ESTA’s Chairman has written to Greater Anglia and Network Rail managers about the disruption to services in the first half of December. In the short term we want to see improvements to passenger information and service reliability, while appreciating that in some case alternative arrangements were put in place. In the longer term we urge that a full inquiry be undertaken into what went wrong and how it could have been avoided. Please check our website for further updates.
By the end of November the majority of the Swiss manufactured Stadler trains destined for use on the East Suffolk Line (ESL) had been delivered to Greater Anglia and are now running along the line. They are also increasingly being used on the Lowestoft/Norwich line with good passenger feedback. One of the 10 car units has also been tested on the Norwich/London service.
Sunday service on the ESL became hourly from the 15th December when the winter timetable came into force. This will be most welcome and should ease overcrowding and make the weekend journey a more attractive proposition for passengers. Forty years ago there were just three trains on a winter Sunday so this is a major improvement! There has been an hourly Sunday service in summer on the Norwich/Lowestoft line now for three years.
One Stop Stansted Airport is becoming a reality for the Lowestoft area as most Norwich to Cambridge trains are now being extended to the airport. This should be a real improvement for air travellers from the east of our region.
Our Bus and Train Survey was well supported this year with 165 responses, a bit up on the previous year. Surprisingly 19% of surveyed trains arrived early in October, 46% were on time and 35% were late. Just one of the 110 journeys reported on was cancelled: nearly all connections were reported as being made. A majority of passengers walked to the station, 17% came by car and 12% connected from another train. It is slightly worrying to see that 17% reported that they did not have their fares collected or tickets checked on board: however there are now more available ticket machines at our stations and this probably explains the doubling of tickets bought this way (26%): 19% used the ticket offices at Lowestoft or Ipswich. Those travelling by bus reported that 42% arrived on time and for those that were late the average delay was under five minutes. There was continued criticism of some bus stops as many now lacked timetables: drivers in general were found to be courteous and helpful.
Other Bus News: despite our efforts to save them, services 62 and 108 were withdrawn in early November. We have repeated our recommendation for a traffic island outside Pontins at Pakefield to make it safer for travellers crossing the A12 to access the northbound bus stop but so far no action has been taken. We have also urged SCC to provide funding to restore free travel to pass holders on DRT services. The lack of provision of timetables at bus stops is becoming a real problem: if no one else is doing it, ESTA may print off information from the web and post it at certain stops. Again we have asked that thought be given to bus passengers coming to Ipswich Hospital and using the bus stop in Woodbridge Road – to improve the footway link and update bus travellers’ requirements when planning for the new buildings and hospital layout.
Saxmundham Station plans were agreed at the ESC planning meeting in early October: it is to be rebuilt as a single storey station with a pitched roof and the canopy will be retained. There will be a waiting room and store room though this is unlikely to be needed for more than 12 months after which it could be made available to rent for business purposes. The work is expected to be carried out in stages during 2020: the down platform and car park will also have improvements made at the same time.
New ESTA Station boards have been erected at Westerfield, Somerleyton, Halesworth and Haddiscoe: this latter we are sharing with our colleagues on the Lowestoft/Reedham line (www.entua.org.uk).
Next ESTA public meeting will be on Saturday 15th February 2020 at Quay Street Church in Woodbridge starting at 2pm. We shall have reports and discussion on local public transport services: our guest speaker will be Claire Kendall the Community Rail Partnership officer for the East Suffolk Lines.
New Year’s Day will see trains operating to Lowestoft and from there a special bus service operates to and from the East Anglia Transport Museum.
Christmas and New Year greetings to all our readers.
Find out more about our work via www.eastsuffolktravel.org.uk