I hope all of you had a very good summer and are enjoying the last of the fine weather this season.
I was very lucky to have spent the summer at home in beautiful Suffolk and to have travelled around to various community events that were held in July and August. The number of fayres and fetes that take place is incredible and I enjoyed all the ones I attended.
Although the news has been thankfully been a bit quieter after the rollercoaster weeks of June and July with the referendum and the leadership race, a very good piece of news came in over the summer. Abellio was named as the preferred bidder for the East Anglia rail franchise from October 2016 – a contract that will run until 2025. Abellio has pledged 32,000 more standard class seats during the morning peak period, increasing capacity by 55% and an additional 1144 services per week on the network. There will also be in upgrades and improvements to rolling stock, punctuality, ticketing and WiFi. Abellio has also pledged £60m in upgrades to stations – and I will keep pressing for the badly needed refurbishments and maintenance for all the stations in my constituency, most notably Newmarket and Brandon stations.
In a survey about local train services and facilities I conducted earlier this year, over 400 people replied. Respondents came back with a number of issues that were extremely importantly to them, namely more direct services to London, better station facilities including toilets, warming shelters and more parking, later train services and more carriages to lessen overcrowding and standing. Abellio in their winning bid has addressed some of these concerns, and I will keep pressing them on the remaining issues.
In the longer term, I am very aware about the need for a rail station in Haverhill. Haverhill lost its train services over fifty years ago and it is now one of the largest towns in England without a rail station. With Haverhill continuing to grow, I will keep campaigning for a rail service to come. It’s now a long term ambition in the Cambridgeshire Local Enterprise Partnership transport plan, and it’s something - as well as the road improvements - I’ll keep pressing for.
We have had some wins and gains with pledges from Abellio, but it is just a start and there is more to do. I certainly think with the forthcoming improvements, customers will find an appreciable difference in their rail experience. But I will keep campaigning for more services, better stations and facilities and an eventual link-up to Haverhill. Reliable, frequent, fast and comfortable train services are key to producing a thriving local economy and a good quality of life that my constituents expect and deserve.
If you would like to contact me about this issue or any other matter, or you feel that there is a problem I could help you with, please do get in touch. I am always keen to hear from constituents and will do my best to help. I can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone on 01638 576 692.
-- Matthew Hancock is MP for West Suffolk