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Ipswich/Suffolk: Rail ownership questions fuel new political row

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.”

10 comments

  • Under the previous Labour government, the lack of investment in East Anglian railways meant that rail users in this region had some of the worst services in the country, at heavily inflated fares which subsidise services in the north. It is only because of our local Conservative MPs pushing this issue (Ben Gummer, Chloe Smith, Priti Patel etc) that the line from Norwich to London will finally get the investment it needs. Ms Creagh has clearly forgotten that Labour increased rail fares above inflation over 10 years so her hypocrisy is breath-taking. It is this Government which has reduced the annual fare increase. Labour's idea of capping rail fares is too late- George Osborne has already introduced this cap! Also where does this woman thinks money comes from? It is Tax-payers Money - YOURS AND MINE. Labour have this myth that public money comes from some magical money tree in the sky.

    Report this comment

    Jim P

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

  • The Ginge should be put in charge. I totally agree with his comments.

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • Report from today's Guardian...."Network Rail to slash directors bonuses from 160% to 20% of salary" !!, this is where all the British Tax Payers money has been and still is going !!, no wonder there is no money for new trains or infrastructure !!

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • @julian_n.....Thatcher and Cecil Parkinson had already set the wheels in motion !

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • The railways were sold off by John Major in 1993 - over 2 years after Maggie had gone.

    Report this comment

    julian_n

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • Isnt this just more talk and no delivery from Mr Gummer? What have we been given after 20 years of privitisation... the promise of new seat covers. Pathetic.

    Report this comment

    trevorwoolnough

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • Now, Now young Gummer !, we all know your daddy was in Thatcher's cabinet when the Railways were sold off !, she was effectively 'Asset Stripping' our Industrial and Transport Infrastructure !!, she even appointed some of her ministers to 'run' them,!, with of course all the usual perks and shareholdings !!. Recently The East Coast Line has been running with a profit whilst being run by the state !, so there is no reason whatsoever against Nationalisation of the Railways !!

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • I wish Ben Gummer would learn from past mistakes of others when it comes to pontificating in public. I truly believe that Mr Gummer and the other MP’s have rail users best interests at heart. But do not: 1. Claim that we are getting new trains in 2016 when we are not. No decision has been taken. 2. The trains themselves are not the problem, they are fairly reliable now due to the work of the engineers at the East Anglian workshop working on the class 90’s under whoevers ownership. 3. We need investment in reliability improvements in the rail infrastructure. Signals, overhead lines, at the outside a priority high speed line through London and South Essex to increase the speed etc. With a refurbed the trains and carriages can do everything you want. 4. Don’t claim Ipswich in 60mins is the result of Tory investment. The direct non-stop train already does it in 57mins. 5. Dismiss out of hand any other idea just because it does not fit with your political ideology. Just look at East Coast Mainline, clean, friendly, cheap and on time. Look at the evidence not fall back on your political dogma. I don’t care if they are publicaly owned, privately owned or owned by Aliens from Mars. At the moment East Coast is proving a point every day that Public ownership seems to work. And since the last year of BR before privatisation they contributed a net profit of £2bn to the exchequer whilst private rail costs the public purse in subsidies about the same every year since privatisation. All I am asking for is some honesty from politicians and then I will give you the credit for what you achieve. Not in claiming huge improvements by using carefully worded comments that are true in themselves but really do not reflect reality or the truth in non-lawyer speak. The solution for the Great Eastern Line is lots of small individual improvements, upgrading signals in overhead lines south of Chelmsford, removing level crossings at Bently, Manningtree, Ardlee to speed up the line through South Suffolk. The list goes on, not one is going to solve the problem overnight with a golden bullet for Mr Gummer or any other MP to stand in front of. But that is my fear that the lets get new trains brigade will shout loudest so they can stand in front of something.

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • The East Coast line has shown that decent services can be run by the public sector with a profit which at least two private companies were unable to achieve. Locally we have been poorly served by the private sector in terms of rolling stock and the cost of fares. Not sure who private operation is supposed to be good for but it isn't passengers. Ipswich deserves better than we have had over the past 25 years.

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  • New trains? news to me, refurbished carriages perhaps...

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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