�150m rail package revealed

NEW trains and station improvements are at the heart of a �155 million investment in rail services between London and East Anglia aimed at increasing the space on trains to the capital.

Duncan Brodie

NEW trains and station improvements are at the heart of a �155 million investment in rail services between London and East Anglia aimed at increasing the space on trains to the capital.

Few of the new trains are expected to use the main line to Ipswich - but they are expected to be used on Essex routes, enabling more InterCity trains to travel direct from Suffolk to the capital without stopping at Colchester or Chelmsford.

That should ease congestion on services to this part of the world.

Government money is being used to allow regional train operator National Express East Anglia to add 188 more carriages to its fleet - including 120 new carriages to be built at the Derby plant of manufacturer Bombardier and 68 others to be redeployed from the former Midland Mainline franchise.

The first additional capacity will be introduced in December this year and, once all the improvements are in place by December 2011, around 11,000 extra seats will be provided into Liverpool Street in the three-hour morning peak period.

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Some timetable changes are also on the cards, which could also affect through services from the main line to Lowestoft and Peterborough.

These will be the subject of consultation, although there is speculation that some of these services which are made up of three-car trains could be stopped at Ipswich to allow passengers to switch to longer trains going into London.

The additional 188 carriages represent a 17per cent increase in the NXEA fleet and the company is expected to take on more than 100 additional staff while infrastructure improvements to support the longer trains will also help to safeguard jobs with Network Rail.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said: “This is one of the biggest changes to have been negotiated to an existing franchise since rail privatisation with the operator National Express East Anglia playing a key role in developing these plans.”

Richard Bowker, National Express group chief executive, added: “National Express is delighted to work in partnership with the Department for Transport and welcomes the department's �155 million investment in new trains and improvements to seating capacity on our East Anglia network.”