Plans for a new expert group charged with finding ways to speed up rail services to the East of England by as much as 25% have been set out by the Chancellor.
The new taskforce will be made up of Department for Transport officials, experts from Network Rail, and local MPs.
As part of their work they will identify practical and affordable options to improve services to stations along the line from London to Norwich. This will include examining the potential for cutting journey times to London by around 30 minutes and how ‘Norwich in Ninety’ could be achieved.
Chancellor George Osborne made the announcement as he addressed the Norwich Chamber of Commerce on Thursday 7 November.
The Chancellor said:
East Anglia is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and is establishing itself as a world leader in science, technology and manufacturing. To support this growth we need to have modern, efficient rail services and improved connections.
I am absolutely behind the region and that’s why I’ve set up a taskforce to see how we can build on the excellent work by Chloe Smith, Ben Gummer, Priti Patel and Simon Wright and set our sights on getting to ‘Norwich in Ninety’.
The speech to the Norwich Chamber of Commerce formed part of the Chancellors day visit to Norfolk where he was also given a tour of a local factory and met with the managing director of a local start up funded by a government scheme.
This announcement builds on publication of the East Anglia rail prospectus supported by MPs across the region including Sir Bob Russell and Norman Lamb.
The DfT has also asked current operator Abellio to develop plans to refurbish and modernise the current fleet, update interiors and provide improved facilities, such as power sockets so commuters and business travellers can work more easily as they travel by train.
East Anglia has a growing reputation as a centre for new high-tech businesses and research. Norwich is now one of five science capitals of Europe, with Ipswich an international hub for software development.
Links to similar centres of excellence in Cambridge and high value manufacturing along the line to Norwich mean that the region is one of the fastest growing in the UK economy.
The announcement will build on the government is already undertaking to increase capacity along the line, as region anticipates 50% growth in passenger numbers, which will require more capacity and better trains.
There are currently works at Chelmsford and Ely to increase capacity, upgrade to the cross-country freight route between Felixstowe port and the Midlands via Nuneaton and bottleneck improvements at Peterborough and Leicester as well as expanding Bow Junction to improve access to London Liverpool Street.
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