Rail industry must know its future

IT is heartening to know that the semi-nationalised Network Rail is producing a long-term plan for investment which is not ignoring the needs of this part of the world.

There needs to be major investment on the rail link between this region and the capital – and improvements on the cross-country links as well.

But we really do need more guidance from the government on the direction of travel so far as the train operator for this region is concerned.

Greater Anglia’s contract only runs until July 2014, when there is due to be long-term franchise introduced.

However this timetable has been called into question after the debacle of the west coast which saw Virgin lose the contract and then be re-engaged after it emerged that Department of Transport officials were unable to understand figures!

Despite what MPs are saying it seems as if we are unlikely to get any decisions on new trains, or even major refurbishments, until the long-term franchisee is appointed.

Given that, isn’t there are a case for – in this region in any case – a seriously-shortened franchise process?

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Greater Anglia may not be perfect, but most rail users seem to accept that services are now much better than they were before. There are still delays, but most are not caused by the rail operator – and when things go wrong staff are usually much better-informed and are able to explain what is happening to frustrated passengers.

Isn’t there a case for the government to say that in view of its good record, there should be an assumption that Greater Anglia will be the franchisee after July 2014 and that it should go ahead and order new trains for the region now.

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