment in the Great Eastern Mainline. My work has shown that if we get the service between Norwich and London reliably down to only ninety minutes, 8,000 jobs could come to Norwich.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce Rail Conference in Ipswich which provided an update on where we are with the campaign for improving our railway services. The conference was comprehensive and insightful and I am happy to report back to you that much progress has been made.
I am proud to say that through the success of the taskforce campaign, we are now seeing £1.5 billion of investment which will transform our railways with new, spacious trains, free Wi-Fi, better timetables and more frequent services, as well as more peak seats into London.
Indeed, the work I began six years ago has now delivered for my constituents:
But there is more to do. We want to refresh the evidence base and do a revised business case to check we are on track to deliver essential infrastructure requirements which will support business growth. And substantial further funding is needed to help deliver on our ambitions.
Another key aim I have been campaigning for is increased capacity on our trains. East Anglia is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, so increased capacity will be necessary to meet this additional demand over the coming decades. I have always argued that we need more homes in our area, but when we have more houses, we need more services to go with them. That’s as true for schools and doctors’ surgeries as it is for transport links.
As such, I have been informed by Greater Anglia that intercity trains will now be comprised of 12 carriages, up from 9 or 10, and regional services will all be 3 or 4 carriages as opposed to 1 or 2 carriages currently. I welcome this increase in capacity as I know that too many people are currently forced to stand on their train journeys.
The new Stadler and Bombardier model trains have arrived in the Norwich depot and are currently undergoing rigorous test runs. I have heard from Greater Anglia that the testing is going very well, and these new trains are due to be rolled out later this year.
In addition to this, Network Rail has also recently secured £2.2 billion to operate, maintain and renew the routes across the Anglia region over the next five years (2019-2024) which reflects a 21% increase compared to the current five-year period.
Of course, more work still needs to be done, especially to ensure reliability, and to ensure that the new trains are put to the most effective use. So, I continue to work with the GEML Taskforce, holding the train operator and Network Rail to account so that Norwich passengers can get their voice heard and gain the results which will make a real difference to people’s lives. If we can have faster, more reliable service on every journey, people will have a better life day to day and we can bring more good jobs to Norwich for the future while providing the seats that are needed.
I will keep you all updated with the latest developments as they happen, both here on my website and across all my social media. If you would like to raise your own concerns regarding rail provisions for us here in Norwich, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.