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Rail crossing work could lead to faster trains on East Suffolk line

PUBLISHED: 12:48 02 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:00 02 June 2020

The East Green crossing at Kelsale, near Saxmundham. Signallers operating this should have more information now. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The East Green crossing at Kelsale, near Saxmundham. Signallers operating this should have more information now. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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Network Rail has upgraded safety systems on 28 crossings on the East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Lowestoft in a move which could ultimately lead to increased train speeds on the route.

A driver-operated crossing at Worlingham, near Beccles. Picture: GOOGLE MAPSA driver-operated crossing at Worlingham, near Beccles. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

It has installed new devices which tell signal staff exactly where trains are on the route – and improve safety at the small crossings where people have to ring signallers for permission to cross. It does not affect automatic level crossings on most roads on the route.

The 27 axle counters tell signal staff where the trains are on the route and should allow them to tell people who call in more accurately whether it is safe to cross and how far a train is from them.

Until now the information was not quite so accurate, so people might be asked to wait for several minutes before a train actually arrived. This could sometimes encourage them to take a risk to avoid a long wait. Now, signallers should be able to tell more accurately where a train is and allow more up to date information to be given.

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The number of crossings on the route has been a major issue for Network Rail and train operator Greater Anglia, because trains have to run at reduced speed over crossings for safety reasons. They are the major reason why the 49-mile journey can take 80 to 90 minutes on the train.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said the axle counters would not, in themselves, enable trains to run any faster – but they were a vital part of infrastructure that needed to be in position if trains were to run at higher speeds in the future.

The East Suffolk Line was originally built by Victorian engineers as a main line linking the ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth to the capital.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “Our priority is to run a safe and reliable rail network and teams have been carrying out crucial work to make necessary improvements.

“The upgrade of this vital part of the signalling system makes the operation of level crossings safer and more efficient, benefiting passengers, motorists and pedestrians across Suffolk.”

Work was carried out over four months at night and over two weekends to minimise disruption for those who needed to make essential journeys.


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