Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals could soon become one under plans to merge.
Essex: New Year Rail Fares Hike Begin
If you're a rail user in Essex heading back to work after Christmas you're going to see the price you pay for your season ticket go up today (Wednesday January 2nd).
Regulated fares, which include season tickets, are increasing by an average of 4.2%, with the overall average rise for all tickets being 3.9%.
The rise follows a miserable few weeks for many commuters who have had to contend with floods, signal failures and, on some routes, staff shortages.
Last week, over-running engineering work led to serious over-crowding on some trains.
Campaign groups have pointed out today's increase is the 10th successive above-inflation rise, with some rail season ticket holders seeing their fares rise by more than 50% in the last 10 years.
Also, the TUC has said that fares have risen far faster than wages since the recession in 2008.
Train companies can put some season tickets up by more than 4.2% as long as the overall average does not exceed 4.2%.
So, for example, a Colchester to London season ticket is rising 4% to £4,500.
Commuters travelling from Bishop's Stortford will also see a 4% increase with season tickets rising from £3,560 to £3,704, while Braintree to London rail users will see their tickets go from £3,960 to £4,124, a 4.14%.
However the cost of a season ticket from Shenfield to London actually dips in price, from £2,720 to £2,704.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said it recognised nobody liked paying more for their journey. But it added that railway funding could only come from taxpayers or from passengers "and the Government's policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train''.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said the Government had reduced fare rises planned for January 2013 and January 2014 from RPI plus 3% to RPI plus 1%.
He added: "We are engaged in the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th century and it is only right that the passenger, as well as the taxpayer, contributes towards that.
"In the longer term, we are determined to reduce the cost of running the railways so that we can end the era of above-inflation fare rises.''
Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph said: "The impact of successive Government's policies on rail fares is appalling.
"It's truly shocking that we have deliberately made getting the train to work an extravagance that many struggle to afford. The time has come not just to stop the rises but to reduce fares.''
Fares are also going up by an average of 4.2% on the Underground and on London buses.
Two fairground workers have pleaded not guilty to charges they face over the death of a school girl on a bouncy castle in Essex.
An aircraft hangar has been damaged in a blaze at Southend Airport.
Residents and businesses are being encouraged to tell Essex County Council whether they can access superfast broadband.
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