The Greater Anglia franchise involves the operation of all the main line, commuter and local passenger services in East Anglia. Following the withdrawal by the Department of Transport from National Express, Abellio has been selected to operate the franchise for the remaining 29 months of the period, commencing on 5 February 2012.
If the performance is good, Abellio should be a strong contender for the next contract commencing in 2015 and expected to be for a period of at least 15 years, which is longer than the 7 to 10 years previously, one objective being to encourage more investment by the operator. Abellio was formed to acquire and operate the railways in the Netherlands. The company already is a joint operator of the Merseyrail and Northernrail franchises and also bus services including some in London.
There are limitations to the improvements which Abellio can achieve in the short term on the service on the London to Norwich main line. Some of the problems are not the responsibility of the train operator but result from under capital investment in the infrastructure over many years. The rolling stock is provided by the train operator and at present involves the use of locomotives more than 20 years old and coaches more than 30 years old. In the case of infrastructure one problem has been failures in the electric overhead wiring system. Another is the limitation in capacity for the large number of passenger and freight trains between Colchester and Shenfield with the availability of only two tracks.
Ipswich - Transport Fit for the 21st Century is a major transport scheme aimed at improving the way that everyone can travel around the town. Approval has been given for the project which involves a capital expenditure of £21.5m, of which £18.3m is funded by the Department of Transport. Construction work is scheduled to commence in the summer of 2012. Suffolk County
Council has carried out a public consultation on the proposals, which included a public exhibition held in the Tower Ramparts shopping centre. The consultation closed on 25 November 2011.
One of the proposals is to pedestrianise Upper Brook Street. This will require the bus services using this street to be diverted via Tacket, Upper Orwell and St Margaret's Streets.
Another proposal is to extend the present bus lane in St Helen's Street from Grimwade Street to Grove Lane, making this section of St Helen's Street one-way for all traffic. It would necessitate the diversion of all the outward bound buses to operate via Grimwade and Fore Streets, Back Hamlet and Grove Lane to reach Foxhall and Spring Roads. Some responses have been made to this proposal. While an extension of the existing bus lane is very much required, the large diversion of the bus routes is opposed. As an alternative it has been suggested that the lane should commence at the Rope Walk junction and follow the route along Rope Walk and Bond Street.
The two existing bus stations will be retained, with no major improvements. 'Real time' information will be installed at each station and also new passenger shelters. A limited increase in the number of bus stands will be made at Tower Ramparts.