As the country went to the polls for the biggest decision in recent history, my evening was committed to my duties as your Member of Parliament; meeting with local businesses large and small to discuss their needs, concerns and hopes for the future.
Week on week I visit businesses across the constituency and I am always struck by the vision and ‘can do’ attitude that drives them forward. But, business leaders tell me that, without a vibrant economy and, in particular, stable infrastructure to match, our outstanding local enterprise community will struggle to thrive.
In the coming weeks and months, we will know more about the future of our local infrastructure as the winner of the East Anglia Rail Franchise is soon to be announced. This decision will determine the future of our local train service for the next nine years and presents a tremendous opportunity for us in Suffolk and East Anglia in particular. We need to seize the moment and push for a new and improved service.
Just this week, my own train journey from Stowmarket to London was severely delayed; an all too familiar story for our region’s commuters.
It is no wonder 66 per cent of passengers do not feel they are receiving a service which is value for money. Our region is in desperate need a of 21st century service and commuters from Suffolk and the East of England should not have to compromise rural living for a reduced rail service.
I have spoken before about the need for improve-ments to our rolling stock, stations and services, including wheelchair access and Wi-Fi. More specifically here in Bury St Edmunds, our very own railway station requires fundamental improvements to the historic fabric of the station building. There is also a unique opportunity at this point to free up land and improve upon the 25 car parking spaces, to properly accommodate an annual footfall of 600,000 station users.
I have and will continue to consult upon these and other measures regarding our local rail service in conjunction with local councillors, stakeholders, businesses and Ministers, ahead of the announcement of the successful franchise. With the next decade of our railways to be determined, I intend to leave the winning franchisee in no doubt of the essential changes we requires, to deliver a 21st century rail service. This must deliver in the interest of passengers and local businesses.
Reflecting on the seismic events of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, my belief remains unchanged; that Britain and particularly Bury St Edmunds, with the right support and investment can thrive no matter what. It is now my priority to continue to protect the economic and long term interest of both.
-- Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket