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Newsletter, July 2003 (Issue 152)

Not Full Steam Ahead Yet!

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 for commuters.

    Front cover of issue 152 Cover, issue 152

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