Network Rail is to spend £2.6billion maintaining and renewing track around East Anglia over the next five years - but there is no sign yet of major improvements to speed up services.

But one thing residents of east Suffolk will notice is a procession of freight trains using the line through Woodbridge, Melton and Wickham Market every night heading for Sizewell nuclear power station.

The nationalised company's strategic business plan for the next five years until April 2029 talks about safety work on level crossings and improving the route to Sizewell.

But there is no mention of a start date for major improvements on the cross-country line between Ipswich and Peterborough to take more lorries off the A14.

And only modest speed improvements are promised on the main to London, even though Greater Anglia's new trains could slash journey times to the capital if the timetable was accelerated.

The government's Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has given Network Rail's Anglia division permission to spend £2.6bn over the next five years.

This will include maintaining and renewing track, signalling and other infrastructure and finishing work on building two new main line stations at Beaulieu Park near Chelmsford and at South Cambridge next to Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Major "enhancements" to rail routes are not included in this document - they have to be approved by the Department for Transport.

There will be improvements to the East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Saxmundham and to the little-used Leiston branch line which will become busier with up to four trains a night carrying construction materials to the Sizewell C site.

East Anglian Daily Times: Freight trains will use the East Suffolk line on most nights once work starts on Sizewell C.Freight trains will use the East Suffolk line on most nights once work starts on Sizewell C. (Image: Newsquest)

However there are no plans at present to create a new passing loop at Wickham Market which would be needed to allow construction trains to travel by day so most of these trains will have to use the line at night.

Eventually Sizewell C will build a temporary line into the middle of the construction site - but until that is ready during the second half of this decade, trains will wait on the line outside Leiston during the night running through to a temporary depot after 7am in the morning.

But while residents of Leiston may enjoy the quiet, towns en route to Saxmundham junction, where the Leiston branch leaves the line, will have to put up with more night trains.

East Anglian Daily Times: It is rare to see a train in Leiston at present - but that will change once work starts on Sizewell C.It is rare to see a train in Leiston at present - but that will change once work starts on Sizewell C. (Image: Newsquest)

At present the Leiston branch is little used - but that will change once construction of Sizewell C gets under way because much of the bulky materials used will come in by rail.

A Sizewell C spokesperson said: “Our transport strategy is designed to minimise disruption to residents.

"By moving at least 60% of our freight by sea and rail, we’ll significantly reduce the amount of construction traffic on local roads.

"We’re also working closely with Network Rail to deliver significant enhancements to the East Suffolk line, including track renewal to ‘Continuous Welded Rail’ to reduce noise impacts, and upgraded level crossings along the route.

"Freight trains operating to Sizewell will also be running at a maximum of 10mph through communities to further minimise noise impacts to local residents.

“Our transport plans are based on extensive feedback from East Suffolk communities over eight years of consultation, and are agreed with the local authorities, who we’ll continue to work closely with to ensure we coordinate activity.

“We also launched two Transport Forums this year– chaired independently with invited representatives of the local community – which focus specifically on transport issues and opportunities.

"So there will continue to be opportunities to discuss our transport strategy during the construction phase and ensure we reduce any impacts on local communities.”

There has been a long-term campaign to rebuild junctions at Ely and Haughley north of Stowmarket.

A Network Rail spokesman said those had now been combined into a single project looking at upgrading the cross-country route to Felixstowe and any decision on that would have to come from the Department for Transport.

Work is going on to come up with a proposal for the Ely upgrade - but that is a very complex project and the cost has been estimated at anywhere between £500million and £1bn. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Haughley Junction needs to be upgraded.Haughley Junction needs to be upgraded. (Image: Newsquest)

The Haughley element is much more modest - probably costing about £20m - but that is dependent on the decision on the larger scheme.

It is thought unlikely that any binding decision on this will be made before this year's general election so any decision on that will be most likely made by the new government.

Business leaders from Suffolk have been lobbying both ministers and opposition leaders to try to secure funding for these proposals.

It is understood that they were aware that Network Rail's announcement would not include any commitments on the Ely scheme but remain hopeful that their message about the importance of it has got across to whoever is in charge at the Department for Transport at the end of the year.