New trains to bring a ‘touch of pampering’ as part of nine-year plan

PUBLISHED: 12:02 22 September 2016 | UPDATED: 12:02 22 September 2016

Jamie Burles, managing director of Abellio Greater Anglia

Jamie Burles, managing director of Abellio Greater Anglia

Archant

A nine year plan of promises for better train travel for passengers across the Fens, Ely and beyond will make people feel “a touch pampered” - providing it happens, says a rail users campaign group.

The franchise, awarded to Abellio Greater Anglia, starts in two weeks time, and will see a record number of faster, comfier trains and quicker journey times.

Railfuture, which campaigns for a better railway in Britain, said in its magazine Raileast: “The future augurs well for passengers who might well feel a touch pampered by these new trains, even though four years will pass before they become widely evident.

“Let us hope the franchise bid proves realistic, operationally and financially.

“Some might argue that Abellio’s record does not justify the award - remembering especially autumn 2015 leaf fall debacle.”

But with two short franchises under its belt it now has the opportunity to “spend and flourish.” with what they said is “quite the largest order of new trains East Anglia has ever been promised.”

Seventy new carriages will be hooked up in January 2017 and by 2020 a total of 1,043 new carriages will be in use in the region.

A spokesman for Abellio said: “Some of our current trains are more than 25 years old, if you think in terms of cars, this new stock will make a big difference.”

Railfuture has welcomed the plans but hopes the promises live up to expectations in post-Brexit Britain and say what must remain a priority is pushing for the March to Wisbech line to re-open, Ely North junction improvements, a new station at Soham and adding a line from the Soham to Ely section.

The Railfuture spokesman said: “With so much new kit Abellio ought no longer to be the source of unreliability, ‘extreme’ weather, tragic incidents.

“Bringing a 19th century railway up to 21st century requirement is a merciless challenge at the best of times for Network Rail.

“They too carry our hopes and demand our best wishes. Like the healthy human body depends on good blood flow, so the railway timetable has to rely on its track and signalling operating efficiently for vital train flow.”

The new trains will accelerate noticeably quicker, use regenerative braking and safely brake more quickly.

“All very important factors given that East Anglia’s services tend to travel short distances between stops,” Railfuture said.

“Abellio is promising a 10 per cent cut in average journey times across the network, which also includes services to Stanstead Airport, which is great if true.

Committee member Phil Smart said: “We don’t yet know if all proposals in the bid were accepted by the Department of Transport in the current post-Brexit climate.

“Sources close to the bid teams suggest some infrastrcture improvements were not taken up and we need to keep up the pressure for a fast Ipswich-Cambridge/Peterborough service as well as the reopening to Wisbech.”

IMPROVEMENTS UNDER THE NEW FRANCHISE

• Ipswich to Peterborough doubles to hourly service.

• A peak time train is added from Ipswich to Cambridge.

• Norwich to Cambridge is extended to provide a direct service to Stanstead airport.

• Faster Cambridge to London trains.

• All stations being refurbished and getting a deep clean.

• New ticket machines.

• More parking and cycle parking.

• Not part of the franchise but part of planned improvements is a £359,000 grant for an 18 month feasibility study into lengthening the platforms at Whittlesey and Manea stations and installing a footbridge at Whittlesey.

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