Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 22°C

min temp: 15°C

Search

Ipswich/Suffolk: Rail ownership questions fuel new political row

PUBLISHED: 09:19 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:19 13 May 2014

Greater Anglia train.

Greater Anglia train.

Archant

A new political row has blown up over the future of the region’s rail services after Labour said it was to look again at bringing the industry back into public ownership.

Ipswich’s Conservative MP Ben Gummer, who is one of leaders of the task force aiming to improve services, said any review would put back the award of a new rail franchise for the region – currently due in 2016 – which would in turn delay the introduction of new trains.

He also doubted whether Labour would have the money to spend on new rail infrastructure because it had made so many pledges to boost welfare spending.

Plans for a long-term rail franchise for the region have already been put off twice.

A long-term franchise had been due to be start in 2012, but this was cancelled after National Express walked away from the East Coast franchise in 2009, prompting the government to review how it awarded contracts.

The new franchise that started then should have run out in July this year, but it was extended until October 2016 after the Department for Transport began another review after the West Coast contract shambles when Virgin Trains lost its franchise and then saw the decision reversed because of faults with the process.

The new franchise will be for up to 10 years, and bidders will have to outline plans to introduce new, or heavily refurbished, trains.

However it will take at least three years for any new trains to be introduced – so the earliest they would come into service would be 2019 and the whole fleet would be unlikely to be complete until 2021.

Mr Gummer said: “If there’s a review, the franchise process would be put again, just as we are getting the government to back really fundamental improvements to our rail services.

“That will take until 2020 or 2021 to really come through as it is – so any further delay will put it further into the next decade.

“I have to say, though, that I doubt whether an incoming Labour government will find any money to invest in the region’s infrastructure because they are committing so much money to promises on benefits that there won’t be any left!”

Labour’s Shadow Transport Spokeswoman Mary Creagh could give no firm assurances about Labour’s attitude to infrastructure investment when we sent an e-mail asking about the party’s attitude to the rail service in the region.

We asked her: Does the announcement of a Labour review of the ownership of rail operators mean the start of this long-term franchise will be put off yet again? Will passengers in East Anglia have to suffer from short-term decisions yet again?

She said: “Services between Norwich and London are too slow and the trains are outdated. The Government’s warm words won’t upgrade the line.

“It will need investment in track and trains in a co-ordinated fashion, something that this government has failed at spectacularly in other areas, upgrading lines but having no trains to run on them which is what has happened in the north.

“Over the last three years David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people, allowing train companies to hit passengers with inflation busting fare rises of up to nine per cent. A future Labour Government would implement a strict cap on fare rises across all routes.

“The Government’s botched West Coast franchise fiasco has cost taxpayers over £50m and caused delays to other franchises, including Greater Anglia. Passengers and taxpayers are picking up the tab for the rail franchising chaos the Government has created.

“Labour understands the concerns of hard pressed East Anglian passengers and a Labour Government will deliver a long term strategic plan to bring stability to our railways.”

A group of travellers who had set up an unlawful camp on the West End Road car park in Ipswich have now moved on to the Bramford Lane Recreation ground in the north west of town.

Witnesses to a crash in an Ipswich retail park, which has left an eight-year-old girl in hospital, are being asked to come forward.

A 45-year-old man from Ipswich is in custody this morning after being arrested over reports several cars were damaged in a car park.

Ed Sheeran will compete against friend Stormzy for this year’s Mercury Prize.

An Ipswich playgroup which has gone from outstanding to inadequate in just two years has been forced to close its doors for good after a second damning Ofsted inspection, leaving dozens of families hastily finding new places for their children.

A Felixstowe pizza delivery driver was chased round his car by a youth firing ball bearings from a catapult, a court has heard.

A woman in her 70s has spoken of her “shock” after an alleged assault saw her knocked to the ground in the high street of a Suffolk town.

Highly controversial plans to build more than 200 new houses in John Constable’s home village should go ahead, planners are recommending

The remains of an outdoor classroom set alight in Ipswich’s Christchurch Park have again been hit by fire.

Birch Farm Nursery in Hintlesham, which was given an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted in December, has made significant progress to gain the requires improvement rating on its re-inspection last month.

Most read

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24