Trains head along different lines

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:04 03 March 2010

NO more different fares for different rail companies.

No more tickets saying "GER Only" or "Anglia Trains Only."

That's what passengers from Ipswich to London will find from April 2004 when the new "Greater Anglia" franchise comes into existence.

NO more different fares for different rail companies.

No more tickets saying "GER Only" or "Anglia Trains Only."

That's what passengers from Ipswich to London will find from April 2004 when the new "Greater Anglia" franchise comes into existence.

Since privatisation in 1997, Ipswich has been served by two passenger railway companies: Great Eastern, part of the giant FirstGroup organisation, and Anglia – the sole franchise owned by GB Railways.

When the seven-year franchise expires, these two franchises will be replaced by a single company – which will also run services between Liverpool Street and Cambridge.

The Government's Strategic Rail Authority made the announcement earlier this week.

It also dropped a bombshell for Ipswich – the town isn't remote enough from London to be the centre of East Anglian local services.

The SRA's statement on the future shape of services in the region specifies that local trains in Norfolk and Suffolk must be run from a management centre in Norwich.

That decision was made despite the fact that Anglia Railway's head office, with staff managing local services, is currently based in Ipswich.

"We have specified that the local services have to be run from Norwich because that is more remote from London – it is the end of the line," said an SRA spokesman.

"It doesn't mean that the company which runs the services won't have a management centre in Ipswich – just that it would have to have one in Norwich."

Any "Greater Anglia" franchise is almost bound to be based in London – a fact acknowledged by the SRA's insistence of a management centre in Norwich.

That news will concern the 40 staff employed at Anglia's head office in St. Clare House, a short walk from Ipswich Station.

Competition has benefited passengers from Ipswich.

At privatisation there were two trains an hour to London from the town throughout the day. Now there are four.

Price competition has kept ticket prices down and given passengers a choice – they can pre-book tickets on Anglia Trains for the lowest available price, but have to travel on specific services.

Or they can buy walk-on tickets for Great Eastern trains and have the flexibility to return when they want to.

But competition has also brought problems. With three rail companies heading into Liverpool Street Station – West Anglia Great Northern currently runs services to Cambridge – negotiating track rights has proved bureaucratically challenging.

One of the most successful rail companies since privatisation has been Chiltern Railways, running services between London Marylebone and Birmingham via Warwick and High Wycombe.

It is the only rail company using most of the route, does not have to negotiate with other operators – and works with Railtrack to provide a good service for its passengers.

The SRA sees the Chiltern Line as a model for the future, but compared with other London mainline stations, Marylebone is quite small and uncomplicated.

And the good record probably has as much to do with the fact that the line was modernised in the 1980s.

A similar single route franchise, C2C – which runs services from Fenchurch Street to Southend – has been beset with problems because of the age of its trains and outdated track and signalling.

Passenger groups have welcomed the move to a single franchise, which should bring with it more co-ordination on rail services. It remains to be seen whether travellers will be better off afterwards.

And while it will be easier to co-ordinate passenger services with a single large franchise, the tracks will also be used by freight trains operated by English, Welsh and Scottish Railways and by Freightliner – the company which operates container freight trains from Felixstowe.

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