MPs meet to discuss Beccles rail plans

THREE MPs for the area met the government’s minister for transport Theresa Villiers this week to discuss investment in the rail service for east Suffolk. This included the recent pledge to create the long-called-for Beccles Loop.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich; Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney; and Dr Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, stressed how essential the loop is to ensure both capacity and frequency of trains can be improved between Lowestoft and London.

All the MPs said there was a need for a greater sense of corporate responsibility from train companies to the communities and passengers of East Suffolk. Peter Aldous also highlighted the forthcoming franchise agreement as an opportunity to improve the quality of the stations at Beccles and Lowestoft.

Mr Aldous said after the meeting: “With the anticipated building of the new wind farm off the Lowestoft coast, investment in the East Suffolk mainline is vital in developing a thriving green economy for Lowestoft. Improved rail access will undoubtedly help attract significantly higher visitor numbers to key events such as the Lowestoft Air Show and the Latitude Festival, which in turn will boost the tourist economy.”

Dr Poulter added: “This is fantastic news for tourism in Suffolk, and for those who live and work here. Recent government investment in transport infrastructure has been primarily in roads and this has been heavily focused on the western side of the county, but improved rail services in East Suffolk are vital. Rail travel offers a convenient and greener alternative to road travel. The single most important piece of the transport jigsaw for central and eastern Suffolk is to ensure a regular and reliable direct train service from Lowestoft to London, via Ipswich.”

Dr Coffey said: “I am absolutely delighted that the county council is also committed to this project. We now need to ensure that building work gets under way as soon as possible.”

She added: “The challenge for government is also to deliver a rail service that is more responsive to the needs of passengers, and we are looking to the rail companies to show a greater sense of corporate responsibility.”

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The minister reassured the Suffolk MPs of the government’s firm commitment to maintaining and improving the line, and reaffirmed that she will continue to press Network Rail to ensure the stations on the line are upgraded to a suitable level.

She also agreed that, in return for a longer franchise agreement, rail companies needed to be more responsive to the needs of passenger groups and businesses in eastern Suffolk, and confirmed she will be in contact with Suffolk County Council regarding the additional �1m funding they have agreed to contribute towards the project.