An hourly train service could be in place on the East Suffolk Line by 2010 – 2011. Network Rail, the not-for-profit company which maintains Britain’s railways, has included the provision in its new five year plan.
The project calls for the reinstatement of a double track at Beccles station (the Beccles Loop). The new track will allows trains to travel between Lowestoft and Ipswich every hour. Currently the 16 mile single track between Halesworth and Oulton Broad limits train services to every two hours in each direction.
Along with the track and points work a disused platform will also be brought back into use; it will accomodate southbound trains for the new hourly service.
Originally dual track throughout its entire length, the East Suffolk Line was singled in two areas in 1984 by British Rail; at the same time continously welded track was installed. The constraints meant an hourly service was no longer possible, but the line has seen double-digit growth in passenger numbers for the past few years, and a recent study concluded passenger numbers were being undercounted by 50 percent.
The project will coincide with the resignalling of the line, which along with a study of level crossings on the route could mean an increase in line speeds. Network Rail will also examine East Suffolk Junction near Ipswich; a very short section of single track could be doubled to further increase capacity.