A Suffolk MP has stifled suggestions that passenger services on the Felixstowe-Ipswich line could be cut.
Therese Coffey said the idea had been put forward in the past – when the Port of Felixstowe announced expansion plans – but had resurfaced in conversation with Network Rail boss Mark Carne.
The Suffolk Coastal MP told a meeting of the East Suffolk Travellers Association (ESTA) that the concept of cutting off a town of 25,000 people was “crazy”, and that as MP, she would ensure it progressed no further than just an idea.
Dr Coffey, the MP with the second highest number of railway stations in her constituency, was invited to attend on the eve of Abellio beginning its new nine-year contract to run the East Anglia rail franchise.
ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod said the MP had taken close interest in public transport matters since her election in 2010.
“She has been closely involved in recent issues like the Halesworth foot crossing and the future of services on the Felixstowe branch,” he added.
“When she was first elected, ESTA was campaigning hard for a passing loop at Beccles. She, along with four newly elected MPs with constituencies along the East Suffolk line, was aware from the start how important these issues are to transport users.”
Addressing the meeting in Woodbridge, Dr Coffey said she was keen to ensure the best efforts were made to link up public transport in Suffolk. She said the new franchise had secured investment in rolling stock and the reinstatement of some through services to London.
Before Dr Coffey spoke, Ipswich Borough Council representative Philip Smart explained that Network Rail’s ambition had been to get more freight trains on the Felixstowe line.
To deal with growing freight traffic, an upgrade had previously been discussed, with ESTA in favour of doubling the line to accommodate passengers and freight.
In 2013, the port dropped moves to cut passenger services and allow more freight to run on the line, with and express bus service replacing some passenger trains – an idea Dr Coffey said had emerged again during her meeting with Mr Carne.
“I knew we had this problem before,” she added. “To cut off a town of 25,000 people is just crazy.
“Mark Carne floated the idea again. I’m not blaming him – Network Rail is looking at projects where it thinks things could be done differently – but I was concerned. I raised the point with Paul Maynard (rail minister) that we need this idea to go away.”
Dr Coffey also predicted there would come a time when Network Rail again tried to close foot crossings on safety grounds – like the one at Halesworth, where the controversial proposals were dropped in August.
She called the firm’s last attempt close the crossing, based on its assessment of it being the second most dangerous in the county, “cack-handed”.
“I hope my intervention made a difference in changing Network Rail’s mind,” she added.
The fjord outside the city of Trondheim has been designated the world's first testing site for autonomous waterborne vehicles.
Norwegian authorities, in collaboration with Kongsberg Seatex, Kongsberg Maritime, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, MARINTEK and Maritime Robotics, have begun testing autonomous ships in the fjord because of its size and low traffic volumes.
Speaking at the test site, Gard Ueland, President of Kongsberg Seatex, said: “We are establishing this test site in order to get momentum on development on new technology for autonomous vessels. The fact that the test site is established is creating a lot of energy in the research and university domain and also in the industry."