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Council keen to secure rail improvement funds

PUBLISHED: 10:22 27 September 2010 | UPDATED: 10:38 27 September 2010

Support for rail improvements in east Suffolk have been protected from cuts at Suffolk County Council.

But the councillor with responsibility for transport urged MPs whose constituencies would be affected to lobby the government to ensure that Network Rail has the money to carry out the work.

Installing a loop at Beccles would allow an hourly service on the East Suffolk line all the way between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

If the loop is installed at the same time as the line is resignalled in two years’ time it will cost about £4m.

Network Rail has said it would contribute three-quarters of the cost, but £1m will have to come from local sources. The county council is prepared to underwrite this £1m - and hopes to get contributions from local businesses - but the Network Rail contribution is dependent on the Treasury allowing the money to be spent when its comprehensive spending review is published at the end of next month.

In a reply, at last week’s council meeting, county transport spokesman Guy McGregor told Beccles councillor Chris Punt that Suffolk remained committed to the Beccles loop.

Speaking later Mr McGregor said: “Everyone knows we are facing difficult times, but the Beccles loop is vital for transport in the east of Suffolk.

“We are committed do doing all we can to ensure that goes ahead as part of the resignalling project. Now it is up to the area’s MPs to press the case with the ministers.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he and his Suffolk Coastal colleague had been keeping the pressure up on ministers since they were elected in May.

He added: “I have been speaking to companies who want to invest in Lowestoft and they say it is vital there is a good rail service for their staff. We shall certainly keep up the fight on this. It makes so much sense to complete the work at the same time as the resignalling.”

Rail operator National Express plans to introduce an hourly service between Ipswich and Saxmundham in December, but the service to Lowestoft will have to remain two-hourly until the loop is installed because there is only a single line between Halesworth and Oulton Broad.

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