‘Get on with upgrade work’, sails rail group

No Caption ABCDE ANL-160224-143002009
No Caption ABCDE ANL-160224-143002009

Rail campaigners have hit out at the lack of progress made in providing longer and more frequent trains to and from West Norfolk.

The comments are contained in an official response, published yesterday, from the Fen Line Users’ Association (FLUA) to two consultations about the future of rail services in the region.

And, as passenger demand continues to rise, the group has called for longer, half-hourly trains to be brought into service as soon as possible.

FLUA chairman Colin Sampson said: “Such is the overcrowding at peak times, we need eight-car trains as soon as we can physically get them on the line.”

Secretary Andy Tyler added: “We are calling for a joined-up, common-sense approach. We need more and longer trains.”

The standard of train services to and from West Norfolk has come into renewed focus since it was announced that work on a key upgrade to the line linking West Norfolk with Cambridge and London, at the Ely North junction, would not start until at least 2019.

Last month, political and business leaders pledged financial support for a feasibility study into the project, which Network Rail officials have warned could cost up to £5 million to complete.

FLUA says it wants to see preparatory works completed so that construction can start as quickly as possible after 2019.

But the group reserved its strongest criticism for the delay in preparing for the introduction of a twice-hourly service to and from Lynn.

The contract with the current operator, Great Northern, which began in the autumn of 2014, requires half-hourly trains to run from May next year.

But the group said: “There is a large amount of incredulity as to how such a significant political commitment could have been made and then subsequently deemed to be probably undeliverable within a reasonable time span, given that government not only specifies the Govia Thameslink Railway management contract but also owns the infrastructure delivery agency, Network Rail.

“We urge that all methods of full or at least partial implementation, including potential timetabling solutions, are investigated as a matter of great urgency.”

Rail industry sources have previously indicated it is possible, but unlikely, that a twice-hourly service could be delivered within the existing infrastructure.

But Mr Sampson said there was an “overwhelming” desire for an improved service to run throughout the day.

As well as supporting eight-coach services, FLUA has also signalled its backing for a power supply upgrade that would be necessary to enable longer trains to run more frequently.

And Mr Tyler said they do not want to get any more “nasty surprises” from industry bosses.

He added: “We want to see a timescale for the works necessary to achieve the promised half-hourly service, and so we can see that all eyes are firmly on the ball.”