Another year of disruption for passengers

SUFFOLK: Weekend passengers heading to London are facing another year of disruption as engineering work continues on the main line.

Buses will replace trains on the route on 30 weekends next year – although the high summer should be clear because engineering work is being suspended during the Olympics and Paralympics.

But the disruption will come as a body-blow to leisure travellers who had hoped that the arrival of a new operator in the region would improve services.

The news has emerged as The Evening Star joins our sister newspapers across Suffolk and Norfolk to campaign for improvements to the region’s rail services.

Most of the line closures will be on Sundays as Network Rail continues its programme to upgrade track and overhead wires through Essex.

A spokeswoman said there would be 30 weekends where engineering works are scheduled on the Great Eastern main line in 2012.

This year there has been work on 31 weekends.

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In 2012, Network Rail has 22 scheduled engineering-free weekends through the summer, including the 11-week period between late June and early September when engineering work on rail lines around England is being suspended because of the Olympics.

The spokeswoman said: “The Great Eastern main line is one of the busiest rail routes in the country and there will always be the need to invest in crucial works to maintain and renew the railway.

“The eyes of the world will be on Britain in 2012 and the railway has a crucial role to play in making the Olympic Games a success.

“Our job during Games time is to provide smooth, seamless journeys for spectators travelling to and from Olympic and Paralympic venues, while continuing to offer the service which keeps millions of people moving across Britain each day.

“This is why we have suspended all disruptive work on rail routes serving venues over the Olympic summer, including the Great Eastern main line.

“We recognise that any disruptive work can be frustrating for passengers but it is absolutely essential to make sure our railway runs smoothly and safely before, during and long after the Games.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he accepted that work needed to be done to modernise the line after decades of “running repairs.”

However Network Rail needed to ensure their work was completed on schedule.

He said: “I know it has to be done, but it will cause problems for those who need to travel on Sundays – I know all about that!

“But what is vital is that you don’t get over-running engineering work causing problems for passengers on the Monday morning.

“That has happened too frequently in the past.”

n Opinion – page 6