New trains might not be enough to cut journey times - ‘Four-way track needed,’ says MP

NEW trains have been hailed as a “dramatic improvement” but business leaders and an MP want to go one step further and will lobby for a high-speed four-way rail track.

Commuters will welcome the arrival of faster, four-carriage, Electrostar 379 trains this Spring, and after a test run down a stretch of the West Anglia Line this week there is relief following decades stuck in the waiting room.

Newport Business Association founder Jeremy Rose and Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst have both urged National Express East Anglia (NEEA) to carry on upgrading facilities so commuting times can tumble.

Mr Rose headed a team that took control of Newport Station late last year: “Over the next four years we will carry on lobbying. We need new track so that we can get the maximum use out of the rolling stock. It is great that we have the new trains but the work does not stop here.”

Despite the trains being quicker in acceleration and braking it is anticipated that journey times will only start to fall if the track capacity is doubled from two to four to allow trains to pass each other.

“Go back 40 years and journey times were 45 minutes, now they are 50 minutes,” said Mr Rose. “Business in an area is based around its transport links and if they improve, everything else does with it.”

In December 2010 NEEA managing director Andrew Chivers announced that the new trains, which had been initially earmarked to serve Stansted Airport only, would be coming to the Cambridge to Liverpool Street route.

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He said: “Journey times will be improved because this train can catch up if the service falls behind.”

Overall 10 trains will serve stations in Audley End, Newport, Great Chesterford, Stansted, and Elsenham whereas 20 will provide a Stansted Airport service.

Sir Alan said that although the trains are a welcome addition there will only be a peak time service: “I’m hoping we get trains throughout the day and they don’t just sit in the sidings,” he said. “But we really need to push NEEA as they are currently planning for 2014/19. At the moment they have too many options and we need to focus on one and urge them to deliver a four-track system.”

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