Ipswich to London in under an hour is aim

FIFTY-five minutes from Ipswich to London - but without InterCity-style comfort - could be coming online when a new operator takes over East Anglia's railways next year.

Paul Geater

FIFTY-five minutes from Ipswich to London - but without InterCity-style comfort - could be coming online when a new operator takes over East Anglia's railways next year.

The government has started a consultation period, asking passengers and business representatives what they want from their rail service in the region when the franchise is re-allocated next April.

But the Department of Transport has already made it clear there will be changes.

There could be hourly trips from Ipswich to London taking only 55 minutes - but the modern trains completing such journeys could be “long-distance commuter” services than the InterCity trains that currently provide most services.

The government is set to tell the new franchise-holder that the hourly services on the Ipswich to Cambridge and Ipswich to Felixstowe lines will have to be retained - and there will have to be an hourly service on the East Suffolk line to Lowestoft once the Beccles loop is installed within the next few years.

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However there is no prospect of through services from Lowestoft or Bury St Edmunds to London being re-introduced once they cease to operate at the end of this year.

Junior transport minister Chris Mole, who visited his Ipswich constituency to launch a three-month consultation period, said the government had been persuaded it was not an efficient use of railway space to run comparatively short trains into London.

Mr Mole said: “Once the new passenger lift is installed at Ipswich station it should be much easier for passengers to change trains between platforms.

“There will be more trains on the rural and cross-country services so it is a trade-off but we are persuaded this is the best use of resources.”

The consultation document the government has published - and wants feedback on - is available from the Department for Transport website at www.dft.gov.uk

Mr Mole said: “Once Network Rail has completed its engineering work on the route at the end of the year we are looking to be able to speed up services - a 90-minute service from Norwich to London which would give about a 55-minute journey time from Ipswich.”

At present there is one train a day from London to Ipswich in 59 minutes, running non-stop between Liverpool Street and Suffolk. However most trains take about 70 minutes for the journey, stopping at Colchester and other stations in Essex.

The government has not laid down what kind of trains a new operator should use - but Mr Mole accepted that they could be very different from the current services which have locomotives dating back to 1990 pulling carriages which first entered service in the early 1980s.

“We have not specified what kind of trains should operate on the line, but fast electric units could be considered,” he said.

There will be a requirement for the new operator to offer catering on trains - although it is unlikely to herald the return of full dining service which was withdrawn by National Express East Anglia more than a year ago.

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