Great railway journeys can start here too
You don’t have to be Michael Portillo setting off with Bradshaw’s guide to enjoy the feeling of settling into your seat as the train eases out of the station. Certainly, there’s a better chance of getting a seat on Lynn’s services following the £30 million investment to enable longer trains which I campaigned for and have now been running for a year as part of the government’s plans to improve services.
There was a lot of attention on rail services in the north of England recently. That was understandable as the plan focused on services in those areas - although it was surprising that opposition parties who opposed HS2 criticised the decision to opt for a more affordable option for the eastern link.
But it is important not to lose focus on the planned major investment to upgrade Ely junction. This bottleneck where five railway lines converge is operating at full capacity which is holding back our area and restricting the opportunity to improve passenger services and enable growth in freight.
The Ely area capacity enhancement programme plans to tackle this by upgrading the junction. More regular and reliable trains will be able to run through Ely - unlocking half-hourly off peak services from Lynn - while supporting demand for more rail freight through to the port of Felixstowe. These improvements will benefit passengers and businesses as well as attracting new investment.
I’ve been pressing for this long talked about project to move forward, along with other Norfolk Conservative MPs, and last July £13million of funding was confirmed to refine the options. A consultation is now underway with final proposals due next year and, with potential changes to level crossings and other issues, I encourage people to look at what is planned.
Have you booked your booster jab yet? Appointments have now opened for people aged 40-49. Those eligible can book a slot in advance, five months after their second dose. I went online to the national booking service and look forward to getting the jab and the increased protection it offers ahead of Christmas.
In Parliament this week, the Health and Social Care Bill completed its stages in the House of Commons. One in seven adults over 65 faces care costs over £100,000 over their lifetime - there is currently no limit and people can face massive costs.
Under the new system from October 2023, no one starting adult social care will have to pay more than £86,000 for personal care over their lifetime. The threshold at which the state support stops will increase from £23,500 to £100,000 - meaning that anyone with assets from £20,000 - £100,000 will be eligible for means-tested support. The forthcoming White Paper will set out more details on the plans and I expect will take account of the issues that I and other MPs have raised including on workforce and younger adult care.
For too long people have talked about the need for social care reform. Under these reforms, more people will be supported with social care costs, have greater certainty over what they need to pay and everyone is better off compared to the current system.