Outrage as mainline misses out on trains

Norfolk MPs last night expressed outrage as the arterial rail line from Norwich to London missed out on a multi-billion government investment for new trains.

Norfolk MPs last night expressed outrage as the arterial rail line from Norwich to London missed out on a multi-billion government investment for new trains.

The service, which has been dogged by controversy over plans to lay off staff and axe its restaurant car, is operating with class 3 stock 25 to 30- years-old. But it was omitted from transport secretary Geoff Hoon's announcement of a �7.5bn order for some of the country's busiest

rail routes - the single biggest investment in intercity trains for a generation.

More than 12,500 jobs are to be created or safeguarded through the contract awarded to a British-led consortium called Agility Trains, to build and maintain a fleet of new “super express” trains for the Great Western and East Coast main lines to replace existing high speed stock up to 30-years-old.

Mr Hoon said: “It is good news for the British economy that more than 12,500 jobs will be created and safeguarded, good news for the regions that the Government is supporting significant inward investment, and good news for passengers that we are taking the steps necessary to improve their rail journeys.”

But Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, said it was “appalling” that Norfolk had missed out. In two weeks, he and fellow Labour MPs Tony Wright, who represents Yarmouth, and Chris Mole, for Ipswich, will be lobbying Mr Hoon to improve stock on the line.

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He said: “East Anglia is never a priority; I think it still has this image of being the end of the line. It is absolutely essential to have better, newer stock, not hand-me-downs.”

Norman Lamb, Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk, said: “Once again we are being treated as second class citizens. From the start of this contract until its end in 2014, we are condemned to suffering more delays and more unreliability than on lines which have new trains.”

However, Mr Hoon also announced operator National Express East Anglia (NEEA) is in talks regarding the provision of 120 new carriages for the Stansted to London route, increasing stock across its services and allowing more resources for Norwich to Liverpool Street.

Ellen Rossiter, spokesman for NEEA, said its current fleet, while up to 30-years-old, had benefited from a �25m refurbishment investment.

Guy Dangerfield, manager for watchdog Passenger Focus, said the �7.5bn announcement was good news, but new trains were needed to and from Norwich.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said the busier, longer lines had been pinpointed for new super expresses because shorter routes such as those from Norwich to London would not benefit greatly.

Agility, made up of John Laing, Hitachi and Barclays, said it will build a new train manufacturing plant in the UK and depots in Bristol, Reading, Doncaster, Leeds and west London.

The first of the new trains will enter service on the East Coast mainline in 2013.

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