Tunnel closure details revealed
COMMUTERS and other travellers between East Anglia and London were today being given details of the closure of Ipswich tunnel next summer.The tunnel is to be closed for nine weeks from July 11 to September 8 2004 while the track is lowered and the tunnel is widened.
By Paul Geater
COMMUTERS and other travellers between East Anglia and London were today being given details of the closure of Ipswich tunnel next summer.
The tunnel is to be closed for nine weeks from July 11 to September 8 2004 while the track is lowered and the tunnel is widened.
This work is part of a major upgrade of the East Anglian main line between Ipswich and London to allow it to be used by trains of "continental gauge" containers from the Port of Felixstowe.
The tunnel closure will mean that passengers from Ipswich and stations to the north of the town will have to ride on special buses from the station to Marks Tey.
Commuter trains will continue to travel from London to Colchester and Manningtree, but the bus link will operate to Marks Tey because that station has easy access from the A12.
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The tunnel closure is scheduled to disrupt rail services just weeks after the new Greater Anglia rail franchise comes into existence.
However rail industry insiders expect the start date for the new franchise may be delayed until after the tunnel closure.
"It's very, very tight to get all the bureaucracy in place and get the new franchise up and running by April anyway," one rail manager told me.
"Then within a couple of months of the franchise starting there are plans to close the main line for nine weeks – that's going to be no good for the new franchise-holder to build a reputation in the crucial first few months," he said.
"It really would make sense to put the start of the new franchise off until October so the new operator could start with a blank sheet."
Garry England, Network Rail Project Manager and Chris Harvey, SRA Project Sponsor were in Ipswich today to outline details of the line closure.
Ironically, once the work is completed it will have little benefit for rail travellers – and will lead to a fall in the number of passenger trains on the main line to London.
That is because more of the train "paths" are being given to freight trains from April next year – reducing the number of trains from Ipswich to London from four to three an hour off-peak.
Meanwhile the SRA has shelved proposals to upgrade the cross-country route from Haughley to Nuneaton to take more freight trains for the midlands and north of England away from the main line to London.