Join the Norwich in 90 campaign
Kim BriscoeToday the Evening News adds its support to the Norwich in 90 campaign and is calling on readers to sign the petition and create a clamour for improvements that is so loud it cannot be ignored.Sign the petition onlineKim Briscoe
Today the Evening News adds its support to the Norwich in 90 campaign and is calling on readers to sign the petition and create a clamour for improvements that is so loud it cannot be ignored.
Currently the 115-mile journey from London to Norwich takes around 1hr 50mins. Birmingham is similar in distance (118 miles) but can be reached from London in only 1hr 23mins, while trains can cover the 180 miles to York in only nine minutes longer (1hr 59mins) than it take to get to Norwich.
Reporter Kim Briscoe looked at the reasons why people in Norwich and Norfolk should get behind the campaign.
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A faster and more reliable train service that is equipped to deal with the needs of businesses and commuters would go a long way to attracting more investment in Norwich and Norfolk.
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Steve Morphew, Norwich City Council leader, said there was a psychological barrier among members of the business community to travelling for longer than 90 minutes and reducing the Norwich to London trains would make the city more attractive.
He added that Norwich is the largest economy in the East of England and the region itself was one of only two regions outside London which actually contributed to the exchequer.
He said: 'The country needs us to prosper. This campaign has put down a marker saying that we have been underinvested in on this side of the region and it's about time that we had investment that is proportionate to both our current economic contribution to the economy and which will help us fulfil our potential for the future.'
Adrian Gunson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: 'The importance of a better train service to the economy of Norfolk cannot be overestimated. Jobs do depend on good rail communications and we want people to believe that Norfolk is near at hand and not remote.'
Guy Gowing, managing partner of Norwich-based chartered surveyors Arnolds, said: 'The rail service from Norwich to London has been unreliable for far too long. Norwich is an important regional centre and major employers, such as Aviva, Virgin Money and Targetfollow need a reliable, efficient, swift and regular service to London. The current service has fallen short in recent years and this is detrimental to the prospects for employers to continue investing in the city.'
The government wants the Greater Norwich area to provide 37,000 extra homes and 27,000 jobs by 2026.
The team behind the Norwich in 90 campaign argue this makes it even more important to ensure that the city's rail links are improved.
Barry Dennis, business and media advisor and president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'If Norwich is to achieve all the targets it has been set in terms of new houses and jobs then we must have a rail network that is fit for purpose.
'That and, hopefully, the dualling of the remainder of the A11 will help us shake off the perception that Norfolk is a backwater.'
Brian Morrey, Norwich City Council's executive member for sustainable city development, said: 'Greater Norwich is the highest growth area in the East of England for houses and jobs. Having good infrastructure and rail connections is vital. Public transport is vital for the wellbeing of the whole area.'
If the government is serious about cutting carbon emissions then better, and in particular cheaper, trains are needed to entice motorists away from the roads in favour of railways.
Councillor Morphew said: 'Everybody knows that the road network for Norwich and Norfolk isn't particularly good. While we are looking for appropriate upgrades, what we don't want is to become a motorway city.
'We need to keep a balanced, integrated transport system and to try to make sure we don't finish up needing to spend vast sums of money scarring the countryside with unnecessary roads. Better trains are necessary but they are also good for the economy and environment.'
Green politicians believe the answer is in renationalising the rail service.
Adrian Ramsay, leader of the Green Party on Norwich City Council, said: 'We desperately a need a cheaper and more efficient train service to London. Norwich Greens have been pressing the government to renationalise the rail services so as to ensure that investment goes in to improving services rather than contributing to private profits.'
More comfortable and faster trains would make Norwich a 'very credible day-trip destination', according to the county's tourism industry.
Ian Hacon, chief executive of Blue Sky Leisure and a board member of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said better public transport would make Norfolk a viable alternative for people eschewing foreign holidays in favour of 'holidaying here'.
He said: 'For Norfolk to be able to compete on a level playing field with other tourism destinations in the UK it needs a fast and reliable transport infrastructure. The rail link to London is one of the key components of this infrastructure.
'As more and more consumers are choosing to holiday in the UK, we need to support this with a sustainable transport option that is also convenient, clean and reliable.'
Norwich and Norfolk have a reputation for being 'out on a limb' and for taking hours to reach by any form of transport. Cutting train times would help to address the poor perception the rest of the country has about the city and county.
Antony Little, leader of the Conservative group on Norwich City Council, said: 'I think we do have that reputation as a backwater and it's very important to turn that around.
'Businesses relocating to Norwich have never looked back because of the skills our workers have, the high standard of living and the business facilities.
'The trouble is getting businesses in to Norwich in the first place.
'If you can pop on the train at Liverpool Street, travel in comfort with wi-fi and be in the heart of Norwich in 90 minutes then that would make a big difference on their decision to relocate.'
The campaign is hoping to achieve:
t A 90-minute journey time between Norwich and London
t More reliable services
t New spacious, clean and comfortable Inter-City style trains, with a wi-fi service
t More train capacity to overcome peak hour crowding, particularly at the southern end of the route
t Improvements at stations, including better car parking and high quality on-station facilities
t A franchise that is longer than 10 years in order to secure the levels of investment needed
We are urging people to sign the online petition at www.gopetition.com/petitions/norwich-in-ninety.html
Here is what people signing up to petition are saying:
It has been said that Norfolk is cut off on three sides by sea, and the forth side by British Rail.
Philip Linnell, Norwich
Peterborough to London: 43 minutes
Norwich to London: 2 hours! Sort it out!
Andrew Christmas, Norwich
I couldn't agree more. The train service to London is disgraceful. Travelled to Bristol recently on an older unit of rolling stock which was cleaner, more comfortable, and punctual!
Joe Farrow, Norwich.
We seem to be the worst served city in the world. A good train service to London would greatly help business and tourism and local people.
Robert Beadle, Cantley.
Network Rail are not fit for purpose. They have spent a decade closing the line at weekends, at great inconvenience to passengers: no improvement in journey time has resulted. They claim to be 'improving' the line, in fact they are engaged in routine maintenance, badly planned & inefficiently executed. Time for the govt. to bring this arrogant & wasteful & company to account.
Trevor Harding, London.
As an experienced train traveller throughout the UK the line to Norwich is only rivalled for uselessness by the line form Manchester to the South-West. As a Norwich fan, travel to games has to start at approx 9am from London as you can't trust the unreliable trains to be on time if you get a later one. That's awful. Please update these lines asap.
Edward Hind, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
It has been too easy for train operators to lengthen journey times so that they are able to achieve a higher punctuality level for their services. That train operators can do this without raising DfT objection leaves us, the general public, having to resort to supporting a petition to have the practice stopped. The DfT should have in place a strict regime that will ensure, year-on-year, continuous improvement to quality of service is realised; � value to the tax-payer is only part of the equation.
Anthony Cornell, Hoveton.
Business opportunities in London would be easier to compete on as I would be less likely to need overnight accommodation.
Margaret Burnside, Wicklewood.
After spending 11 years getting on and off replacement buses and being delayed, I would like to see major improvements to this important line.
People in East Anglia deserve to have a good train service to and from London and to have their region boosted by business and tourism.
Catherine Morris, Diss.
I have been quite dismayed by the service since moving to Norfolk three years ago, at least 50pc of my trips to London have experienced a delay either going there or coming back. Friends visiting us for the weekend have had even worse service.
Gavin Farmer, Hingham.
Public transport in East Anglia is an absolute disgrace and the Norwich to London train line has to be one of the first places to start making improvements. Not having engineering works every single Sunday would be a start.
Alex McBurnie, Ipswich.
For many years now, journeys on Sundays have involved a bus journey on this line, which still charges a full fare.
David Powell, Norwich.
Wi-fi is great but the line also needs a stronger mobile phone signal. There are too many "black holes" between Norwich and London. This wasn't shown as a problem in the MBA research, but it would make business life more manageable on board.
Anthony Denny, Norwich.