Aviva backs Norwich in 90 campaign

Shaun LowthorpeThe campaign for a better rail service for Norwich has stepped up a gear after winning the support of the city's biggest firm.Shaun Lowthorpe

The campaign for a better rail service for Norwich has stepped up a gear after winning the support of the city's biggest firm.

Insurance giant Aviva said rail serve a vital role in connecting its staff with its customers, suppliers and parts of its business.

The Norwich in 90 campaign, coordinated by economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, is calling for a 90 minute journey time between Norwich and London and the introduction of new Inter-city style trains as part of the new Greater Anglia rail franchise.

The Evening News is also supporting the campaign and urging readers to add their support to improve the prospects of our fine city.

Mark Hodges, Aviva UK chief executive, said the firm spends more than �500,000 a year in train fares on the Norwich to London line alone and a speedy modern service was vital.

'Over recent years, our use of rail has increased, particularly as part of our corporate responsibility programme,' Mr Hodges said. 'We intend to become carbon neutral across the global business and travel forms a key part of this as well as use of conference call facilities where appropriate.

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'In particular, we are a major user of the Norwich - London line connecting our business hubs in both locations where we employ approximately 8,000 people, including 6,000 in Norwich.

'Our staff who make these journeys are generally working longer days - therefore, we need the trains to be both punctual and reliable and feel that the journey time can be reduced.

'A journey time of 90 minutes for the main commuter trains would reduce our staff's working day and improve their work/life balance. After all, a missed or disrupted meeting due to a late train is both inconvenient and frustrating to all concerned.'

Mr Hodges, who is also chairman of Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: 'Having a high quality intercity service with clean, comfortable and Wi-fi enabled trains would mean our staff could utilise their travelling time more efficiently and effectively by being able to work 'online' in a more productive environment. This would not only benefit Aviva, but also fellow passengers through less mobile phone usage.'

Aviva joins dozens of other organisations who are backing the campaign including Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors.

More than 2,500 people have signed a petition supporting the Norwich in 90 campaign.

The campaign enters a crucial stage on Monday (19) when Norwich in 90's response to the Department for Transport's consultation on the new Greater Anglia franchise will be submitted.

Mike Burrows, Shaping Norfolk's Future deputy chairman, said: 'We are delighted to have the support of Norfolk's biggest business. An improved rail service is crucial to boosting the economy of Norfolk, ensuring that businesses based here remain competitive.'

To sign the online version of the petition log on to www.gopetition.com/petitions/norwich-in-ninety