Ipswich needs better rail link

I SEEM to have touched a nerve with bosses at 'one' railway, with my piece last week calling for more services on the cross country route from Suffolk to Peterborough and all points north and west.

I SEEM to have touched a nerve with bosses at 'one' railway, with my piece last week calling for more services on the cross country route from Suffolk to Peterborough and all points north and west.

It is certainly true that the level of rail services is now effectively set by the Department of Transport in London - Whitehall bureaucrats effectively tell them where and how often to run their trains.

However if there are to be improvements in services the initiative has to come from someone on the ground - it's difficult to imagine a civil servant sitting in London thinking one day: “Let's improve the rail service between Ipswich and Ely!”

East Anglia's rail operators 'one' and its predecessor Anglia Railways have a fine reputation for improving rail services.

They worked with the government to introduce new services from Norwich to Cambridge and increased the frequency between Ipswich and Cambridge.

A few years ago they even introduced the innovative, but ultimately unsuccessful, round London service to Basingstoke. It was the rail company that first came up with these initiatives - and it is the rail company that is now best placed to persuade the government to invest in improvements to cross country services through Suffolk.

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And the government also needs to be persuaded to upgrade the line from Ipswich to Nuneaton so more large container trains can be sent cross-country.

It is daft to send freight trains from Felixstowe and Harwich down the congested main line to London before they then go north and west when there is an under-used cross country link which just needs some extra money spent on it.

Freight trains need to travel long distances to make themselves pay - a sad fact of life is that goods for London that come in through Felixstowe are all moved by lorry and not train.

Is it too much to hope that one day the entire line from Haughley junction to Peterborough and then from Stamford to Nuneaton will be electrified so freight can be moved in an environmentally-friendly fashion and can share the line with fast electric passenger trains.

Maybe that's a bit too optimistic - but stepping up the existing services to one an hour isn't beyond the realms of possibility and with their record in persuading the government and local authorities to help, I'm sure 'one' could make a persuasive case for such investment.

MUCH has been written over the last few days about the fact that some prisoners are being freed early to clear space in jails.

According to some politicians and national newspaper articles you'd think the sky was falling in on us!

But let's get this into perspective. What the government is doing is freeing prisoners 18 days early - not 18 months or 18 years early. And they've said violent prisoners won't be included in this amnesty.

We're not going to see the Yorkshire Ripper or Ian Huntley freed to make room in jail.

We're not going to see terrorists sentenced to 35 years in jail one day and freed the next.

What is going to happen is petty criminals - who arguably shouldn't be in jail in the first place - going home a few days early. And I can't get too upset about that!

BIG changes are taking place at Suffolk's Endeavour House headquarters and no one will more anxious about these than the county's own employees.

But whoever it was who drew up the proposals can take comfort in the fact they will always find work in the bureaucracy of a local authority. I think their explanation of the theory behind the restructuring is a cast-iron example of local government gobbledegook, I quote:

“As a start to this process, work has been undertaken on a detailed proposal to establish a new Strategic Centre. Our current model is departmental with duplication and fragmentation of strategic functions across the council. It is proposed that the new Strategic Centre will be based on a matrix management model comprising the two dimensions of Service Offices and Specialist Support Functions. The new structure is designed to achieve significant cost reductions whilst improving the corporate nature of strategic decision-making.”

If you can easily make head or tail of that little gem, then I've only one thing to say to you: get a life!

WHEN David Cameron visited Ipswich in the run-up to May's local government elections he told me: “Don't believe any politician who says he never reads opinion polls.”

Of course then the Tories were riding high - now the so-called “Brown Bounce” has given Labour a significant lead in several polls.

So I shall be watching with interest to see how many senior Tory MPs pop up over the next few days telling us that the only poll that matters is the General Election or say that they never get too worried or too happy about opinion poll figures!