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No Haverhill rail link in county's 'step-change' aspirations

Monday, 3rd December 2012.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet will next week agree its aspirations for the county's rail network over the next 20 years, the Suffolk Rail Prospectus, to tell Government what is needed now and in the future.

The only mentions of Haverhill in the entire prospectus concern a possible rail-bus link to Cambridge station which, the report says, is 'in fairly close proximity'.

The prospectus, being put to cabinet on Tuesday, December 11, will outline what the county considers to be 'necessary improvements' to the rail network in Suffolk.

Just the summary of the prospectus contains 69 recommendations, which include:
*A requirement in the next Greater Anglia rail franchise for an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough.
*A requirement for completely refurbished or new inter-city rolling stock early in the new franchise.

If the cabinet agrees to endorse this Suffolk Rail Prospectus, the county council will then proceed in seeking further endorsement from the Local Enterprise Partnership Transport Forum.

Cllr Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads and transport, said: “Rail has a vital and growing part to play in Suffolk’s sustainable development by linking growing towns to London and other important regional markets including Norwich, Colchester, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge.

“Suffolk Rail Prospectus sets out to government what Suffolk needs now and in the future. If the county is to continue to grow economically there must be a strong rail infrastructure in support.”

A full version of the cabinet report and the Suffolk Rail Prospectus is available via: http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/searchResult.aspx?qry=c_committee~~The%20Cabinet

But if you can't be bothered to wade through all the grand requests it contains for virtually everywhere except Haverhill, this is the only section of real local interest:-

'There are a number of market towns in Suffolk that do not have direct access to rail services, and have sporadic public transport links to other towns that do. Examples include Haverhill, Mildenhall, Hadleigh, Aldeburgh, Leiston and Southwold.

'Because of the current financial climate, many of the areas in the vicinity of the towns above do not have access to regular bus services to a rail station.

'The buses that do run are often slow and have to stop at a lot of destinations meaning that journey times are often unpredictable.

'Demand-responsive transport services are available across rural Suffolk but are not often used to get people to a railway station for the same reasons.

'One possible solution could be a rail-bus link, which would provide an express service between railway stations and these market towns. The vehicle would, ideally, be of appropriate comfort for a rail passenger, who would be able to purchase their rail ticket on the bus.

'The service would be a commercial venture funded by the train-operating company. Suffolk County Council will conduct further research into ideas like this for towns such as Haverhill, which is in fairly close proximity to Cambridge station.'

There is no mention of the existence of a campaign to renew the railway link between Cambridge and Colchester through Haverhill, even in the section entitled 'A Longer Term Aspiration - The East-West Rail Link'.

Yet the prospectus has been put together 'following an intense period of stakeholder and public consultation culminating in the Suffolk Rail Conference on October 26, 2012'.

It would be submitted to the Department for Transport 'so that Suffolk’s requirements can be understood by Government when planning for future rail infrastructure investment and franchise specification'.

In his introduction to the prospectus, Cllr McGregor writes: "Suffolk County Council wants the Government to be fully aware of what Suffolk rail passengers and businesses need from the rail industry to support Suffolk’s economic development and growth.

"We have a rare opportunity to achieve a step-change in rail improvements. This prospects sets out the case for the improvements that the county needs."

The report which accompanies it to cabinet says councillors need to consider 'whether the prospectus is sufficiently ambitious and realistic in its aim of supporting economic growth in Suffolk'.

It adds: "Rail investment decisions are made by central Government. If Government does not support the improvements set out in the prospectus there may be a risk to future economic development in Suffolk."

Haverhill Online News

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