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East Midlands plans to stop direct Norwich-Liverpool route ‘an insult’, says councillor

PUBLISHED: 09:57 08 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:57 08 June 2018

An East Midlands train. Picture: Archant Library

An East Midlands train. Picture: Archant Library

Archant

Plans by the government to split the Norwich to Liverpool direct train link into two separate journeys has been described as ‘an insult’ by the chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development, and transport committee.

Martin Wilby, who is the chairman of the committee, made the comments after the Department for Transport signalled it intended to break up the Norwich-Liverpool service at Nottingham when the next East Midlands rail franchise is awarded.

The DfT wants the East Midlands franchise to operate from Norwich to Nottingham, while the second stretch would be run by either TransPennine Express or Northern.

That would mean around 300 passengers a day would have to change trains, but council leaders in Norfolk said it also sent completely the wrong message about the importance of good connections to Norfolk.

Mr Wilby said: “It is a bit of an insult. We had very strong feelings about this and lots of support. I feel very let down and I am really disappointed. We need better infrastructure here in Norfolk.”

“We are not going to roll over and accept this. We will be following it up.”

Last month Mr Wilby wrote directly to transport secretary Chris Grayling urging him not to threaten the county’s economy by allowing his department to propose splitting the service.

Richard Clinnick, editor of Rail magazine was similarly disappointed at the decision and said the move would likely lead to passengers abandoning East Midlands trains in favour of Greater Anglia services.

He said: ”I’d like to see how many people switch to Greater Anglia from Midlands.

“Anglia are bringing new trains in whereas Midlands don’t even have a plug socket, just a USB socket. These are things that people want out of a train service.”

The proposal, which is outlined in the briefing document produced by the govermment for companies wanting to bid to run the East Midlands rail franchise notes that the Department for Transport was looking to push ahead with the split, despite the fact that 65pc of those involved in the consultation were not in favour of its implementation.

Mr Clinnick said: “What’s the point in the consultation if you’re going to go ahead with the plans anyway?”

The change in service is due to take place in December 2021, which the company say will help train users deal with the transition to the new service.

While Norfolk stands to lose its direct link, the DfT says the changes would mean more capacity on the Liverpool to Nottingham section of the service, where there is often overcrowding.

The latest announcement comes at a time when Mr Grayling has faced calls to stand down over his handling of new train timetables.

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