Friday, 13 January 2017

New Year Message

2016 was a difficult year for rail travellers, with far too many incidents including infrastructure and train failures, causing major disruption to family life of the regular commuters to London. 
Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, Network Rail started to remodel the tracks at Shenfield, and replaced the overhead wires in the Gidea Park area.  This is all part of major works to upgrade the slow (or Metro) lines from Shenfield to London ready to receive new Crossrail trains that will start to enter service next May.  Sharp eyed travellers will have noticed the first of these new trains has already been delivered to Ilford depot.  Unfortunately, the Shenfield works have isolated the Metro lines north of Gidea Park, meaning that trains are unable to pass a failed train on the main line.  This caused delays of several hours one evening in November.

The first of 30 refurbished class 321 trains has entered service.  These can be distinguished externally because they have an red and grey horizontal strip on them below the windows.  Internally, they have new seats, air conditioning, wi-fi, and power sockets, so are a substantial improvement on what they were.  All the main line trains have already been refurbished.

New trains will be delivered to replace all the existing fleet between 2019 and 2021, including all refurbished units.    The operator has promised to make the existing fleet more reliable in the interim; we will be monitoring the situation to ensure this occurs.  There can be a real temptation to cut back on maintenance of old trains that are shortly going to be removed from service.

We were expecting the latest fare increase, as this is government inspired, with the train operator obliged to follow their instructions.   What we were not expecting was the sharp increase in car parking charges; this is totally unnecessary, and a real penalty for those already struggling to pay the rail fare increases.  It seems that the authorities are doing everything possible to discourage rail travel, as motoring costs are frozen (apart from oil prices) while all costs associated with rail travel continue to increase disproportionately.  We now have train fares that are six times the European average.

We will continue to fight for a fairer deal for rail travellers in 2017.  We are pleased to announce that our Chairman, Derek Monnery, has been appointed to represent East Anglia on the new Greater Anglia Stakeholder Board, so will have three meetings a year with senior Greater Anglia managers.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

New Franchise

At long last we, the long suffering rail users of East Anglia have got a proper long term deal for our rail services.  Abellio (Dutch Railways) has won a nine year franchise in which they promise to replace the entire train fleet, Suburban, Main Line, Stansted Express, and Regional.

There will be essentially five types of unit supplied by two manufacturers, Bombardier and Stadler.  All trains will have free wi-fi.

The Bombardier units will be built in Derby and will have a lot of similarities to the Crossrail trains already being built there.  These will be used on all suburban services where class 317, 321 and 360 trains are used now.  There will be two different types, 5 car and 10 car, with the former used on branch lines and the latter on the main line.  These will be delivered in 2020.

There will be three different types of Stadler units, 10 car, 5 car and 4 car.  The 10 car units will be electric and replace InterCity sets and Stansted Express class 379 units.   The 5 car and 4 car units will be bi-mode (able to operate both on diesel and electric power) and will be used on Regional Services to replace existing class 153, 156, and 170 diesel railcars.  These will be delivered in 2019.

Of course regular rail users will know that many of the problems on the line relate to infrastructure faults, so we will be putting pressure on Network Rail to eliminate the string of signal, point and other failures that wreck our timetables on a regular basis.  New trains will only solve half our existing problems.

We also need to know that the existing train fleet will not be allowed to deteriorate further while we wait for the new trains.  Again we will be putting pressure on Abellio to ensure that we do not suffer a poorer service before new trains arrive. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Abellio Wins the New Franchise To 2025

Abellio has won the contract to run trains in our region from October 2016 to 2025.

Details can be found here

Monday, 2 May 2016

Hadleigh Community Transport Group

Hadleigh Community Transport Group are seeking to promote the use of our 796 bus service which runs from Hadleigh at 0548 via Raydon, Holton, East Bergholt and Cattawade to Manningtree station each week day and returns from the Station at 1835 each week day evening arriving back in Hadleigh at 1900

It is a service mainly used by commuters but is available to anyone - you can catch the bus at any stops along the route - the fare is very reasonable and saves you the expense of car parking charges at the station and the time to park the car - we drop you off right outside the door

For further information please go to www.hadleigh.org 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

End Of Year

It's been a pretty tough year for rail users in our area with far too many "incidents" occurring that have caused severe delays to journeys.  The majority of these have been infrastructure related (Network Rail responsibility), but we are getting increasing numbers of train faults, caused by the age of the trains, and in some cases by inadequate maintenance.

The new Greater Anglia rail franchise starts in October 2016.   Bids have just gone into the Department for Transport from three rail companies; Abellio (the current operator), National Express (the previous operator) and First Group (who ran the First Great Eastern rail franchise immediately after rail privatisation).   Based on the track record of these companies, there is one that is best qualified of the three by quite a margin, and indeed this company has been a lot more proactive in researching what is needed.   So we are hopeful that common sense will prevail, and we will get a step change in improvement.

We have certainly been very proactive in lobbying MPs, DfT, and other interested parties to ensure that this takes place.  In December, there have been debates in the House of Commons about the poor condition of our rail services, with promises made of new trains and other improvements.  Ministers have been left in no doubt that things need to improve and fast.

So we are left with lots of promises, but being realistic, it will be 2020 before new trains arrive in sufficient quantities to make our train service what it should be.

Local issues have not been neglected.   At last the new lifts are being installed at Manningtree station, and your Chairman has been appointed as the Stakeholder representative while these works are in progress.  We managed  to get the design changed as the previous design was potentially dangerous.

Also we have asked the franchise bidders to consider half hourly train services on all lines in Essex, with one of the first in line being the Harwich branch (because it will not need any infrastructure changes to achieve this).

Friday, 30 October 2015

Greater Anglia Control - Communication

The MRUA recently met with senior management from Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA) to voice concerns at the apparent lack of communication between the Control Room - those responsible for determining which train runs where and when on a daily basis - and platform staff and passengers.

There is a perception that sometimes the Control Room staff forget that the railways needs to be run as a service to passengers and not treated like a very large train set. As such there needs to be better communication with staff on the ground to determine the specific details of what is going on and to act in the best interests of the passengers.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Norwich In 90

In case you haven't seen it there is a very good article in the latest Rail magazine (issue 779) about the Norwich in 90 Campaign. Worth a look.