Rail taskforce says investment could deliver £9.3bn in economic benefits

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A rail taskforce has called on the Government to invest £660m in our region’s network and estimated the economic benefit to the area at £9.3bn.

Improvements to the rail infrastructure in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex would not only reduce journey times, but are pivotal for its future economic growth, according to the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) Rail Taskforce.

A letter highlighting the area’s importance to UK Plc and calling for a planned programme of investment has today (Monday 4 January) been sent to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

The Strategic Outline Business Case has been developed and financed by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the county councils in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and the proposed package of improvements could create 5,100 new jobs in Norwich, 5,400 in Ipswich, 10,000 in Colchester, 8,400 in Chelmsford and 3,700 in Southend.

In the autumn, a finalised business case will be submitted on the basis that funding is approved for Network Rail to progress the gap analysis work.

Giles Watling MP, Chair of the Taskforce, said in the letter: “Investing in the Great Eastern Main Line not only brings significant benefits to our region through the creation of new jobs, development land for homes, and provides more opportunities for our residents, but it also supports national productivity and unlocks further funding for Government to invest across the UK.”

Our region’s ports, airports and other vital transport infrastructure have been highlighted to Government, along with its position at the heart of the energy industry and at the cutting edge of digital innovation and agri-food.

The population across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex is meanwhile set to rise dramatically, with around 320,000 new homes planned between 2016 and 2036, including the creation of ‘garden communities.’ Of these properties, 80,000 will be within a 15-mile radius of the GEML, representing a significant population increase.

However, the Taskforce has told Government that future growth “depends on our region being mobile and accessible and fundamental to this is the quality and reliability of the GEML”.

Mr Watling said recent evidence showed there was “a strong and compelling case that investment in the GEML could generate up to £9.3bn in economic benefits across the region,” once wider population concentrations and productivity benefits had been included.

He said: “The financial benefit of journey time savings is estimated at £6m annually. Over a 30-year period, journey time savings would equate to a total of £179m.

“The total investment cost is estimated to be in the region of £660m, with the Summary Business Case showing a benefit to cost ratio of 5.6 – which represents very high value for money and generating £5.60 of economic benefits for every pound of investment.”

New Anglia LEP launched the Great Eastern Rail Campaign in 2014 to deliver the high-quality rail service commuters and businesses deserve, and it has successfully lobbied for a new fleet of carriages, reduced journey times and at least four 90-minute services between London and Norwich each weekday and two 60-minute services per day between London and Ipswich.

You can read the full letter here

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