Today in the chamber Baroness Ros Scott will ask the Government what plans it has for investment in the rail network in East Anglia. Despite being a powerhouse of growth, she writes here, it has seen a woeful lack of investment in its infrastructure
The East of England is one of only two regions to make a net contribution to the Exchequer and has, for some time, been a quiet powerhouse of economic growth.
Debates about connecting the English regions rarely focus on places like Norwich, Cambridge and Chelmsford. Nor is the contribution to the economy of London made by the tens of thousands who commute from the south of the region into London each day fully recognised. Since the main line to Norwich was electrified almost 40 years ago, there has been a woeful lack of investment in both track and rolling stock, and persistent problems with the franchise has made life difficult for the region and is hindering further growth.
The solution doesn’t lie in megabucks projects like High Speed 2. We need investment in unglamorous projects such as a passing point at Wickham Market to enable a better service to run in East Suffolk and unblock the bottleneck north of Ely. Felixstowe is now the fourth largest container port in the world and the owners are keen to run more containers out by rail, but are held back by the poor quality of parts of the line between the port and the West Midlands.
Ever since I got into local government in Suffolk in 1991, we have been campaigning for the re-opening of the East-West link between Cambridge and Oxford. Not, I hasten to add, anything to do with the ‘varsities, but because it links the East of England to the Midlands and South West without going through congested North London lines.
Finally, we need to watch out for the branch lines. They are essential for the prosperity of many of our smaller towns such as Harwich, Sudbury, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Many are well run community rail partnerships but are badly in need of modest investment.
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.