Demands that new East Anglian rail franchise improves journey times and investment

Chloe Smith MP, Mark Pendlington and David Burch show the GEML Taskforces expectations on train times from London.
Chloe Smith MP, Mark Pendlington and David Burch show the GEML Taskforces expectations on train times from London.

As the Government prepares to announce the successful bidder for the East Anglia rail franchise in the coming weeks, the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce has again demanded a better rail service for the region.

In a letter to Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, Joint Chairs of the GEML Taskforce Mark Pendlington and Chloe Smith MP have restated the key improvements they are determined to secure:

* New rolling stock to be included in the new franchise tender.

* The delivery of journey time improvements to achieve: London to Chelmsford in 25 minutes, Colchester in 40 minutes, Ipswich in 60 minutes and Norwich in 90 minutes.

* A comprehensive package of infrastructure improvements.

The letter to the Secretary of State has also been signed by over 20 business and sector leaders from across the three counties, including the Chambers of Commerce, Anglian Farmers Ltd, Bernard Matthews Ltd, Willis Towers Watson, Howes Percival LLP, Aviva, EEEGR (East of England Energy Group), Visit East Anglia and the LEP board.

It states: “We were delighted that you, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have all explicitly endorsed the findings of our campaign and we are looking forward to delivery.”

The key improvements needed were set out in the Great Eastern Main Line Report, published in November 2014, accepted by Government and included within the franchise Invitation to Tender (ITT) published last September. The report made a strong economic case for investment, which will deliver:

* £4.5bn economic benefits

* £1.3bn of capital investment along the line

* Journey time savings of £9m annually

* 48,000 jobs along the line

* £9.50 return for every £1 invested

Since its launch in the summer of 2014, the GEML Campaign has been supported by more than 100 of the region’s most senior business and education leaders representing more than 111,000 employees and students pledged their support and more than 1,600 commuters and rail users joined the campaign online.

Mark Pendlington, Chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Joint Chair of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce, said: “Our three-year campaign has consistently stated that for far too long, thousands of commuters, visitors and businesses in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk have not had a service worthy of our region. We have worked long and hard to ensure the new franchise provides the high quality, world-class rail service that is crucial to delivering key economic benefits including new jobs, homes and business growth right along the length of the line. Now is the time for the campaign to get the result it deserves.”

Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North and Joint Chair of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce, said: “We’ve had a big campaign with huge ambition. We have demanded the highest standards possible. In the franchise soon to be announced we are expecting new trains - that’s a huge part of the campaign, but there is more to do. We need track improvements as well, so the work continues.”

David Burch, Director of Policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: We are seeing a lot of new development in places like Chelmsford and Colchester and the businesses investing in those areas tell us that a first class rail network is essential to businesses in Essex. They are expecting the Government to honour its pledge to invest in upgrading the infrastructure and introduce faster, more modern rolling stock through the new franchise. For too long rail users in the East of England have been the poor relations when it comes to rail services and now is the time for the Government to put that right.”

Lindsey Rix, Managing Director, Personal Lines at Aviva said: “As the announcement of the contract winner for the new East Anglian rail franchise nears, it’s important to make clear what is required to create a high-quality rail service for the region. Effective transport infrastructure is critical to our business – particularly in Norwich, a core location for Aviva. This will help our employees when they need to travel and, in turn, helps our business function more efficiently. We look forward to working with the new franchise operator to achieve the goal of a world class rail service”

Robert Gough, Managing Director of Gough Hotels, said: “With hotels across Suffolk, it’s vital to our business that visitors are able to get here safely, in comfort and without delay. A rail network deserving of the East should provide the perfect start to a trip to our region. That is what we hope for and expect from the franchise winners.”

Steve Mannix, Executive Director of the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, said: “We have embarked on a £10 million scheme to re-develop our theatre and surrounding site in Colchester and having reliable transport links is essential to this development to enable us to continue to grow our audiences from the region and beyond.”