New rail route boost for Suffolk

IT'S hardly been screamed from the rooftops, but there's been some fantastic news for the region's rail users over the last few days.The government and Network Rail have finally agreed to upgrade the cross-country rail route from Haughley to Nuneaton in the West Midlands at a total cost of £80 million.

Pics in feats called 'geats' including him to cut out for header, darling as main image, and bags

IT'S hardly been screamed from the rooftops, but there's been some fantastic news for the region's rail users over the last few days.

The government and Network Rail have finally agreed to upgrade the cross-country rail route from Haughley to Nuneaton in the West Midlands at a total cost of £80 million. This means that freight trains from Felixstowe to the midlands, north of England and Scotland will no longer have to go down to London and then out again on some of the country's most congested lines.

The upgrade of the cross-country route has a double benefit.

By taking freight trains off the main line to London, it means there will be more space on the line to Liverpool Street for passenger services. With passenger numbers continuing to increase year on year that is a real benefit. It could also make more space for longer-distance services to use the Crossrail service in London when it opens late in the next decade.

The other great benefit to passengers of upgrading the cross-country route is, of course, speeding up services from East Anglia to other parts of the country. That could finally make rail a realistic alternative to the A14 for people heading from Suffolk to other parts of the country.

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Hopefully the upgrade of the line will persuade rail companies to increase the number of services they run cross-country.

To its credit 'one' has improved the Ipswich to Peterborough service significantly by running it through to Liverpool Street - giving a direct London link for passengers from Bury St Edmunds. But the trains do only run every two hours - and with an improved quality of track and more space on the main line to London there is no reason why there should not be an hourly service.

There is still some time before line's upgrade is complete - that is due in 2011 - but that should make a huge difference to the region's rail service.

Combined with the improvement to the Ipswich-Felixstowe route, there will then be the perfect incentive for transport operators to put freight on the rails rather than the roads - and ease some of the pressure on the A14.

IT IS good news to hear that Ipswich Borough Council is joining the campaign against plastic supermarket bags - but I really cannot work out how a single local authority can get rid of them.

Like many people I try to take my own bag when I go shopping these days, although there are occasions when I will buy something on impulse and have no alternative but picking up a bag.

What is really needed is for the government to take some kind of action to encourage all shops and consumers to use fewer of these bags. The obvious solution - and one that has been tried in the Republic of Ireland - is to impose a tax of 5p on each plastic bag.

That would be enough to persuade most people to take their own bags when shopping, but would not penalise them too much if they found they needed one unexpectedly. But a council like Ipswich cannot impose such a tax - and I can't really see all shops agreeing not to hand out bags voluntarily.

Public education will persuade some consumers not to collect bags, but human nature being what it is, there will be some people who will not give up the plastic bags unless forced to do so.

We've seen that with the provision of blue and brown bins. Some people were already recycling, but many only really started doing so once they were forced to think about separating rubbish.

Hopefully the government will eventually get to grips with the plastic bag issue, but I cannot see it rising to the top of the political agenda just yet.

OVER the years I've met many politicians from all political parties.

Some I've liked, some have frankly been a pain in the backside - and which party they belong to doesn't really enter into the equation.

Both Charles Kennedy and David Cameron have been very easy to talk to and interview - and a Labour politician who is always very helpful is the Chancellor, Alastair Darling. The fact that his wife is a former newspaper journalist - she worked for the Edinburgh Evening News - may have given him an insight into the work of us regional reporters!

So I suppose I might be biased, but I really cannot see Mr Darling should resign despite his double whammy this week.

On the banking crisis, he was really caught between a Northern Rock and a hard place. If he had let the bank go bust, thousands of jobs would have been lost, tens of thousands of savers would have lost money, and mortgage holders would have been thrown into confusion.

By supporting the bank there is every hope the government will get the money back - it's not tidy, but the crisis was certainly not of his making.

And to expect him to resign over the loss of computer disks containing thousands of peoples' details was even more daft. It is totally unrealistic to suggest that the Chancellor should know when a junior staff member displays extreme carelessness.

Calls for his resignation smell of a knee-jerk reaction, the “something must be done mentality.”

What is needed is a search to find the missing disks and a new system introduced to ensure such a foul-up never happens again - not a search for a meaningless political scapegoat.

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