14:58 28 December 2016
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Engineering work on the main line to London over the next few months seems set to hit much of Greater Anglia’s leisure trade – especially the casual trips to the capital for shopping, sightseeing, and a day out.
Those with a specific need to go to London at weekends are likely to persevere with a journey that includes a bus link from Witham or Ingatestone – but with this adding up to an hour to journey times in each direction many potential passengers are likely to put off the trip.
So Greater Anglia is launching a campaign to try to persuade potential passengers to use the train to reach other popular destinations – in the first instance focussing on sales shoppers seeking a post-Christmas bargain.
The company is hoping to persuade shoppers to visit the region’s cities and large towns by train – pointing out that most have a stations that are only a short walk or bus journey from the heart of the retail area.
One of the region’s newest shopping centres, the Bond Street development in Chelmsford, is less than ten minutes away on foot from Chelmsford railway station. The recently refurbished station is five minutes from High Chelmer shopping centre and other city centre shops and restaurants.
Colchester, too, is featuring in the company’s campaign following the completion of work on the Willie G’s department store – albeit under its new name, Fenwicks.
And keeping the focus on Essex, the company is also trying to tempt shoppers to Freeport at Braintree that has its own railway station on the branch from Witham.
In Suffolk the stations at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and Lowestoft are all very near the main shopping areas and the number of trains serving them has increased significantly over recent years.
The largest centre that is being pushed is Norwich – which has become one of the biggest retail centres in the country.
Its station is a short walk from the heart of the city – but that walk is along the river and through the Cathedral Close making it one of the most attractive approaches anywhere!
Cambridge station is a bit of hike from the city centre, but there is a very regular bus link – and its city centre is shared with the University which makes it a great place for a day out.
And Ely is like a smaller version Bury St Edmunds – albeit with a much larger cathedral!
For those seeking a slightly longer trip – but still simpler than heading to London – a shopping trip to Peterborough is surprisingly good.
The historic city centre and cathedral is linked to the station by the Queensgate indoor mall which has many large retailers including John Lewis and Marks and Spencer.
Andy Camp, Greater Anglia Commercial Director, said: “We’re lucky to have some fine cities and towns throughout East Anglia, which are all served by the Greater Anglia network. Some of our great value fares prove cheaper than petrol and parking for a full day in the shops.”
All these cities will be accessible by train over the New Year except Cambridge station which will be affected by engineering work on December 31 and January 1.
The weekend line closures to London are likely to continue until the end May – Saturday trains will run until the end of January – and during the next few months Greater Anglia is expected to try to boost journeys to other parts of the network.
However tempting a visit to the seaside might be during the summer, the beaches of the region’s rail-connected resorts have limited appeal at the turn of the year!