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Reader Letter: Rail axe is bad news for city

PUBLISHED: 12:05 12 June 2018

A Greater Anglia train arriving at Norwich Train Station. Picture: Ian Burt

A Greater Anglia train arriving at Norwich Train Station. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

One reader worries that losing express trains from a number of big cities will have a negative impact on Norwich. Do you agree?

As we feared, the Franchising Director has decided to withdraw the hourly express trains from Liverpool, Manchester and probably Sheffield to Norwich from December 2021. Replacement services will link Nottingham, Peterborough, Ely, Thetford and Norwich. Most of their passengers will probably be students, migrant workers, day-trippers and people visiting friends and relatives. But they should be capable of attracting business and professional travel if they are highly reliable and if journey times stay below 160 minutes. The specification seems to rule out any nasty service gaps at the normal conference, interview and meeting times.

In recent years, passengers travelling across country from Norwich have had bright, clean and comfortable trains with decent customer service, half of which now comply with the latest disability regulations. Some passengers have paid advance fares with reserved seats. The Franchising Director is sensibly requiring wi-fi and the best possible mobile phone connectivity in future, while recognising the need to retain a “visible, helpful, proactive customer facing presence on trains.”

Losing express trains from three of England’s biggest cities is not good news for Norwich tourism nor for the city’s universities. It is particularly bad news for passengers — some elderly — with strong family ties to the cities or places beyond. So I think that we in Norfolk need to impress on the three franchise bidders the importance of securing the most seamless, stress-free and affordable “big city” journeys possible when the axe falls. If they can secure train paths, bidders are being invited to propose keeping some through services from and to Sheffield.

There is some positive news, with more and earlier Sunday services together with a later weekday train to Nottingham and the intention to reward or penalise the operator for passenger satisfaction scores.

Do you agree with our reader? Let us know in the comments below or write to us at edpletters@archant.co.uk

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