Five key priorities for Norfolk ahead of major railway shake-up
- Credit: Greater Anglia
The nation is set for its biggest rail shake-up in almost 30 years.
From later this year, Greater Anglia will cease to run services when Great British Railways (GBR) takes over the operation of trains across the country.
The new public body will be responsible for setting timetables, managing rail infrastructure and selling tickets to passengers.
So, just what does GBR need to iron out in our region?
Here's a rundown of the key issues.
1) Norwich in 90
The goal of running all trains between Norwich and London Liverpool Street in 90 minutes has been a top priority for rail campaigners in recent years.
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But it still seems a long way off because vital investment in Essex does not appear to be on the agenda as part of the national shake-up.
Making its latest case, a taskforce for the Great Eastern Main Line has renewed its calls for new track at Bow Junction, between Stratford and Liverpool Street, and new signalling between Colchester and Shenfield.
To demonstrate the existing disparity, it currently takes 40 minutes longer to travel from Norwich to London than it does from Grantham. The road distance from the Lincolnshire town is around 35 miles further.
2) Strengthening west Norfolk
The King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway line once helped the seaside resort become a booming tourist destination.
But its closure in 1969 has left people in west Norfolk at a disadvantage, unable to easily access jobs and healthcare, while traffic congestion on the A149 is increasingly problematic.
A £100m bid to reinstate the line has, however, been hailed as the “biggest game changer in a generation”, with hopes of retaining young people in the area by easing the commute to Cambridge and London.
The ambitious project is currently on the table of transport minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, and being considered for a £50,000 start-up grant from the government’s Restoring Your Railway fund.
It remains to be seen what impact the conception of GBR could have on the scheme.
3) Ely junction
Still holding back speedier services in the Eastern region is the Ely North Junction, where lines from north, south, east and west all meet.
Network Rail, which is being absorbed by GBR, has previously said the system is running at full capacity and must be upgraded to allow more trains to pass through.
Plans for the major bottleneck would see the current rate of 6.5 trains per hour in each direction at off-peak times enhanced to 10 per hour
They would also help meet the demand for more rail freight connecting the Port of Felixstowe, West Midlands and the North.
4) A new station in Long Stratton
Labelled a "pipedream" by the leader of South Norfolk Council, hopes for a railway station in Long Stratton are in their relative infancy compared to other projects.
But Railfuture, which campaigns for better services in the UK, believes it could play a significant role in the transport needs of the Greater Norwich Area.
A new station would plug the gap between Norwich and Diss which, at 20 miles, currently has the longest interval between any two stops in the East of England.
The idea is yet to secure committed support from Network Rail, however, and would not top the list of priorities for the East.
Improvements to accessibility was one of Greater Anglia's main pledges at the start of the year, and will remain crucial over the coming months.
Campaigners in Norfolk have long highlighted the lack of step-free access at some platforms, chiefly at Wymondham station for Cambridge-bound services.
There have, in the past, also been cases of trains not having designated spaces for wheelchairs or accessible bathrooms.
New trains introduced by Anglia's rail operator have a retractable step at every door, making it much easier for wheelchair users to get on and off the train.