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Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill backs teenager's call for more carriages on Greater Anglia trains

A teenager’s campaign for better rail services has inspired Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill to call on Greater Anglia for improvement.

Oscar Hedge, 17, said carriages on his daily commute to Cambridge are overcrowded to the point of being ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘dangerous’.

Since last week, more than 100 have signed the petition which he is completing on-board his weekday trains to and from Cambridge, where he studies at Hills Road College.

Oscar Hedge with his petition outside Bury St Edmunds railway station
Oscar Hedge with his petition outside Bury St Edmunds railway station

“It is appalling,” said Oscar, of Grove Park, Bury St Edmunds.

“People are having to stand in the rear driver’s cab and the train toilet.

“And trains are being delayed while everybody crams in.”

Oscar says getting the train is his only option. Last year he contacted Jo Churchill with his complaint, and the Bury MP wrote on his behalf to operators Greater Anglia. At that point, the firm wrote back to say investment would be forthcoming.

Following a £1.4billion spend, Greater Anglia launched their first fleet of a new style train in July.

The firm has promised the Cambridge - Ipswich line will be served by the newer models - which will have at least three carriages.

But Oscar has not seen any sign of these and is still boarding models up to 40-years-old.

“Nothing has changed,” he continued, “People are still struggling to get on the train and it is a busy line with people going to work.

“So, me and my friend took a side of the train each and walked down into the middle with our petition.

“A lot of people wanted to sign it and we completed both sheets.”

Oscar said he will now send the petition to Greater Anglia - who will also be getting a letter from Jo Churchill. The MP said: “I am pleased to support Oscar’s efforts and have written to Greater Anglia this week, asking them to confirm when passengers on this route will see the increase in capacity.

“If I receive no response, I will be demanding a meeting.”

Greater Anglia said: “We are very sorry when customers’ journeys are not as comfortable as we would like them to be. Our new longer trains, which have more seats, are currently being tested on the Ipswich-Cambridge route, and should come into passenger service later this year.

“We know that the Ipswich-Bury St Edmunds-Cambridge route is a busy, growing route, and we try to ensure that the longest available trains for that route are scheduled for busiest travel times.

“However, sometimes external factors, such as the recent severe damage caused by a train hitting a herd of deer, limit the availability of longer trains. We consider it better to run a shorter train than to cancel the service.”

The call follows members of Newmarket’s business community, including constituency MP Matt Hancock, appealing for half-hourly trains to Cambridge and links extending to Oxford and London.

Such modification would require a double line to be installed along the Newmarket to Cambridge section. Network Rail has ruled out the modification until 2043 - citing a lack of need, despite an increase in Newmarket station’s use.