Free rail journey clampdown

FREE rides on the rail line between Ipswich and Felixstowe could soon come to an end - bosses at 'one' Railway could install a ticket machine at the station in Great Eastern Square.

A LOOPHOLE which allows thousands of passengers to travel on the train between Felixstowe and Ipswich without buying tickets could soon be closed.

Thousands of passengers a year are thought to make the 12-mile trip for free because the guard cannot get to everyone during the 25-minute journey.

But that could come to an end if a ticket machine is installed at Felixstowe station - anyone travelling the whole length of the line without a ticket then would risk an expensive penalty fare.

Unofficial counts by the Felixstowe branch of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA) estimate that up to 10,000 people a year could be travelling for free.

Brian Frost from ESTA said: “When Ipswich Town are at home there are real problems - you get trains crowded with people and the guard cannot get through.

“I have been on single carriage trains which have 72 seats, with about 110 people on board.”

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A spokesman for 'one' Railway said: “In the past there have always been security concerns about having ticket machines at unmanned stations.

“But Felixstowe station is reasonably open and it is overlooked by the police station so we may feel it is all right to install a machine there.”

Another alternative could be to install security gates at Ipswich station so passengers would have to pay at the end of their journey if they hadn't seen the guard.

However these could cause big delays for people going into or out of the station - and may cause more problems than they solve.

It has emerged that the Felixstowe route is not the only local rail line in East Anglia to have seen a boom in passenger numbers.

The routes between Ipswich and Cambridge and the East Suffolk line to Lowestoft have also seen a dramatic increase in passengers.

Bosses at 'one' Railway believe the increase in passenger numbers has been sparked by two factors - improved services and drivers being keen to avoid increasingly congested roads.

Managing director of 'one', Dominic Booth, said: “On routes such as that from Ipswich to Felixstowe and Ipswich to Cambridge we have introduced hourly services so people know when the trains are coming - they don't have to know the details of the timetable.

“There are better trains, and of course it means you don't have to drive along the A14.”

The East Suffolk line has benefited from comfortable through trains to London which have attracted more passengers.