Transport secretary backs better trains

Tara GreavesA campaign for a better rail service between Norwich and London won the backing of transport secretary Lord Adonis yesterday after he travelled the route.Tara Greaves

A campaign for a better rail service between Norwich and London won the backing of transport secretary Lord Adonis yesterday after he travelled the route.

Using a two week rover ticket, Andrew Adonis took the train from London to hit the campaign trail in the city and also Lowestoft.

During the journey, he lent his support to plans by the Norwich in 90 campaign, co-ordinated by economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, and said if Labour is victorious following Thursday's general election he would continue to back improvements.

'I'd like to see the journey time reduced. The prospectus for the new franchise asks the companies bidding to set out plans to run faster services and, if I am still transport secretary, I would like to see the journey time cut. It is actually slower than it was after electrification,' he said.

Plans have been submitted to the Department for Transport by campaigners detailing a vision to improve railway lines in East Anglia, including a 90 minute journey time from Norwich to London.

Lord Adonis also pledged that the vital dualling of the final stretch of the A11 will be completed if Labour returns to power, despite predicted spending cuts - and work could still start this year.

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'Subject to the completion of the planning process, we will fund the dualling of the A11 - that's a firm commitment,' he said, speaking while on a train to Lowestoft before heading to Norwich to support candidates.

The A11 became an early election issue after it emerged that a decision on the vital road scheme will not be made until after May 6, leaving campaigners frustrated as once again the plans were put on hold.

The secretary of state has yet to receive the report of planning inspector Neil Taylor who oversaw the A11 public inquiry.

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged their support for the dualling and Stephen Gordon, the party's candidate for South West Norfolk, said yesterday: 'It's top of my list. It's got to be completed, absolutely. It's ridiculous that is hasn't been completed up to now.'

Richard Bacon, Conservative candidate for south Norfolk, said his party supported the scheme but added: 'Everyone knows the country is in huge financial difficulty and struggling not only to fund road schemes but also nurses' wages. We will have to wait and see what the inspector says.'

Andrew Boswell, Green candidate for north Norfolk, said: 'Essentially we feel it is very expensive, more than �100m, and that money would be better spent in getting rail links to London secured and to improve public transport generally in the area.'

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