Those of us who travel by train - and we hope it's a substantial proportion
of Ipswich Society members - will be watching eagerly for further news of
the new Greater Anglia franchise. Only one company will operate trains in
the whole area instead of the present three - two of which, Anglia and First
Great Eastern, run trains through Ipswich.
It was a surprise when the Strategic Rail Authority ruled Great Eastern out
of the further bidding. Many people regard their commuter-style trains to
London as "cheap and cheerful". But if less comfortable than Inter-City type
trains, they do offer certain advantages. You can nearly always get a seat
to London because the trains start in Ipswich. And the Great Eastern
Off-Peak Day Travelcard not only allows all-zone travel in London on tube
and buses but can also be used on any return train, even in the rush hour.
It is greatly to be hoped that the new franchise won't remove these
advantages for those of us in Ipswich.
The owners of Great Eastern, FirstGroup, have been invited by the SRA to bid
for the Thames franchise which will eventually be merged into a Greater
Western franchise - much bigger than Greater Anglia. And the FirstGroup has
also been accepted as one of five bidders for the new Northern franchise.
Rumour has it that they conceded our franchise much against the wishes of
local management. An SRA spokesman said FirstGroup's application was
"appallingly weak". In the circumstances, Anglia Railways based in Ipswich
and with a good record of customer care would seem to be our best bet for
the future. But whoever wins the franchise, the outcome is important for the
continuing regeneration of Ipswich which is, as the Great Eastern Travelcard
recognises, within the London area of travel for day visitors, as well as
Cover, issue 152