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Better rail service on way

PUBLISHED: 08:47 03 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 03 July 2010

Norfolk MPs pressing for a better train service on the Norwich to London mainline have been assured by outgoing operator National Express East Anglia (NXEA) that it will continue to make improvements.

Norfolk MPs pressing for a better train service on the Norwich to London mainline have been assured by outgoing operator National Express East Anglia (NXEA) that it will continue to make improvements.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith led a delegation including fellow Tories Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) and Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) and Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) to meet senior executives from NXEA.

The meeting was arranged before last week's announcement that NXEA's franchise to run services on the line would terminate in 2011. The company had hoped it would be extended until 2014.

But rail bosses assured MPs the company was still committed to improvements on the line and would not let standards slip in the remaining months of its franchise period.

Andrew Chivers, managing director of NXEA, confirmed the company would be formally launching its service improvement plan on December 14, designed to deliver thousands of additional seats and a better timetable on the route into London Liverpool Street.

He also reaffirmed NXEA's commitment to delivering the best possible service, pointing out that punctuality had improved from 85 per cent in April 2004 to the current figure of 91.4pc.

Describing the meeting as “extremely positive and helpful”, he said: “I was pleased to be able to brief Norfolk MPs on the new vision for the Norwich to London mainline that I announced at the Shaping Norfolk's Future conference and the important role we can all play in working together to develop the strong regional alliance of stakeholders that is necessary to take these proposals forward.

“We agreed that it is important that everyone along the mainline route works together to influence future investment and help to ensure the upgrade is delivered over the next few years.”

Miss Smith said it was in the company's interests to ensure it hit its contractual targets, and that she understood jobs at NXEA would be protected under employment law, no matter which operator might take over.

“As a Norfolk MP I also strongly believe that the next franchise, which the government will be starting to plan right now, must give us in Norfolk the kind of quality of service that we need, including clean and comfortable carriages, faster journey times, good station facilities and punctuality,” she said.

“One difficulty in securing good performance for passengers - business and leisure alike - is that responsibility for getting things done in the rail industry is all over the place. Network Rail, the train company and the Department for Transport must all pull their weight for us in Norfolk.”

Mr Lamb said: “We're now in a very tight timescale. The government will be looking at designing new franchise requirements and inviting tenders for it in the next few months.

“We've got to argue the case for what we want in terms of reliability, quality of service, rolling stock and engines. That means MPs from across the parties, along with players from the economy including Shaping Norfolk's Future and the county council.”

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