West Norfolk rail services ‘among Britain’s worst’

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Tests have begun on new trains to serve West Norfolk after a report showed the borough had some of Britain’s least reliable rail services.

More than a third of trains run by Great Northern, the main operator of services between Lynn, Cambridge and London, were late during the period from mid-November to mid-December.

But the firm says new trains, which were tested for the first time at the weekend, will help to address the problem.

Industry data shows nearly 35 per cent of Great Northern services were at least five minutes late at their destination during the assessment period covering the month up to December 10.

Although the latest figures, for the period from December 11 to January 7 do show an improvement, more than one in five services are still five minutes late or more at their destination, with around five per cent running at least 30 minutes behind schedule or cancelled altogether.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said yesterday: “It’s not good enough. People are paying a lot of money to travel on that service and they’re getting a sub-standard service.”

Great Northern admitted the current service was not up to standard and said it was working with Network Rail to address issues relating to power supplies, signalling and track maintenance.

But it also said its plans for improved maintenance and new trains, which are due to start coming into service later this year, will also improve passengers’ experience.

The company says the new stock is more reliable and will provide power sockets for passengers, wheelchair spaces and other features specifically designed for disabled travellers, plus fully accessible toilets.

Stuart Cheshire, Great Northern’s passenger services director, said: “This is part of an overall plan to replace almost all the trains on the Great Northern route by 2020 – and those few trains that will remain are themselves going through a £30m refurbishment programme.

“In just a few short years, we’ll be moving from one of the oldest fleets in the country to one of the newest.”

But Sir Henry said concerns had been raised with him about the standard and size of seating within the new units.