Faster rail travel pledge for Norwich

Jon WelchTrain passengers can expect quicker journeys between Norwich and London and more carriages at peak time under plans unveiled by the government yesterday.Jon Welch

Train passengers can expect quicker journeys between Norwich and London and more carriages at peak time under plans unveiled by the government yesterday.

The proposed improvements are detailed in a consultation set up by the government as part of the process to find a new train operator for the region when the current franchise ends next year.

The plan, unveiled by rail minister Chris Mole, follows the decision in November to strip National Express East Anglia of its franchise from 2011.

The rail operator, which took over in 2004, had hoped the deal would be extended until 2014, but it was cut short after parent company surrendered its London-to-Edinburgh East Coast Mainline franchise because it was losing too much money.

Whoever takes over the Greater Anglia franchise, which operates services from London to Norwich, Ipswich and Cambridge, may have to agree to consider a number of improvements, including cutting journey times between Norwich and London and introducing minimum catering standards on inter-city trains.

Speaking at Norwich Station, Mr Mole said: 'We think that there may be opportunities for the franchisee to improve punctuality on inter-city services and improve journey times, if they can, by working with Network Rail and others.

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'We think they can look at the capacity they provide: coming out of Liverpool Street at rush hour, for instance, can be quite busy.'

The successful bidder will also be asked to improve the reliability of long-distance services and facilities at stations.

'We know that on this line people aren't as happy as they are in other parts of the UK. We'll be building in a target for improving customer satisfaction with the train service,' he said.

Mr Mole said he was confident that the tendering process would attract some strong bids, ensuring it was good value for tax-payers.

'National Express can bid theoretically, but we have made it very clear that the behaviour of the parent group in its handling of the East Coast Mainline means it is unlikely they would pre-qualify for the tender process. It would be a big risk for them.'

Chris Starkie, chief executive of economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: "Two months ago Shaping Norfolk's Future and its partners launched a campaign to bring about improvements to the Norwich to London rail line.

'That campaign calls for the introduction of a fleet of new, more comfortable and more reliable trains on the Norwich to London line as well as a one-hour 30-minute journey time between Norwich and London.

"The government's consultation on the new franchise gives us a real chance of making that happen, but we want to see those options turned into requirements.

"I would urge everyone with an interest in rail travel to join our campaign, which is supported by a range of partners including Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and help us make the strongest possible case to the DfT for these much needed improvements."

For more information on the Shaping Norfolk's Future rail campaign visit

Following the consultation process, the specification may require bidders for the franchise to consider:

Options for faster journey times between London and Norwich

Improving the performance and reliability of long distance services

Providing more ticket machines

Minimum standards for catering on InterCity trains

Making smartcards available across the franchise

Better CCTV coverage at stations covering car parks and cycling facilities.

All new rolling stock to have CCTV coverage

Targets to monitor environmental performance and carbon reduction

Measures to tackle fare dodging

Better car parking and cycle storage facilities

More modern passenger information facilities on platforms and trains

Setting National Passenger Survey targets for trains, stations and customer service - and investing more to make improvements if they fail to meet them.