New Hourly Service is a Boost for East Suffolk Line
The East Suffolk line between Ipswich and Lowestoft is thriving following the introduction of an hourly service by Greater Anglia last December. Passenger numbers are up by 12% on the same time last year, as the train has become a much more regular and convenient option for journeys along this key corridor.
In the past six months over 270,000 journeys have been made on the route, up from 243,000 in the same period for 2012.
The new era for the East Suffolk line has also heralded a wide-ranging programme of improvements for this important route. Performance has improved, with the Moving Annual Average punctuality over 90% for the first time in at least 14 years, with the efforts of both Greater Anglia and Network Rail combining to give a more consistent service, helped by the re-signalling project on the line, which was completed last year (including the installation of the Beccles Loop, with funding support from Suffolk County Council and without which an hourly service could not have been introduced).
In addition, a wider set of customer-focused enhancements has been delivered, often in partnership with stakeholders such as Suffolk County Council and the East Suffolk Community Rail Partnership. These include:
• New ticket vending machines to enable easy ticket purchase and collection at Beccles, Saxmundham and Woodbridge
• New bus links and ticketing between Halesworth and Southwold
• Station re-painting at all stations along the line
• Car park improvements at Melton and Wickham Market
• Introduction of print-at-home and mobile ticketing for a number of advance purchase tickets in use on the line
• A refurbishment programme for the two carriage Class 156 trains used on the line (three out of nine units completed)
• New carpets installed on the three carriage Class 170 trains used on the line
• A new platform, shelter and Customer Information Screens at Beccles
Looking forward, the company is continuing to work closely with Suffolk County Council, the East Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, the East Suffolk Travellers Association and Visit Suffolk to promote the line and encourage even more people to take the train. There are also plans for further station improvements and through ticketing on the connecting bus service between Halesworth and Southwold. Another step forward will be the completion of the new transport interchange at Lowestoft station in July, to make it easier for passengers arriving by bus, bicycle, car, taxi or on foot to travel to and from the station
Greater Anglia is also exploring the potential for new car park schemes at Darsham and Saxmundham, and supporting the community project in the station house at Wickham Market, with an option for a similar partnership at Saxmundham.
Commenting on this exciting new phase for the East Suffolk line, Jonathan Denby, Head of Corporate Affairs said:
"We're pleased to see that the new hourly service along the whole East Suffolk route is already having a positive impact. Only six months on and passenger numbers are up 12% year on year and over 60% on 2009/2010 - the last full year before the hourly service was introduced on the southern half of the route (Saxmundham - Ipswich).
“By working together with partners who share an interest in the success of the East Suffolk line, we are helping to create an exciting new phase in the history of the line with more services, better performance and better customer facilities. We're committed to making the Ipswich to Lowestoft route an even greater success and an even more valuable asset to the communities it serves, supporting tourism and the local economy."