Anger over continued rail closure

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge at Sudbury rail station
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge at Sudbury rail station

Rail users are growing increasingly frustrated as the Sudbury to Marks Tey service continues to be closed due to leaves on the line.

The service was again cancelled today, with delays expected until at least November 22.

Cancellations first started last Wednesday, with buses and taxis being used to ferry passengers between the stations.

Assington-based South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who uses the line to get from Bures station to London, has met with the Rail Minister Claire Perry after growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of service.

Mr Cartlidge said he had been inundated with emails and tweets from constituents, fed up at the problems.

This has been blamed on the mild Autumn and late flurry of falling leaves.

“My constituents who rely on the service from Sudbury have had an absolutely exasperating week, and are rightly fuming,” he said.

“The challenge is – what we can do about it?”

Mr Cartlidge said the Minister was “shocked” to hear how long the line has been closed.

“All the MPs with stations on the two lines have now signed my letter asking for a contingency for this problem in the next franchise,” said Mr Cartlidge.

“Our key ask is that the imminent bidding process for the new franchise takes full account of this debacle, and that the Department of Transport requires bidders to have a contingency for this type of event so that it does not repeat itself next year.

“In my view, the most important part of that must be about new rolling stock.

“This is expected on the main line, but if we can get it on the branch line as part of the new franchise, our service would be much less vulnerable to this type of disruption.”

At one point last week 10 out of 26 of Abellio Greater Anglia’s trains were out of service, with 21 needed to run a full service.

A spokesman for Abellio Greater Anglia said: “We apologise for the ongoing impact of train service cancellations on the Sudbury to Marks Tey service.”

Abellio Greater Anglia has blamed the problems on its diesel trains suffering wheel damage, as a result of poor rail conditions.

The steel tyre of the wheels are damaged when they slip due to the mulch on the line.

The wheels are put out of alignment and have to be sent to have new tyres fitted by a specialist lathe, the closest being in Ilford.

Mr Cartlidge has suggested having another lathe in the region as a back-up, especially as the branch lines are the first to be substituted for the main routes, being the easiest to cover with buses.

The Abellio spokesman explained: “This situation leads to excessive wear on the wheels which must be repaired before the trains can re-enter service.

“On average we are currently seeing two trains arrive back at the end of each day with wheel damage, more than double the rate we have experienced in previous autumn periods.

“We are doing everything possible to repair the trains affected as fast as we can, including sending trains to other locations with spare capacity for wheel repairs, to speed up the process of returning trains back into service.”

He said work was being carried out with Network Rail to improve rail conditions to try and prevent further damage.

“We hope that the situation should improve over the course of this week and that we will be able to eliminate these cancellations and restore the normal service.

“In the meantime, we are providing bus replacement services to cover for the cancelled train services.”

Customers whose journeys have been disrupted by the problems on the line can claim compensation by contacting the customer relations team at contactcentre@abelliogreateranglia.co.uk.