Greater Anglia

Af­ter the award of the East Anglia fran­chise and the or­der to re­place Abel­lio Greater Anglia’s en­tire fleet, RICHARD CLIN­NICK ex­am­ines what that means for the re­gion’s pas­sen­gers and its eco­nomic prospects

Rail (UK) - - Contents -

With Abel­lio or­der­ing an en­tire new fleet of trains for its Greater Anglia fran­chise, what lies in store for the re­gion‘s pas­sen­gers?

Worth the wait. That’s per­haps the best way to de­scribe the Greater Anglia fran­chise con­tract awarded on Au­gust 10 ( RAIL 807).

The Gov­ern­ment had de­layed the fran­chise award for sev­eral weeks, due to the Brexit vote. There was a gen­eral un­will­ing­ness to even dis­cuss the fran­chise, and the var­i­ous bid­ders (and their sup­pli­ers) were in the dark re­gard­ing what would hap­pen.

As the si­lence from the Depart­ment for Trans­port be­came in­creas­ingly deaf­en­ing, ru­mours abounded that the win­ner had been changed fol­low­ing Brexit. But there was al­ways a de­nial from the DfT - no firm de­tails.

Two years ago, Abel­lio Greater Anglia’s then-new Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Jamie Burles told RAIL that it was his rail­way’s turn for in­vest­ment ( RAIL 756). At the time he said: “The only im­por­tant thing is the next fran­chise spec­i­fi­ca­tion. If you do not spec­ify a train that needs in­te­rior am­bi­ence and de­cel­er­a­tions and acceleration, it is about the low­est bids. Then for the next 15 years the ser­vice strug­gles be­cause the bid was low. We want DfT to set the bar as high as is pos­si­bly af­ford­able.”

Burles pointed out, rightly, that ev­ery oper­a­tor and rail­way around the Great Eastern Main Line was re­ceiv­ing new trains and in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments, while his fran­chise was hav­ing to make do with cas­caded trains.

Neigh­bour­ing train op­er­a­tors c2c, Govia Thames­link Rail­way and Vir­gin Trains East Coast are all re­ceiv­ing new fleets. GTR will ben­e­fit from the £ 6.5 bil­lion Thames­link pro­gramme and a re­built Lon­don Bridge, while VTEC will re­ceive a fleet of In­tercity Ex­press Pro­gramme trains. AGA will also share the route be­tween Shen­field and Liver­pool Street with Cross­rail - shiny new trains en­ter traf­fic on that route from 2017, to serve the £15bn cross-Lon­don project.

It per­haps spoke vol­umes that Burles was happy that a de­ci­sion to re­fur­bish the Mk 3 fleet used by AGA didn’t in­clude mod­i­fi­ca­tions such as plug-doors. That would have meant the ve­hi­cles, the old­est of which date from the mid-1970s, re­main­ing in traf­fic be­yond 2020, and a prob­a­ble con­ces­sion that there would be no new trains. It of­fered hope. But that’s all the Great Eastern of­ten has, usu­ally fol­lowed by dis­ap­point­ment.

The age of the cur­rent AGA fleet is telling. Thirty Class 379 Elec­trostars or­dered for Stansted Ex­press and the West Anglia route were de­liv­ered in 2011. Be­fore that 21 Class 360s were de­liv­ered to First Great Eastern in 2003, and four Class 170/2s were de­liv­ered to Anglia Rail­ways in 2002 for the re­in­stated Nor­wich-Cam­bridge route. That is now op­er­ated by some of the eight Class 170/2s de­liv­ered to AR in 1999. The rest of the fleet dates from the 1980s, or in the case of some of the Mk 3 coaches, the 1970s.

How­ever, you need to go back much fur­ther for the last fleet of brand new main line lo­co­mo­tives or­dered specif­i­cally for the Great Eastern Main Line - all the way back to April 1958 and the Class 40s.

The GEML was home to elec­tric ser­vices from Lon­don Liver­pool Street, and the de­ci­sion was made to in­tro­duce 2,000hp Type 4 diesels on ex­presses be­tween Lon­don and Nor­wich. They didn’t last, and had to be re­placed by the ‘Bri­tan­nia’ steam lo­co­mo­tives they were them­selves in­tended to re­place.

And then the usual cas­cades be­gan. In 1965 ‘nearly new’ Type 4s (later clas­si­fied ‘47s’) were trans­ferred to March to work the GEML, and these re­mained in place un­til elec­tri­fi­ca­tion to Ip­swich in 1985, when Class 86s (20 years old at that stage) moved to the rail­way from the West Coast Main Line.

The ‘86s’ re­placed the ‘47s’ from Nor­wich in 1987, when the line was elec­tri­fied, and

re­mained in traf­fic for the next 18 years un­til they were re­placed by Class 90s that them­selves dated from 1987. The Mk 2s hauled by the ‘86s’ were re­placed by Mk 3s that (although su­pe­rior in terms of their in­te­ri­ors) were not that much younger - in some cases only by a few months. It was the clas­sic ‘make do and mend’.

It was the same story on the var­i­ous branches. Cas­caded Class 153s and ‘156s’ are used on the ru­ral routes, while the ‘170s’ are used else­where. How­ever, should you travel past Nor­wich Crown Point you will not find mul­ti­ple units stood idle - the diesel mul­ti­ple unit fleet is stretched to the point that lo­co­mo­tive-hauled coach­ing stock (LHCS) is re­quired to en­sure ser­vices can still op­er­ate. And such is the tight­ness of the fleet util­i­sa­tion that one DMU be­ing dam­aged (170204) in an ac­ci­dent with a trac­tor at a level cross­ing has re­sulted in a sec­ond LHCS be­ing needed (see pages 30-31). Rolling stock re­sources are tight at AGA.

Fur­ther south, on the subur­ban net­work out of Liver­pool Street, pas­sen­ger num­bers are mas­sive and pre­dicted to grow. Three mil­lion peo­ple live in Nor­folk, Suf­folk and Es­sex, and over the next ten years a fur­ther 205,000 new jobs will be cre­ated and 184,000 new homes con­structed.

These peo­ple will need serv­ing. Strat­ford has en­tered the top ten of Bri­tain’s busiest sta­tions and is un­likely to re­lin­quish that po­si­tion. More pas­sen­gers are trav­el­ling from Cam­bridge, and a new station serv­ing the city’s Sci­ence Park will open in May 2017 (see pages 92-95). And Stansted Air­port is grow­ing, but served by the con­gested West Anglia Main Line with a bot­tle­neck that cam­paign­ers want Net­work Rail to sort out.

That’s a lot to tackle, hence the wish list cre­ated by the Great Eastern Main Line Task­force. Set up by then Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne, the Task­force’s job was to in­ves­ti­gate a need for im­prove­ments to the re­gion’s rail­ways, and to cam­paign for back­ing to sup­port any im­prove­ments.

But East Anglia is a re­gion of­ten over­looked, or viewed as a back­wa­ter. The near­est mo­tor­way is the M11 (there is no mo­tor­way in Nor­folk). Yet it of­fers huge eco­nomic ben­e­fits for the UK. It was the Task­force’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to high­light this.

In its busi­ness case re­leased in Novem­ber 2014 ( RAIL 762), the Task­force high­lighted how 18% of peak-hour pas­sen­gers ar­riv­ing at Liver­pool Street were stand­ing (ex­clud­ing the Met­ros), while fore­casts show de­mand on the GEML into Suf­folk and Nor­folk is ex­pected to grow by 32% and from Es­sex by 52%. At the time, AGA was the sec­ond least sub­sidised pas­sen­ger oper­a­tor in the UK (it re­ceived 1.5p per pas­sen­ger mile, against the av­er­age of 12.5p). Un­der the terms of the new deal, Abel­lio will now pay a pre­mium of £ 3.7

bil­lion over nine years to run the fran­chise. Thus the need for new and im­proved rolling stock is clear, but with­out in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments any new trains will not be able to fully de­liver the up­scale in qual­ity. Cam­paign­ers sug­gest the re­quired sum is £476 mil­lion, but that was be­fore NR went on the public books and money be­came scarce. Yet the ben­e­fit: cost ra­tio ( BCR) for the im­prove­ments is be­tween 8.6 and 9.5 (in com­par­i­son, HS2’s BCR is 2:3).

At the time of the re­port’s pub­li­ca­tion Nor­folk, Suf­folk and Es­sex gen­er­ated £ 60bn in gross value added (GVA) for the UK econ­omy, and that fig­ure is ex­pected to rise to £ 75bn in the next 12 years. The re­gion is one of only two net con­trib­u­tor re­gions to the Trea­sury.

Task­force co-Chair­man Mark Pendling­ton has long called the GEML the ‘Golden Thread’, and spo­ken reg­u­larly of the need to serve East Anglia’s grow­ing econ­omy. Europe’s big­gest in­sur­ance clus­ter is based in the re­gion, while BT has its Euro­pean re­search and de­vel­op­ment head­quar­ters there. The re­gion is a leader in innovation, re­search and ed­u­ca­tion, the Task­force ar­gues.

De­liv­er­ing the im­prove­ments will gen­er­ate £ 4.1bn in di­rect eco­nomic ben­e­fits, ris­ing to £4.5bn once wider ag­glom­er­a­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity ben­e­fits are in­cluded

Ac­cord­ing to Task­force re­search, in­vest­ment in the GEML will cre­ate 8,200 new jobs in Nor­wich, just un­der 10,000 new jobs in Ip­swich, 14,000 in Colch­ester and 16,000 in Chelms­ford. That will in­crease coun­cil tax rev­enue by £15m an­nu­ally, and busi­ness rates by £10m per year. Over­all, for ev­ery £1 in­vested in the GEML up­grade, there will be a £ 9.50 re­turn.

New trains are on the way and will be­gin to en­ter traf­fic from Jan­uary 2019.

First to en­ter traf­fic will be Stadler Rail AG bi-mode trains for the re­gional routes. These will be a mix­ture of three- and four-car trains, with 38 on or­der. They will re­place the Class 15x and ‘170’ fleets. This means that no ru­ral route will be served by a one-car or two-car train, as they are to­day.

The Stansted Ex­press and West Anglia Stadler Rail AG 12-car elec­tric trains en­ter traf­fic from Fe­bru­ary 2019, re­plac­ing the Class 317s and ‘379s’ cur­rently used in eight-car for­ma­tions.

The ten 12-car Stadler Rail AG elec­tric mul­ti­ple units will en­ter traf­fic on the GEML from March 2019, re­plac­ing the eight- and nine-car Class 90/Mk 3 for­ma­tions.

By 2020 Bom­bardier will have de­liv­ered its Aven­tra trains, re­plac­ing the 21 Class 360s and 94 Class 321s. All the news Bo­mardier trains will be five- or ten-car EMUs.

But with­out in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments these new trains will not be able to achieve the plans. Their per­for­mance and acceleration will bet­ter that of the trains they re­place, but the in­fra­struc­ture needs to match. And so far NR has been quiet.

Pendling­ton told RAIL on Au­gust 22: “There is a rail sum­mit on Septem­ber 7 with Abel­lio, and that is our first chance to hear in de­tail how the plans will work. We will also hear what Net­work Rail is plan­ning.

“In terms of Net­work Rail, they are work­ing hard to de­liver what is re­quired. Po­lit­i­cally there needs to be the will to de­liver the im­prove­ments, and I be­lieve they will do so.”

The is­sue of NR’s per­for­mance on projects such as the Ed­in­burgh-Glas­gow Im­prove­ment Pro­gramme and Great Western Main Line elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is raised, but Pendling­ton has faith: “There is al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity some­thing can go wrong. All I know is that they are do­ing their best to de­liver what Anglia needs.”

He is also con­fi­dent that the cam­paign­ing for the in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments will be suc­cess­ful. “We have a strong team of MPs who are on the case, and even through the re­gion’s de­vo­lu­tion deal we are try­ing to lead. We are try­ing to move Ely North’s im­prove­ments from Con­trol Pe­riod 6 (CP6) to CP5 if we can.”

He calls the cam­paign a “marathon”, but high­lights how the re­gion worked to­gether. “Stu­dents, pas­sen­gers, busi­ness lead­ers all helped. They all saw what was needed. They kept the faith even when ques­tions were be­ing asked.

“This is a £43bn econ­omy. There is £14bn for Nor­folk and Suf­folk alone. I have al­ways said this is the Golden Thread. When this is achieved, we can then fo­cus on East West (see news).”


Ru­ral routes in East Anglia that are cur­rently served by one- and two-car diesel mul­ti­ple units dat­ing from the 1980s will be served by three- and four-car bi-mode trains from 2019. On March 14 2014, AGA 153335 heads away from Brun­dall with the 1217 Great Yar­mouth-Nor­wich.


DB Cargo 90034, on hire to Abel­lio Greater Anglia, races through Ardleigh (be­tween Man­ningtree and Colch­ester) with the 1800 Nor­wich-Lon­don Liver­pool Street on Au­gust 15. Class 90s and Mk 3s were in­tro­duced in 2004, and will be re­placed in 2019. The ‘90’ and Mk 3s here were hired to cover AGA’s own fleet un­der­go­ing main­te­nance.

Antony Guppy

New trains will also be in­tro­duces on subur­ban ser­vice from Lon­don Liver­pool Street. On July 21 2016, a six-car Dock­lands Light Rail­way Strat­ford-Ca­nary Wharf ser­vice ar­rives at Pud­ding Mill Lane station, as a trio of Abel­lio Greater Anglia trains pass en route to Liver­pool Street. Class 360s pass with the 1656 from Il­ford de­pot, in the centre are '321s' form­ing the 1630 from Southend Vic­to­ria, and to the fore are '321s' pass­ing with the 1714 empty coach­ing stock from Ori­ent Way.


In­fra­struc­ture is key to the im­prove­ments planned for the Great Eastern Main Line. On May 16, AGA 90010 passes Shen­field with the 1530 Nor­wichLiver­pool Street. Con­trac­tors carry out clear­ance work for Cross­rail on the left.

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