Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Chancellor George Osborne announced £0.5bn improvement to Great Eastern Mainline today (Picture credit: Ipswich Spy)

Chancellor George Osborne announced £0.5bn improvements to the Great Eastern Mainline today

Conservative Chancellor George Osborne was in Norwich today to announce a £550 million package to improve the Great Eastern Mainline shortening journey times between Norwich and London with a promise for services to and from Ipswich taking just 60 minutes.

Mr Osborne praised Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and fellow Tories in the region, Chloe Smith (Norwich North) and Priti Patel (Witham) for the work they have done to date lobbying transport ministers and their Railway Manifesto published in conjunction with local councils. In keeping with Coalition protocol, the Chancellor also gave a nod to Liberal Democrat Simon Wright (Norwich South). Today’s announcement looks like it is putting the flesh on the bones of the announcement made by the Government in January, which stated Network Rail (owned by the taxpayer) would be spending £1.4bn on the Great Eastern mainline infrastructure improvements between 2014 – 2019. Back in January, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was yet to green-light the scheme. It would seem today’s announcement in Norwich tells us half the budget has been approved.

The Chancellor, speaking today at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “East Anglia is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and is establishing itself as a world leader in science, technology and manufacturing. To support this growth we need to have modern, efficient rail services and improved connections.

I am absolutely behind the region and that’s why I’ve set up a taskforce to see how we can build on the excellent work by Chloe Smith, Ben Gummer, Priti Patel and Simon Wright.”

Ben Gummer along with his regional parliamentary colleagues mentioned by Mr Osborne will sit on the taskforce. I am sure Mr Gummer’s focus will be on introducing “Ipswich in Sixty” (hat-tip on the phrase: Ipswich Spy), ensuring Ipswich commuters’ journey times into and out of London are reduced to 60 minutes, which will make a big difference. It is not clear from today’s announcement by Mr Osborne how that will be achieved.

The Department for Transport has also asked Abellio, parent company of the Greater Anglia franchise, to start refurbishing their rolling stock, including making them more business-friendly by introducing power sockets into carriages to charge laptops and mobile phones.

£550 million is a lot of money so some improvements are going to happen – the key is for local MPs to explain how those changes will reduce journey times.

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Disgraceful intransigence from police at Ipswich Station causes commuter chaos

man on ipswich station roof

Trespasser on roof of Ipswich station during Friday

UPDATE: Since publishing this post, I’ve been in touch with Ipswich’s MP, Ben Gummer, and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey. Both were already on the case with Ben Gummer having already spoken to the BTP commander on the scene to voice his concerns and Therese Coffey having contacted the Transport Minister to alert the Government to this farcical episode whereby it takes the police SEVEN hours to bring down a half-naked man from a relatively low roof at a provincial railway station.

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A man climbed up on to the roof of Ipswich railway station this morning right in the middle of rush hour, wearing a pair of shorts and not much else. It is one of the hottest days of the year and he was exposed to the full elements.

The Health & Safety brigade immediately shut down the mainline from Norwich to London, forcing commuters to miss work, interviews and exams at a cost of potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Ipswich economy. Do our political leaders have any idea how much money London commuters bring into this town?

So how long does it take British Transport Police, Suffolk Police, fire brigade and paramedics to get this idiot off the station roof: SEVEN hours! Just in time for the start of rush hour again and the triggering of absolute chaos for hard-working people and the highest payers of tax and disposable income (i.e. that money which keeps the shops in Ipswich town centre open for everyone) this town has.

Only in England in the 21st century could this happen. I doubt the idiot on the roof would have lasted five minutes in some of our more “dynamic” European countries.


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BREAKING: David Cameron in Ipswich to talk tough on immigration

Prime Minister David Cameron is making a speech on immigration in Ipswich at UCS

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking in Ipswich

UPDATE: David Cameron experienced the horrendous Great Eastern mainline during his journey from London to Ipswich this morning when he was forced to alight at Manningtree because of “problems on the line” forcing the PM to switch to a car for the remainder of his journey. Let’s hope Ipswich MP Ben Gummer took the opportunity to lobby the Prime Minister for more investment in the railway infrastructure in this part of the world.

You can read a full report of Mr Cameron’s speech complete with photo of Cameron and bodyguards courtesy of Ipswich Spy.

Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived in Suffolk’s County town to say he is ‘rolling up the red carpet’ for immigrants.

In 2010, Ben Gummer was one of the few Tory parliamentary candidates to put a leaflet out during the General Election voicing his concern over uncontrolled immigration. Mr Gummer will have had some involvement in the Prime Minister’s visit as is customary when an MP visits another MP’s consituency (despite how senior the visiting MP is!).

As has been attributed to me before by leading Tory blogger James Spencer of the Bridge Ward News parish, if the Conservative Party had been as right-wing as Ben Gummer in 2010 they might have won the General Election…


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Do you nimbys use the motorways and railways?

A map of the full network of the proposed HS2 high-speed rail project

A map of the full network of the proposed HS2 high-speed rail project

Today the Coalition Government has announced the second phase of HS2 – the new high-speed railway network connecting London to the North of England. As regular readers of this blog know, it takes a lot for me to congratulate the Coalition Government but when they are doing something which actually makes sense and is worthwhile, I won’t shy from congratulating them.

Unlike the OAP nimbys who are complaining about HS2 shuddering over their graves when it is finally completed in 2033 I am wholly in favour of this infrastructure project.

The new rail network will be Y-shaped and once the first phase (as I reported a year ago) from London to Birmingham is completed it will split into two high speed mainlines, one to Manchester and the other to Leeds.

This will be an excellent piece of engineering which will enable an economic boost during its design and construction, with 100,000 jobs expected to be created, and when it is finished it will increase trade between the capital and our great northern cities. It will do this by cutting journey times between Manchester and London from two hours, eight minutes today to 1 hour, 8 minutes. This will be a real step towards narrowing the North-South divide.

It makes me angry that men and women in the twilights of their lives, in particular those whiling away their days on local councils and who have been popping up on our 24 hour news channels today, are mounting campaigns against HS2. Have they been on a train? Have they used a motorway? Perhaps they shouldn’t if they are so set against development and faster communications?

These nimbys are only concerned with their pretty little affluent villages, where no person under 40 can dream of affording a house, being too close to the new line. But what about the benefits in bringing the economic powerhouse of Britain closer to the rest of the population, increasing trade and jobs? They haven’t given it a second thought.

Compare this to a small town called Toton which will be the site of the East Midland HS2 railway station serving Derby and Nottingham where local residents are on the whole delighted their town has been chosen to site one of five new high-speed railway stations. They did the maths and realised the benefits.

As much as I am very positive about HS2, the announcement today highlights again how the East of England is severely neglected by Whitehall when it comes to infrastructure improvements. There isn’t even one motorway in the whole of East Anglia. We have a railway line from Norfolk to London but it is in an appalling condition, with ubiquitous signalling faults, only one line north of Chelmsford, and by the time HS2 is built it will be faster to get from Birmingham to London (49 minutes) than it is from Ipswich to London (one hour, fifteen minutes).

Three weeks ago (as reported by Ipswich Spy) Network Rail published their proposals for investment on the Great Eastern Mainline but the £1.4bn required to mainly renew signalling and overhead power lines still must be approved by the Department for Transport for the money to be released. Even if the investment is green-lit by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin it is merely tweaking around the edges as no plans are in place to lay additional tracks north of Chelmsford. With only one line north and one line south, all it takes is a broken down freight train on its way to Felixstowe to cause chaos for commuters trying to limp home late at night from their jobs in London.

Why is it that successive Conservative and Labour MPs in Norfolk and Suffolk neglected the East of England for so long when it came to urging ministers to invest in our roads and railways? It showed a complete lack of foresight. It is great to see Ipswich’s MP Ben Gummer working hard to turn things around with his constant lobbying for the town in the corridors of Whitehall but if his father – now Lord Deben – had been just as forthright when he was MP for Suffolk Coastal for thirty years we could have had a journey time of less than one hour between Ipswich and London today in 2013. Instead, we have the prospect of our Brummy friends getting to London, over 120 miles, quicker than it takes an Ipswich commuter over 80 miles.

Now, where’s nice to live in Birmingham I wonder?