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We need action – not just nice words

PUBLISHED: 14:59 05 February 2013 | UPDATED: 14:59 05 February 2013

Ben Gummer MP at Ipswich Railway Station before boarding an early morning train to London

Ben Gummer MP at Ipswich Railway Station before boarding an early morning train to London

Archant

AFTER two and a half years as MP for Ipswich and five years as a leading politician in the town, Ben Gummer has done something surprising – he’s left me feeling slightly disappointed in him!

I’ve seen all the fine words that have come out of the latest East Anglian Rail Summit. There is nothing there I would disagree with – but I am starting to fear that there are far too many words and not enough actions.

It is several years since passengers in this part of the world saw any new trains – the existing InterCity trains were partially refurbished by ‘one’ as National Express called itself when it took over the franchise in 2004, but have not be substantially improved since.

Now the Department for Transport is gripped with a major attack of the dithers following the shambles of the West Coast Main Line franchise.

That means that the new long term East Anglian rail franchise (which should have started in 2012 and has already been put off until 2014) is now not likely to start before 2016. Assuming that is the case, the earliest we are likely to see any new trains in this region is 2018 – rail operators can’t just walk into “Trains ‘R’ Us” and buy a new train off the shelf.

The county council and train company Porterbrook are pressing for a decision to be made before the franchise is re-let, but Mr Gummer says it’s too early to say one scheme or another should be favoured.

I’m afraid I disagree with him. By not putting the screws on DfT ministers and bureaucrats, they are giving the Whitehall machine the perfect excuse for doing what it does best – prevaricating and finding excuses for total inaction while the East Anglian rail passengers suffer.

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