Felixstowe train taking the strain

IT'S the go green train which is taking the strain off the A14.For with fuel prices higher than most people's pockets can stand, and car parking on top, travellers are finding it far easier and cheaper to use the train than the road - keeping out of the congestion, saving time and money.

IT'S the go green train which is taking the strain off the A14.

For with fuel prices higher than most people's pockets can stand, and car parking on top, travellers are finding it far easier and cheaper to use the train than the road - keeping out of the congestion, saving time and money.

Latest figures show that in the past year passenger numbers on the Felixstowe to Ipswich rail line have grown by 11 per cent - with more than 20,000 extra people using the route.

More than 240,000 passengers use the line every year - and those who monitor the route say the real figure is far higher because on busy days the conductor does not always have time to take all the fares.

Pressure groups are thrilled with the results, especially as only a few years ago they were constantly fighting to save services from being axed altogether.

John Woollan, chairman of the Felixstowe East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA), said the line was well-used by commuters going to work, people on shopping trips, and football fans, with daytrippers coming to the town, especially in summer.

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“To discover passenger numbers have gone up by 11pc is great news for the line and shows just how important it is as a link between Felixstowe and Ipswich,” he said.

“It's a fantastic turnaround after the campaigns ESTA used to run to keep the line open.

“Now we have an hourly service which is great and such a benefit.

“We were worried we might lose some of the over 60s with the new free bus passes, but the rail line doesn't seem to have been significantly effected.

“I think people find that it is such a quick and easy route - 25 minutes from Felixstowe and 20 minutes from Trimley to Ipswich, when the bus takes much longer with many more stops, and the station is only a few minutes walk from the town centre.”

Bryan Frost, chairman of ESTA's public transport committee, said on Wednesday this week there had been around 30 people on the 6.43am train - many of them commuting to London, reaching the city by 8.20am.

“I do that run about twice a month and the numbers have been steadily growing,” he said.

Off-peak return tickets to Ipswich also included free travel on the bus into Ipswich town centre.

A spokesman for train operators 'one' said the company was delighted with the performance of the Felixstowe branch line.

“We do all we can to promote rail travel within the region, especially on that route - though there are probably several reasons why there has been an increase in passengers,” he said.

“Prices levels are very competitive and it is a very convenient, quick and direct route. The hourly service is very much appreciated by people because it means there are far more links with Norwich and London for those travelling further afield.

“If people just want to pop into Ipswich, don't have cars or want to leave their cars at home, then it can be very easy.”

There have been suggestions that with the house building in east Ipswich, the time has come for another station near Warren Heath.

But Mr Woollan said that would mean the end of the hourly service because of the very tight requirements for the train to get up and down the line and turned round for each journey.

WEBLINK: www.onerailway.com

What do you think of the Felixstowe-Ipswich branch line services? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

See edblog at www.eveningstar.co.uk

voxpop quotes:

Rob Wheeldon, 24, of Kesgrave, said: “I use it about three times a month to visit friends in Felixstowe and it's a really good service - always on time and a nice quick journey.”

Mary Closs, of Westerfield, said: “I come twice a week to Felixstowe to do my shopping. The hourly service makes it so easy.”

Daphne Hines, of Ipswich, said: “Felixstowe station could do with being a bit tidier and a bit cleaner, but the train is fine and it is a lovely ride down and back.”

Michael Kupis , 15, of Felixstowe, said: “I use it every day to go to Westbourne High School and I take my cycle with me on the train. I wouldn't be able to get to school as easily without this train so it's good to hear it is well used.”

Matt Hopkins, 19, of Felixstowe, said: “I prefer to go by car but I would use the train a lot more - as would lots of young people - if there were later trains so we could go clubbing in Ipswich on Friday and Saturday nights. They could fill those trains easily.”

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