POLITICIANS and business leaders have welcomed Network Rail’s proposed investment in the region’s infrastructure – but have vowed to maintain the pressure.

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A key proposal of the rail manifesto published last year was the development of a third line between Chelmsford and Witham to ease congestion.

That is not included in the five-year plan, but Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who has been a leading member of the group said the proposals were a useful building block.

He said: “We are getting there – the proposals here are looking towards building towards major projects and hopefully this will be included in the next programme.

“There is a great deal of necessary preparatory work in this programme and it shows the value of working together.”

Witham MP Priti Patel has also been involved in preparing the manifesto.

She said: “I am very optimistic about the future because this shows that Network Rail recognises the importance of the route and its role in the economy.

“The amount of money they are planning to invest in the route is very substantial, and everyone will be hoping it improves the reliability of the service.”

Suffolk county council’s transport spokesman Guy McGregor welcomed the news that there would be improvements to rural routes – and he said his authority would work with Network Rail to make changes to level crossings where necessary.

He said: “We need to improve journey times and changing some crossings will be necessary – especially on routes like the East Suffolk line.”

Ruud Haket, Managing Director, Greater Anglia said: “We welcome the announcement by Network Rail of their five-year business plan and the commitment to deliver further upgrades to infrastructure.

“We have been instrumental in working with MPs and regional stakeholders across the Greater Anglia network to make the case for more investment in the region’s rail network through the development of the East Anglian Rail Prospectus.

“This business plan reflects much of that work and is an excellent start in meeting the aspirations of the region for significant upgrades to train services and rail infrastructure.

“We are particularly pleased to see that as well as the Bow Junction and Ely North Junction schemes, there is work planned to look at line speed improvements on the Great Eastern Main Line.”

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Improving our rail infrastructure is critically important to supporting business growth in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“We are pleased to see that Network Rail is proposing some very significant improvements to the network.

“Investment to support freight is crucial as well, and we welcome the investment on the Felixstowe to Nuneaton route.

“We will continue our lobbying for further improvements for the benefit of all rail users, which we will expect to see as part of the new Greater Anglia rail franchise.”

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