IMPROVEMENTS to track, power lines and a second railway station in Chelmsford are all part of £2.2billion investment plans from Network Rail.

The plans, the largest since the Victorian era, have been put into place in order to boost capacity and make trains more reliable for commuters.

Fresh figures from the company, which owns the Great Eastern line, show the number of people using the line at peak times is set jump by 49 per cent by 2031, from 16,500 to 24,600.

The improvements include replacing track between London Liverpool Street and Norwich, taking in Shenfield, Chelmsford, Witham, Colchester and Manningtree.

Network Rail also wants to replace the overhead power lines between London Liverpool Street and Chelmsford by May 2017, in a bid to make services more reliable, while the power lines between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria, which date back to the Fifties, will also be replaced.

The plans also include a proposal to build a second station in Chelmsford, at Beaulieu Park.

That proposed four-platform station, put forward by a group made up of rail users, local councillors and MPs, would have improved links to Witham.

London Liverpool Street is also set to become a new Crossrail hub, which Network Rail hopes will free up four platforms for Essex commuters.

But Derek Monnery, chairman of the Essex Rail Users’ Federation, has accused the company of failing to address the predicted rise in passengers.

“It is very worrying that there is nothing in the business plan to do anything about the increase,” said Mr Monnery.

“There is nothing about running more trains or longer trains.

“This is going to get worse, especially as more and more properties are built in Essex.

“Passenger numbers will certainly go up.”

He added: “This programme strikes me more as day-to-day maintenance rather than massive capital investment and I fear we are no further forward than we were already.

“Having said that, any investment is always to be welcomed, especially one of this size.”

Dave Ward, Network Rail route managing director for the south east, added: “As our railway gets busier, the challenges get bigger and more complex.

“We have entered an era of trade-offs and increasingly we have to balance the need to build more infrastructure, run trains on time and cut costs, and in many areas choices will need to be made.”

He added: “By 2019, we will have renewed miles of overhead power lines and upgraded signalling and key junctions.

“This vital investment programme will pave the way for more services, new trains and a more reliable railway.”

The company’s plans for the line have been submitted to the rail watchdog the Office of Rail Regulation, which will decide on the plan in October.