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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 231 - 29 July 2012  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

Felixstowe TravelWatch (in its latest newsletter) is urging all users of the Ipswich-Felixstowe line services to write to their MPs explaning how much they value the service and do not want to see it replaced by so-called 'express' bus services in order to give paths to freight trains instead rather than double the line as the prot had committed to. Feliwstowe TravelWatch is dissapointed that some MPs have received very little correspondence on the matter. The branch has been primarily used for freight since 1967 when containerised freight was introduced at the Port of Felixstowe, but the only infrastructure improvements have been the addition of a passing loop at Derby road in 1999. More than 11,000 containers are now being carried on the branch each week, which is more than the number of passengers (400,000). However, the 26-minute train service from Ipswich takes around an hour by bus.

On 18th July the Secretary of State for Transport announced plans to upgrade the A14 between Milton and the A1 junction beyond Huntingdon. The proposals suggest creating new roads for local traffic and turning the current A14 into a toll road for through traffic, with several of the junctions being removed. Unlike the recently-announced rail schemes, there is speculation that the proposals may not go ahead.

The Whitwell & Reepham Preservation Society will be holding its 3rd Annual Steam rally on 4th and 5th August. It's a great day out for all the family - over 15 large traction engines are now booked. Details: http://www.whitwellstation.com.

The Mid-Norfolk Railway will hold its first-ever Real Ale and Music Festival at Dereham Station on Saturday 25th, Sunday 26th and Monday 27th August (i.e. the bank holiday weekend). There will be live bands will be entertaining on Saturday and Sunday evening after which there wil be a late train to take people back to Wymondham. For details see http://www.mnr.org.uk.


HLOS for CP5 (2014-2019) confirms East West Rail Link, Ely North upgrade and four-track Huntingdon-Peterborough line

Keywords: [CP5]

In a high-profile announcement on Monday 16th July the government revealed rail schemes in England and Wales totalling £9,400 million that it wished to purchase of the next control period (CP5), which runs from 2014 to 2019. At least three were long-held aims of the East Anglian branch of Railfuture

The government agreed to the remodelling of Ely North Junction, which was foolishly rationalised in the 1980s. It currently sees five out of six train services using a single piece of track and sets of points, which reduces cpaacity and creates serious disruption if there is a fault. In the future the junction will have double track instead of a single-lead junction. This will clear the way for trains to run every 30 minutes from Cambridge to King’s Lynn and Norwich rather than hourly as at present. It will also allow more freight will be able to go from Felixstowe to Midlands by rail instead of along the A14. Network Rail intends to start design work immediately, which will require signalling changes, and hopefully commence the work in 2014. News reports had incorrectly said that £4m of EU money would help pay for this, but the money is actually for the freight loops at Ely.

The Government also confirmed the reopening of the western section of the East West Rail Link, which will see the mothballed route between Claydon Junction and Bletchley reopened, as well as track upgrades to allow fast services between Oxford and Bedford plus Aylesbury to Milton Keynes. An uexpected announcement was that the government intends to electrify the line between Bedford and Oxford, at a cost of £130m, (along with Basingstoke to Reading) so that the route can be part of an 'electric spine' allowing freight trains from Southampton to the Midlands travel via the Oxford-Bedford route. Local authorities will be contibuting netween £30m and £50m to the scheme. Now that the future of the western section is decided, Cambridgeshire County will now take the lead on looking at joining the gap between Cambridge and Bedfordshire. The council will become the new chair of the consortium.

The announcement should not lead to any change to the western section's 2017 opening date (as the electrification does not have to be complete for the opening). The schedule is based on:

  • 2012-2014 ORR approval process for CP5
  • 2013-2015 Local authority consents
  • 2014-2016 Contractor selection and engineering
  • 2015-2017 Construction and commissioning.

The third enhancement for the region is the creation of a four-track railway between Huntingdon and Fletton. There are currently three tracks between Huntingdon and Holme with just two between Holme and Fletton. The route had been partly rationalised in the past although Yaxley-Holme has only ever been two track. This project is part of a series of upgrades along the East West Mainline costing £240 million that will increase capacity and resillience. Techically the government is supporting a series of measures and allowing Network Rail to choose which ones to do, so there is a possibility that it may not happen. However, there are proposals to build a station along this stretch of line at Alconbury, which is to become an enterprise zone and to serve a new housing development which is being promoted by Urban and Civic.

Railfuture East Anglia branch secretary Nick Dibben was quoted in the Cambridge News. He said more trains to Norwich would be good for the region’s economy: "It would help to spread the ‘Cambridge effect’ – the Science Park is filling up so we need to spread out and encourage further development along the route to Norwich."

East West Rail Consortium considering two routes to extend to Cambridge and may propose both as different phases

An article in RAIL magazine issue 701 (25th July-7th August) showed current thinking by the East West Rail Consortium. It was suggested that the link may be done in phases, with a route Between Bedford and Sandy done first (with trains via Hitchin) followed by a new link between Sandy and Cambridge to reduce the journey time substantially. Once this is running successfully a second central route is proposed between Stevenage and Luton Airport Parkway, utilising a chord linking the Midland Mainline and Marston Vale lines to avoid Bedford. It is felt that there could be sufficient traffic to justify both routes, as they will serve different markets. The construction of both seems highly unlikely to most observers.


St Neots station footbridge approved

Keywords: [StNeotsStation]

The proposed £4.2m 50-metre-long footbridge for St Neots station has been approved. To be located just north of the station buildings it will link the platforms to the town and the Love's Farm housing development. Ramps will be used to meet accessibility requirements at either end with used lifts used to access the two island platforms. The old, narrow, footbridge, which is south of the station buiuldings, will be taken down.

Work is expected to start in August 2013 for completion in March 2014. It is funded by the section 106 agreement (£3.2m) from Gallagher Estates, who are behind the Love's Farm development, and the DfT's Access for All scheme (£1m).


Government finally signs contract for Inter-City Express Trains with Agility Trains after 40 months as preferred bidder

The government has finally signed the contract with Agility Trains to deliver the new Hitachi-built Intercity Express Trains from 2018 onwards. The order is for trains to replace the 1970s High-Speed Train (HST) fleet in use on the East Coast and Great Western routes. However, additional trains that could be used for the services to King's Lynn are not confirmed. The order gives the government an 'option' to order them.


National Express profits fall after loss of East Anglia franchise

After handing back the keys to the East Coast franchise in 2009, and not being shortlisted for the short-term East Anglia franchise (operated by Abellio since 6th February this year), National Express has just one rail franchise remaining - c2c - having once had nine. National Express Group has just announced its financial results for the first half of 2012 (it held the NXEA franchise for only five weeks during that time) which saw its rail profits fall by 43% from £27.1 million to £15.5 million. National Express has hopes of retaining the Essex Thameside franchise and winning Great Western franchises in 2013.


Stagecoach launches 'experimental' Cambridge to Peterborough service via the busway

Stagecoach has recently extended some of its guided busway services beyond Huntingdon to Peterborough, which would provide a cheaper, but much slower, alternative to the train for Cambridge-Peterborough journeys. It is the first time that the two cities have had been a direct bus link for many years, and will be run as an expriment. The service via the busway has been made possible by the delivery of brand-new buses, which meet the county council's specification for operating on the busway.

By comparison, on weekdays there are currently 17 direct trains daily from Peterborough to Cambridge leaving mostly at hourly intervals between 07:12 and 22:18. Although via a rather roundabout route through March and Ely, 12 of these trains take 50 minutes to make the journey and the others 1 to 8 minutes more. In all cases they are faster than the guided bus from just Huntingdon to Cambridge, never mind the full Peterborough to Cambridge journey.

Some of those new vehicles will be used to increase the frequency of its Cambridge-St Ives services to every seven or eight minutes. This will happen immediately but if bus patronage is not high enough then Stagecoach has warned that the service will revert to every 10 minutes.


Epping-Ongar Railway new extension takes trains closer to its goal of Epping station

Keywords: [EppingOngarRailway]

From Saturday 21st July the newly reopened Epping-Ongar Railway (billed as "London's Local Line") has extended its regular passenger services to just 1000 metres from the Central Line platform ends at Epping, within the ward of Epping Town. This stretch of track has not seen any passenger services since the London Underground service to Ongar closed in 1994.

The bridge at Epping can be seen from the of the temporary buffer stop, beyond which the third and fourth rails begin. This is as far as the trains can go until agreement is reached with London Undergound and Transport for London. Previously only its engineering trains ran to this point, with passenger trains terminating at Coopersale.

The railway hopes that it could construct a platform at this location to provide passengers with a walking route to the Central Line station. However, it hopes that this extension will spur on the local authority and Transport for London to create a dedicated platform for its trains at Epping station.




Snippets 231

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