March 15 2014 Latest news:
Monday, February 10, 2014
Passenger rail services on the Felixstowe branch have become so unreliable that travellers are no longer using them, Suffolk’s transport spokesman has warned.
Graham Newman, who is also deputy mayor of Felixstowe, launched a blistering attack on Greater Anglia over its management of the line in recent weeks.
He said: “I am really getting very concerned about the way the Felixstowe rail line appears to be facing a serious run-down in passenger services.
“I use the line regularly and I cannot remember an occasion in recent months when there hasn’t been serious disruption or trains have been substituted by buses.
“When this happens journeys to Ipswich station take at least twice as long, especially if you are travelling at rush-hour.
“This means people are losing confidence in the rail service and they are finding other ways of getting to Ipswich. It is the classic way of running down a rail service before it faces eventual closure.”
He said he was contacting officials at Greater Anglia to see what they were planning to do with the line.
“One of the frustrating things is that they don’t publish performance figures for individual lines, they just lump all their rural services together – but they way they run them is very different.
“There have been big improvements on the line from Norwich to Sheringham and on the East Suffolk line, but the passenger service on the Felixstowe line seems to have been left to decay.”
A spokesman for Greater Anglia said there had been a number of factors contributing to the problems on the line.
The company did not have enough trains to fulfil its timetable. It was upgrading its rural train units, and this meant they had been operating with one fewer than normal for several months.
If another unit needed maintenance it was unable to run all its services – and the Felixstowe branch was the easiest to substitute a bus service.
There had also been problems with freight trains being delayed because of floods in other parts of the country.
This meant that when they did arrive they either had to be held south of Ipswich, causing major disruption on the main line, or be given priority over passenger services on the branch line to allow the main line to operate normally.
A spokesman said: “There have been a number of issues affecting the performance of our Felixstowe line services over recent weeks.
“We’re working closely with Network Rail and our partners to improve reliability and we’re sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this is causing our customers.”
He said the company spoke regularly to Mr Newman, Suffolk’s cabinet member for transport, and would be happy to discuss his concerns about the Felixstowe branch.
There was no question of the company “running down” passenger services in a bid to replace trains with buses and clear more space on the track for freight trains to the port.
Mr Newman said when buses did replace trains, there was confusion about where they travelled from – some went from Solar car park by the station while others went from the front of Great Eastern Square.
At Trimley buses were unable to reach the station, so they went from the High Road – but there were never any signs for passengers telling them where to catch the bus.
“Many people are just giving up on the train and getting to Ipswich another way – but it isn’t anywhere near as convenient,” he said.