A direct rail link between Ipswich, Norwich and Oxford would unlock £17.5bn for the East Anglian economy, according to a new report published by the East West Rail Consortium.
It says the link would boost economic output and create 120,000 jobs across East Anglia, connecting high value economies in key growth locations in Suffolk and Norfolk with those in places such as Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Oxford.
The report’s publication comes during a pivotal year for East West Rail, which will provide a strategic link connecting the east of the country with central, southern and western England. A public inquiry is currently being held ahead of construction of the scheme’s ‘Western Section’, linking Bedford with Oxford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury, while a consultation is underway on route options for the ‘Central Section’ between Cambridge and Bedford.
The Consortium’s Eastern Section Rail Prospectus calls for improved journey times and service frequencies from Ipswich and Norwich to Cambridge, and direct services to Oxford. It also calls for the line to allow for a direct freight link between Felixstowe and south west England.
Cllr Mark Shaw, Chairman of the East West Rail Consortium – a grouping of local authorities and local enterprise partnerships which includes councils across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership – said: “East West Rail will transform the economy and boost sustainable travel options across a large swathe of the country. The Eastern Section is an integral part of the overall scheme and I’d like to congratulate my colleagues in the Consortium’s Eastern Section Group for producing what is an incredibly powerful case for investment.”
A direct rail link from Ipswich and Norwich to Oxford via Cambridge would connect key industries across the region, for example in the research and development sector – in particular Adastral Park, Norwich Research Park, and the Norfolk – Cambridge Tech Corridor.
Cllr Alexander Nicoll, Suffolk County Councillor and Chair of the East West Rail Eastern Section Group said: “It is important that residents and businesses in Suffolk and Norfolk are able to benefit from a direct rail service between Cambridge and Oxford. This new rail link presents a significant opportunity for our counties to be more accessible to investors and to grow our economies. Improved rail connectivity will also help to reduce the number of road vehicles travelling to Cambridge and beyond, as well as provide an additional freight route from our region. East West Rail complements other rail schemes in Suffolk and Norfolk, for example better services to London and to the North via Peterborough.”
Cllr Philip Smart, Ipswich Borough Councillor and Deputy Chair of the East West Rail Eastern Section Group said: “The lines between Suffolk and Norfolk to Cambridge already exist, but they are not fit for purpose. We need to improve passenger service frequency and journey times to Cambridge and Oxford. Investment in these existing lines should be an easy win to unlock growth and create attractive new rail opportunities to better serve our economies and industries. As part of the East West Rail Consortium, we will be working as one to drive forward the rail needs of the Eastern Section, ensuring that the East is able to benefit and support the rail link from Cambridge to Oxford and beyond.”