The group, which will include local politicians, Department for Transport (DfT) officials, and representatives of infrastructure manager Network Rail will look at options for reducing the London – Ipswich – Norwich journey time to 1h 30min, compared with 1h 44min for the fastest trains at present.
At present capacity on the route is constrained by a number of factors. Inter-city passenger services share the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) with high levels of intermodal freight traffic to and from the port of Felixstowe, and intensive commuter services into London at the southern end of the route. Much of the line is double track with few loops for freight. Construction is underway on a new 1.1km chord at Ipswich which will allow freight trains from Felixstowe to northern England to run via Peterborough and bypass the southern section of the GEML. Improvements are also planned at Bow Junction to improve access to London Liverpool Street station.
The current Greater Anglia franchise is due to expire in March 2016 and the new franchise is likely to include provision for new or refurbished rolling stock on the London – Norwich route to replace the class 90 locomotives and Mk 3 coaches used on these services, which date from the 1980s. It is also likely that the DfT will require bidders to demonstrate how they would to work more closely with Network Rail to deliver joint projects.