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Giles Watling takes chair of East Anglia's attempt to improve rail routes

PUBLISHED: 17:30 28 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:13 29 October 2019

Giles Watling is the new chairman of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce. Picture: House of Commons

Giles Watling is the new chairman of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce. Picture: House of Commons

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Clacton MP Giles Watling has taken over as chairman of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce after Priti Patel had to stand down after being appointed Home Secretary.

The new trains are being tested on the main line, but the Great Eastern Taskforce is trying to ensure that the infrastructure is also improved. Picture; JOHN DAYThe new trains are being tested on the main line, but the Great Eastern Taskforce is trying to ensure that the infrastructure is also improved. Picture; JOHN DAY

Mr Watling, who was elected to Parliament in 2017, said his main priority would be to try to secure more investment in infrastructure on the main line to follow the introduction of new trains.

The Task Force, a collaboration of MPs, business leaders and representatives from Network Rail and franchise holder Greater Anglia, meets regularly and lobbies for improvements to infrastructure and service on the line.

Mr Watling said: "I am delighted to become chair of the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce. This is an important group that I have worked with since my election in 2017.

"Improving rail infrastructure to my constituency, and across Essex, is one of my priorities and this is a great opportunity to improve the journeys for all residents.

"It is time to improve reliability, reduce journey times, and attract new investment. That will be my focus as chair of the Task Force."

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The Task Force lobbies for improved services along the whole Great Eastern Main Line from London through Colchester and Ipswich to Norwich.

Among the commitments it is trying to get from Network Rail is a pledge for a third track north of Chelmsford in Essex, improvements to Haughley Junction in Suffolk, and replacement of the Trowse swing bridge near Norwich station.

Mr Watling said: "I have been a member of the Taskforce for several years, but until now my focus has been on trains from Essex and especially from my constituency. It is not acceptable that it takes an hour and 40 minutes to get from Clacton to London.

"There are new trains coming, but that should improve - but we have to ensure the companies keep their promises. And now I'm chairman I need to find out more about the rest of the route - through Suffolk and Norfolk - because I need to represent the whole line. I am looking forward to getting down to that work."

Ms Patel said: "Giles has always been a committed supporter of the GEML Taskforce and I know that he will be brilliant at championing its work to secure key infrastructure enhancements on the mainline.

"I am proud of the work that has taken place during my time as chair to make a strong case for investment in our local rail network and I will maintain a close interest in the Taskforce going forward as it updates its business case to secure funding through the RNEP process."

The Task Force has already helped secure a £1.4bn investment in new trains from Greater Anglia - and it is now concentrating on trying to ensure Network Rail invests in the infrastructure to allow them to reach their full potential once they are all introduced into service over the next two years.

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