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Government commits to West Anglia feasibility study

Transport minister John Hayes MP has committed to a full feasibility study into the West Anglia route, saying that it was a “perfectly reasonable request”. 

Representatives of the LSCC (London Stansted Cambridge Corridor Consortium) were concerned at what they saw as the unambitious proposals in Network Rail’s draft Anglia Route Study, and Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst raised the matter in the Commons.

Hayes has agreed to listen to their concerns, which the campaigners hope means that better rail links to Stansted Airport could be more likely. 

Last month, Network Rail outlined the infrastructure upgrades it could carry out from CP6 on the Anglia route to accommodate the huge growth in demand from passengers and freight over the next 30 years. The draft Anglia route study considered the main lines from London Liverpool Street to Norwich and Cambridge and their respective branch lines, as well as the lines from London Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness and Felixstowe to Peterborough via Ely. 

However, the LSCC said the study failed to take account of the substantial projected population growth, and the rapid growth of Stansted Airport, which has seen nearly 1.5 million extra passengers in the last year. 

The consultation on the draft Anglia Route Study is open until February 3 2015. But during last week’s House of Commons debate, Hayes said: “We will set out options for upgrades until 2043, including the option for four-tracking the West Anglia main line, Crossrail 2 and increased services to and from Stansted airport. 

“It seems inevitable to me that, ultimately, we will need to greatly increase the capacity of the line to keep pace with growing demand. Again, all responses to Network Rail’s consultation, which ends on 3 February next year, and all views on the longer-term funding priorities are very much encouraged.” 

As well as discussing the railway improvements, Sir Alan also raised questions about rolling stock. “It [Abellio] announced a whole series of measures to help the passenger experience across its whole network. The one item directed towards the West Anglia line is what it is pleased to call a ‘refresh’ for 24 Class 317/6 trains,” he said. “What does the word ‘refresh’ conjure up?” 

In response, Hayes stated that the “improvements that we make to rolling stock are tied to the acquisition of new stock”. 

However, he added: “We cannot pre-judge exactly where that stock will come from, but we certainly do not want what we have to be made worse. To put that another way, we cannot miss the opportunity to make what we have better. I certainly want the acquisition of the new rolling stock to be of the right order so that the quality of service that people enjoy is enhanced”. 

LSCC chairman Greg Clark welcomed the news on the rolling stock and feasibility study. He said: “The commitment to the full feasibility study is an important announcement from the minister that could bring tens of thousands of jobs to the West Anglia corridor, as well as boosting the high-tech community and unlocking new housing. 

“Our members will enthusiastically take up the minister’s offer of a meeting at the Department to take this vital work forwards. Together, we can provide a credible plan for investment in the West Anglia rail corridor, deliver faster, more frequent, more reliable and better connected services and respond to population growth by supporting delivery of jobs and homes.” 

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