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Hopes for modern carriages derailed

PUBLISHED: 15:02 03 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:34 03 July 2010

Norfolk's beleaguered rail service was sidelined again yesterday when ministers ignored pleas to replace the county's decades-old carriages while handing out fresh stock to other parts of East Anglia.

Norfolk's beleaguered rail service was sidelined again yesterday when ministers ignored pleas to replace the county's decades-old carriages while handing out fresh stock to other parts of East Anglia.

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon announced 188 new or refurbished carriages destined for National Express East Anglia (NEEA) services but denied to Norfolk and North Suffolk.

A total of 120 brand new units are to be given to the Stansted Express and West Anglia service from Cambridge to London while routes between London Liverpool Street and Southend, Clacton, Colchester, Chelmsford, and possibly Ipswich would get 68 refurbished carriages.

The latter four of these stops also feature on the Norwich to Liverpool Street arterial route but this, along with local services in Norfolk would be left to carry on with stock which is between 25 and 30 years old.

National Express East Anglia said the county would benefit from the announcement, which also included plans for more car parking at Diss station, because extra seats and services on the Essex commuter routes would divert passengers away from the Norwich to London mainline, easing pressure and over crowding.

But MPs and campaigners for better rail services, said new stock was desperately needed for the county's only train route into the capital if Norfolk was to fulfil its economic and growth potential.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “National Express themselves have said is that with secondhand trains you can only ever achieve a reliability significantly below that of new trains so even if you get them running at an optimum level they are much less reliable than new trains.

“National Express can only do what the government allows under this franchise but we are left once again with a third class service.”

Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, said the news that more seats which would then relieve congestion on all parts of the network should be welcomed but added: “It does not relieve all the other pressures that people find themselves under when travelling on a third class service. I find it absolutely astonishing that in a major growing centre there is not the investment needed in rail travel.”

Economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future had previously appealed to Mr Hoon to confirm the plans for more capacity on other parts of the network to help the county but said the campaign for better, newer stock had to continue.

A spokesman for NEEA said that the government rail white paper of 2007 had set out key areas for improvement which Mr Hoon's announcement was focused on.

Mr Hoon said: “This will be of major benefit to passengers in terms of reducing over-crowding.”

Some additional carriages will be introduced in December and all will be in place by the end of 2011.

The announcement came on the day that passengers were held up on the Norwich to Liverpool Street line because of a fatality at Manor Park. Travellers on the line were delayed by up to 20 minutes between 12.30pm and 3.30pm.


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