Friday, 30 December 2011

Abellio "The Most Cost Effective Bid"

The Radio 4 programme 'You And Yours' today did a feature on the railways which included mention of the recent award of the Greater Anglia franchise to Abellio.  The programme explained that as part of the bidding process the losing bidders - in this case Stagecoach and Go Ahead - are told why they lost out.  Both companies were effectively told that their emphasis was on customer service rather than giving the government value for money.  Abellio therefore apparently came top for putting the emphasis on value for money for the tax payer rather than the customer.  Interesting times ahead possibly...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Late Evening Timetable Changes - A Reminder

Passengers are reminded that on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9th January to 21st March the last train to Manningtree from Liverpool Street leaves London at 22:30.

Passengers leaving on the 23:30 from Liverpool Street will find themselves in Billericay from where a coach will take them to Witham.  A train from Witham will then deliver them to Manningtree at 01:14.

Sadly NXEA have not yet widely publicised these changes which will no doubt cause inconvenience to theatre and concert goers alike.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Train Punctuality Just Below National Average

Trains last month were more punctual than last year.

However, National Express East Anglia was just below the national average, with 88.3% of trains arriving on time between November 13 and December 10.  The national average was 88.4%.  Last year National Express East Anglia had 84.4% punctuality for the same period.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Tell NXEA What You Think

National Express East Anglia are asking customers, staff and stakeholders for feedback on their service. Take part in the survey here.

Happy Christmas From The MRUA

The Manningtree Rail Users Association would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

MRUA Attends Meeting With Abellio

Members of the MRUA Committee attended a meeting with senior managers from Abellio today to discuss their plans for the new Greater Anglia franchise.

Abellio took the opportunity to explain again that the short nature of this franchise - only 29 months - means that the emphasis will be on improving customer service rather than major projects such as acquiring new trains.  A Customer Training programme will be provided to all operational staff and 1,650 PDAs will be distributed amongst customer facing staff to enable them to provide timely information to passengers.  Regular customer surveys will be carried out to monitor service quality. A texting service will be reintroduced, as well as advising passengers via email of service issues.

Abellio will be launching a mobile phone application from which tickets can be bought and new, easier to use, ticket machines will be introduced by May 2012.  A new website will be introduced from which tickets can be bought together with a 'print at home' service.

As has been widely publicised the Oyster Pay-As-You-Go service will be extended to Shenfield.

Abellio assures passengers that the reduction to the fleet of 8 carriages will not increase crowding as existing stock will be better utilised.  This may mean that certain trains appear fuller than before i.e. trains previously 40% full may now be 80% full but this is due to better utilisation of existing carriages.  Also timetables will be colour coded to identify crowded services to allow passengers to make better choices about those they use.  Platform zoning will also be introduced to identify where the busy carriages are and also first class.

Abellio will also be taking steps to ensure services run smoothly during the Olympics.

Abellio are keen to entice more people onto the trains and the MRUA has asked them to review parking charges at Manningtree which is known to be a deterrent to many.

Overall the impression given was promising but of course the proof will be in how they perform once they take over on 5th February.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Disruption Over Christmas - A Reminder

A reminder that services will be disrupted on certain days over the Christmas break.  Overhead lines are being replaced between Ilford and Liverpool Street and as such there will be no services between Ingatestone and Liverpool Street on 24th, 27th and 31st December and the 1st and 2nd January.

As usual there will be no service on 25th and 26th December.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Abellio - Don't Expect Miracles

Abellio has warned passengers not to expect miracles when they take over the Greater Anglia franchise in February.  The short term of the franchise - only 29 months - means that there is a limit to what can be achieved.  However Abellio are looking to establish themselves with a view to successfully winning the longer, 15 year franchise due to start in 2014 when large projects such as the possibility of new trains between London and Norwich can be investigated.

During the shorter franchise Abellio hope to improve customer service by issuing all customer facing staff with smartphones to keep them up to date with service issues.  Abellio has also promised to deep clean every carriage before the Olympics.

Various new ticketing initiatives will be introduced to encourage passengers onto off-peak services with discounts being offered in the same way the company has successfully done on the other two franchises it runs in partnership with Serco - Merseyrail and Northern Rail.

Abellio has also confirmed that the new franchise will be known as "Greater Anglia".

Monday, 12 December 2011

"...progressively unreliable loco-hauled fleet..."

As part of the Virgin Group gearing up for the re-franchising process - which may include a bid for the 15 year Greater Anglia franchise due in 2015 - Sir Richard Branson has been speaking about the success the group has made of the West Coast Mainline.

Sir Richard was speaking on the day Virgin celebrated the carriage of its 30 millionth passenger this year, and he highlighted the strong growth of the business over the past 14 years, which included the introduction of the Pendolino sets replacing the ageing and progressively unreliable loco-hauled fleet.

The ageing and progressively unreliable loco-hauled fleet to which he refers is of course the fleet that moved over to run trains between London and Norwich some six or seven years ago and that we still enjoy to this day.  One day we might get new trains running our Inter City service rather than somebody else's "ageing and progressively unreliable" hand-me-downs.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Thursday, 8 December 2011

MRUA Meets With Transport Minister

Neil Skinner, Chairman of Manningtree Rail Users Association and Derek Monnery, Chairman of the Essex Rail Users Federation today met with the Transport Minister Theresa Villiers.  Items discussed included the shocking state of our trains, infrastructure investment and the need for improved information Systems.  Also discussed was the recent fare increase announcement and unregulated charges such as car parking which have soared in recent years.  Also in attendance at the meeting was Bob Russell MP.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Theresa Villiers Confirms No Reduction In Train Numbers

In response to a question raised by Bernard Jenkin MP, the Rail Minister Theresa Villiers has confirmed that there will not be a reduction in the number trains on the Great Eastern line when Abellio takes over.  The Hansard entry reads as follows:

    "Mr Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many trains are in service on the National Express East Anglia Great Eastern Line. [83711]

     Mrs Villiers: The fleet deployment plan provided by National Express East Anglia for the timetable running from May to December 2011 shows an allocation of 11 locomotive-hauled sets, and 147 electric multiple units to Great Eastern services each day (Monday to Friday).

     Mr Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of how many trains will be in service on the Great Eastern Line under the new franchise holders. [83712]

     Mrs Villiers: The successful bid for the Greater Anglia franchise by Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd includes a fleet deployment plan that allocates 11 locomotive-hauled sets and 147 electric multiple units to Great Eastern services each day (Monday to Friday)."

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Service Disruption Over Christmas And New Year

Details of engineering works on the NXEA network over the Christmas and New year Period can be found here.  Due to the replacement of overhead wires between Ilford and Stratford, services are severely restricted on certain days over the holiday period.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fare Increases Reduced

In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor has announced that rail fare increases in January will be capped at 1% above inflation, down from 3%.  This still means an horrendous increase of 6.2% but is better than the 8.2% previously planned.

Friday, 25 November 2011

December Timetable Changes - Extra Services

December 11th sees the introduction of the winter timetable with the following additional services affecting Manningtree:

An additional 06.00 service from Ipswich to London, calling at Manningtree, Colchester, Marks Tey, Kelvedon, Witham, and Chelmsford.

An additional 08.06 service from Liverpool Street to Ipswich, calling at Stratford, Shenfield, Ingatestone, Chelmsford, Hatfield Peverel, Witham, Colchester and Manningtree, and an additional 09.30 service from Ipswich to London, calling at Manningtree, Colchester, Marks Tey, Witham and Chelmsford.

In the evening the 16.44 Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea/Harwich Town service will call additionally at Stratford and there will be an additional 19.32 service from Liverpool Street to Harwich International, calling at Stratford, Chelmsford, Witham, Colchester and Manningtree.

An additional 21.05 service from Harwich Town to Colchester, calling at Dovercourt, Harwich International, Wrabness, Mistley and Manningtree.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Greater Anglia

Confirmation possibly that the new franchise will be called Greater Anglia and the new corporate colour is red.  Click here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

MP Wants New Rail Franchise To Be Blocked

Colchester MP Bob Russell has urged the government not to proceed with the new Greater Anglia rail franchise until claims that the winning bidder, Abellio, may be reducing the size of the train fleet are fully investigated.

Full story here.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cable Theft - Government Petition

If your journey has been made a misery this morning following the cable theft in Suffolk you may wish to sign this government e-petition in support of a Private Members Bill being put before Parliament next Monday by Graham Jones MP, which aims to reform the outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

No Response Yet From Abellio Re Train Reduction Plan

Pressure is mounting on Abellio to make public their plans to reduce the size of the train fleet they will be inheriting when they take over the East Anglian rail franchise from NXEA next year.  Reports suggest that up to 15 class 317 trains will be sent back next year resulting in the loss of 4,700 seats.

Official statistics show train use is increasing year on year across the region so reducing the number of available trains to reduce costs to the operator seems peverse in the extreme.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Recent Delays Caused By Faulty Component

The delays experienced on the 18th October due to overhead line failure in the Bethnal Green area, were caused by a manufacturing defect in a particular component.  Network Rail have checked the same component elsewhere and not found the same fault.  Hopefully therefore this is a one off.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Abellio To Reduce The Number Of Trains?

Reports in the media are suggesting that Abellio - announced last week as the company to take over the Greater Anglia franchise from National Express East Anglia - may reduce the number of trains in the fleet by 15 units.  That equates to 4,770 seats.  Trains are expensive to lease and this may be a contributory factor in Abellio being able to deliver a service for less.  However such a move would be a complete reversal of steps taken by NXEA to introduce more seats in an attempt to reduce overcrowding.

A sign of things to come?

Manningtree Wins Best Station Award

Manningtree train station has been named the best medium station in the National Express East Anglia’s station adopters 2011 awards. The hanging baskets and flower tubs certainly attracted much praise this year! 

Congratulations to Paul Sankey and all those involved in contributing to the upkeep of Manningtree station.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Abellio Announced As The Replacement For NXEA

The Department for Transport has today issued the following announcement:

"Abellio Greater Anglia Limited has been chosen as the new operator for the 'Greater Anglia' franchise which is currently operated by National Express East Anglia and stretches across Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. It will be part of the transport provision for the London 2012 Games, serving the Olympic Park area. Under the terms of the deal, the new operator will carry out a range of improvements during the 29 month contract. These will include improvements to stations, new ticket facilities and better passenger information. In addition, the majority of the train fleet will be 'deep-cleaned', some will be refurbished and more carriages will be fitted with CCTV.
Theresa Villiers said:
“This new franchise will start delivering important improvements for passengers, with more to come in the longer contract that will follow it. The franchise will also play a significant role in transport for the London 2012 Games providing crucial services to the Olympic Park area.”
“We want to make it easier for passengers to use the railways so the new operator will extend Oyster pay-as-you-go services to ten stations on the Shenfield and Hertford East lines and introduce mobile phone and print-at-home ticketing facilities. Passengers will also get better access to information as the new operator is introducing a text messaging service to keep passengers informed if disruption occurs and new information desks at major stations including Liverpool Street, Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich and Stansted Airport.”
Other improvements to be delivered by the new franchise include:
· A new cycle hire scheme at Norwich station and cycle storage points at 15 stations, including space for 500 bicycles at Chelmsford.
· Up to 300 new car parking spaces, plus a further 300 at Shenfield and Wickford stations, subject to planning approval.
· Cleaning and painting of 141 stations across the franchise."

Talk To NXEA Managers On Twitter

North Area station managers will be on Twitter between 13:00 and 15:00 on Friday (21st) to answer your questions.  Follow @NXEastAnglia or hashtag #nxeanorth

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cable Thefts

Cable theft coming an increasing problem for Network Rail and train operators across the UK. Incidents of cable theft cause huge disruption and inconvenience.  In addition, they can result in a significant loss of productivity, with thousands of people late for work and meetings. So it is not just passengers and the rail industry that are disadvantaged – businesses and the economy suffer too.  Train operators including NXEA, and Network Rail are working together and in coordination with the British Transport Police to try and both prevent such problems and mitigate their effects.

Furthermore, all players in the rail industry are collaborating to try and secure a change to legislation to increase the penalties on criminals found guilty of stealing the cables and make it more difficult for scrap metal merchants to trade in stolen metal.  Measures being called for include:

        a new licensing scheme with rigorous requirements relating to identification and quarantine of metals received;
        restrictions to cash transactions;
        significant penalties for non compliance with direct links to proceeds of crime legislation; and
        powers for the police to close premises that breach conditions and seize assets.
  The MRUA supports this initiative and will be campaigning for the law to be changed.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Your Thoughts On Fare Increases Wanted

Keo Films is making a programme for BBC1 to be broadcast in January to coincide with the fare increases. They are very keen to make contact with as many rail passengers as possible so they can record your experiences, monitor rail performance by both the train operators and Network Rail.

They are looking for people who are willing to take part in this nationwide experience. If you are interested please email and they will be in touch.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Further Complaints About Parking Charges

Lawford Parish Council is pushing for the parking charges at Manningtree Station to be cut to encourage people to park at the underused station car park rather than nearby streets.  The Daily Gazette is reporting that NCP have stated they would be willing to work with National Express East Anglia to change the tariff, which is set by the train operator.

The MRUA has been campaigning for some considerable time for parking charges to be reduced as they are a significant factor in discouraging rail use - especially for journeys to places such as Ipswich, Colchester, Witham and Chelmsford.  Sadly the government has cited car parking as a significant revenue stream to be used to counter the contribution made by the tax payer in rail subsidies.  The MRUA will however continue to press for reduced parking charges at Manningtree.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

NXEA Successor To Be Dutch?

There are reports in the media that the successor to NXEA will be the Dutch company, Abellio. The Department for Transport has declined to comment but an announcement is due this month.  A short 29 month franchise running from next February is being bid for the Greater Anglian area and a permanent 15 year contract could follow if the line is well managed.  As well as Abellio, Stagecoach and Go-Ahead are bidding for the franchise.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Leaf Fall Timetable Commences

Today sees the commencement of the Leaf Fall Timetable.  Certain train times will be altered to take into account the possible effect of fallen leaves on the line. Passengers are advised to check train times before traveling

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Halloween Train

The Essex & South Suffolk Rail Partnership has organised a special Halloween Train to run on 30th October.  The train leaves Manningtree at 4:26pm and tickets costing £3 for adults and £1 for children can be purchased from:

Mark J Morsley & Associates Ltd
Independent Financial Advisers
Mortgage & Insurance Brokers
14-16 South Street
CO11 1BB
Tel. 01206 392255 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Increase In The Number Of "SPADS" By NXEA

It is being reported that NXEA has brought in industry experts to review safety measures after an increase in the number of trains that passed red signals.  The number of Signals Passed At Danger (SPADS) had been running at about one per million train miles in 2005 - 2009 but this number dropped to only nine in 2010.  However the number is creeping up again this year prompting the safety review.

The vast majority of incidents happened as trains passed the signals by only a few feet, often because of slippery rail conditions.  However, every incident is logged and investigated fully.

The Halcrow Group, commissioned by NXEA to carry out a review of procedures, found that "NXEA is implementing a number of initiatives and Halcrow considers these to be setting the benchmark against which industry good practice is measured."

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Fare Increases - Will You Be Reviewing Your Transport Plans?

The MRUA is keen to hear from anybody who will be switching to other forms of transport as a consequence of the proposed 8% fare increase in the new year.  Will you be taking to the car instead?

There is a growing consensus that the hefty increase is a conscious effort to drive people off the railways in an attempt to relieve overcrowding - one of the biggest complaints from rail passengers.  Do you agree?

Contact us at

Harwich International Ticket Office To Close?

Harwich International is included in a list of stations publicized by the TSSA union that they claim will be closed.  The list appears in a report drawn up by Sir Roy McNulty on how to achieve savings in the railway industry but is 'buried' in the small print and does not appear in the Executive Summary.

The service provided to boat passengers at Harwich is currently embarrassingly poor with ferries and cruise ships being met by scruffy trains with insufficient luggage space for passengers.  To further downgrade the service by removing the ticket office surely sends out the wrong impression to visitors to the UK.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

NXEA Now On Twitter

National Express East Anglia now has official Twitter account.  Follow them at @NXEastAnglia

Monday, 22 August 2011

Season Ticket Prices - How Much?

The Essex Rail Users Federation has compiled a table that shows the percentage of gross salary the new season ticket prices in north Essex will be.  If you would like a copy please email us at

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fare Increases

It is worth pointing out that when the government announced the RPI +3 increase in rail fares the target inflation figure was 2%.  The fact that inflation is now at 5% has made the proposed increases ludicrous to put it mildly.  Surely the government should therefore use their target inflation rate of 2% rather than the actual rate of 5% which is hardly the fault of the hard pressed commuter?  Ok, 5% (inflation at 2% +3) is still a hefty increase but significantly better than the ridiculous figure of 8% that is proposed.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Real Cost Of Commuting

We have done this exercise before but it is probably worth repeating just to emphasize the true cost of commuting.  
The following numbers are based on somebody paying 40% tax and the numbers in brackets are after the proposed 8% increase.

The cost of an annual season Manningtree <-> London - £4,600 (£4,968)

To pay for this you have to earn £7,666 (£8,280)

If you want to park at the station the cheapest way is by annual season which costs £1,057 which means you have to earn £1,753 to pay for it.

So for a person (paying 40% tax) to commute to London from Manningtree and park at the station they have to earn £9,419 (£10,033) just to cover their costs.  Bearing in mind the 40% tax threshold kicks in at £37,400 that can mean over 25% of salary needed just to pay to go to work!!

(The above calculations are approximate in that they don't take into account NI contributions and the vagaries of the tax system, but you get the gist)

Season Ticket Prices to Go Up by 8%

The government today confirmed the July RPI figure of 5%.  Season ticket prices are set to go up by RPI + 3 which means an increase of 8% in January.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Missed Connections At Manningtree - Please Note

Many will have been inconvenienced by missed connections to the Harwich branch at Manningtree caused by late running trains.  Of particular concern has been missed connections late at night when the station is no longer manned and the last Harwich train has left.

NXEA and Network Rail have now agreed that if the last connection is missed or is going to be missed, customers will be advised to travel to Ipswich where a taxi will be provided. This also means that staff will always be on hand to assist. 

Passengers should note that this arrangement will take a couple of weeks to implement fully but is certainly a step to be welcomed.

Friday, 29 July 2011

National Express Profits Increase

National Express has seen profits from its regional rail operations rise by £11m this year.  The group which runs trains on the C2C franchise out of Fenchurch Street as well as the NXEA operation said operating profits from its UK rail division rose from £16.1m in the first half of 2010 to £27.1m in the first six months of this year.

The group credited the tight control of costs, the “relatively stronger economies of London and the South East”, and increasing rail revenues - up by 8pc to £335.1m - for the rise in profits.

Monday, 25 July 2011

NXEA Launch iPhone App

National Express East Anglia NXEA has launched an iPhone App to enable passengers to check for up to date information whilst on the move.  The application shows the same 'rainbow board' that is on the NXEA website and users can drill down for further information.

The App is available free of charge via iTunes.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

MRUA Meets With Essex MPs

The MRUA, as part of the Essex Rail Users Federation, met up with four Essex MPs on Monday at Westminster to discuss the letting of the new Greater Anglia franchise.  These were Priti Patel, Sir Alan Hazlehurst, Bob Russell and Brooks Newmark.

The committee were anxious to convey a message to the government that we did not want a repeat of the underfunded National Express franchise which has resulted in some of the lowest passenger satisfaction levels in the country.   Essex rail services are some of the most profitable in the country so rail users deserve a much better service than they are currently getting.

MRUA committee members have already met with representatives of the three companies bidding for the franchise to replace National Express East Anglia, to highlight the areas where passengers expect to see improvements.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Passengers Dissatisfied With Train Punctuality And Value For Money

The number of passengers in the UK satisfied with train punctuality and reliability has gone down with National Express East Anglia (NXEA) second from bottom out of all UK train companies.  Satisfaction overall has dropped from 82% to 80% with NXEA scoring 78%. Hull Trains came top with an overall satisfaction level of 95%.

The survey was carried out by Passenger Focus and involved more than 32,000 passengers across the country.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Services Disrupted By Heat

Network Rail and National Express East Anglia are warning of cancellations and disruption due to the hot weather affecting the overhead wires.  Passengers are advised to check the National Express website for updates before travelling.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cruise Ships At Harwich

The Manningtree Rail Users Association has asked NXEA to review the way it deals with Cruise Ships at Harwich International.  Significant overcrowding and apparent lack of organisation is causing chaos for visitors using the trains.  This coupled with the ongoing issue around the poor state of the trains generally which do not give a good impression to foreign visitors to our region.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Off Peak Ticket Dispensation For Harwich Line Passengers

Hidden in the small print of the ticketing regulations there is an arrangement in place for Harwich Line passengers that is apparently unique in the UK.  Those passengers travelling on the 08:28 ex Harwich service are allowed to catch the 08:53 ex Manningtree connection with an off-peak ticket.  (Note: This arrangement does not apply to Manningtree passengers).

Unfortunately not all NXEA staff are aware of this and some passengers have been thrown off the train at Chelmsford for having the wrong ticket!  Has this happened to you?

Friday, 20 May 2011

'Rip-Off' Fares

A special investigation carried out by the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT) has found that fares on National Express East Anglia are considerably higher than comparable journeys in other parts of the UK.  The EADT has worked out that NXEA customers pay pay 50p-per-mile at peak times on the Ipswich to Liverpool Street service, against South Eastern (33p), South West Trains (43p) and Chiltern Railways (45p) for comparable journeys into London.

For full details go to the EADT website.

Monday, 16 May 2011

'Meet The Manager'

A quick reminder that there will be a 'Meet The Manager' session at Manningtree station on Tuesday 17th May.  This is an opportunity to talk to senior managers from National Express East Anglia, the last such opportunity before the end of the franchise.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Tube Strikes Cancelled

The RMT has announced that the tube strikes planned for the coming weeks have been cancelled.

Whilst again the cancellation of these strikes is to be welcomed this appears to be a tactic much used by the RMT now.  Cause disruption by threatening strikes only to call them off at the last moment, so the history books will show that no strike took place.

MRUA AGM - Elections

At the MRUA AGM held on Monday 9th May 2010 the following officers were elected:

Chairman: Neil Skinner
Vice Chairman: Derek Monnery
Treasurer: Val Pretty

Monday, 9 May 2011

Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership

The Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership (ESSCRP) has opened an office at Manningtree Station.  Located on Platform 3 next to the waiting room, this office replaces the one previously located in Mistley.

For details of the activities of the work of the ESSCRP click here.


A reminder that the MRUA AGM will be held in the Station Buffet this evening at 7pm

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Tube Strikes Announced

The RMT has announced dates for intended stikes on the tube as follows:
  • 16 to 17 May: 2101 - 1159
  • 18 to 19 May: 1200 - 115
  • 20 May: 1200 - 2100
  • 13 to 14 June: 2101 - 1159
  • 15 to 16 June: 1200 - 1159
  • 17 June: 1200 - 2100 
The strikes are in reponse to two driver being sacked although the reasons for the sackings are unclear at the moment.

As is often the case with RMT industrial action, the decision to strike has been taken based on a majority of the 29% of tube drivers who actually voted.  It must be hoped therefore that as the vast majority of drivers didn't even bother to vote there may be a service of sorts running.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

No Customer Assistants At Manningtree

National Express East Anglia have taken away the Customer Assistants at Manningtree station in a somewhat surprising, not to say disappointing move.  These Assistants were employed after the December timetable changes principally to help passengers through the subway because of the need to change trains for the Harwich branch.  This can only be taken as another cost cutting move by NXEA and begs the question were the Customer Assistants ever a permanent fixture or simply a temporary gesture to placate angry passengers?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Very quiet at the moment....

It is very quiet at the moment but the MRUA is taking the opportunity to compile a submission which will be passed to the three companies bidding for the next Greater Anglia franchise, currently run by National Express East Anglia.  The paper will detail the issues affecting Manningtree and Harwich line passengers which we will be looking for the new franchisee to address.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

National Express Lose Franchise

The following is an extract from an announcement by the Department for Transport:


The Department for Transport has today announced the names of the companies shortlisted to bid for the new Greater Anglia franchise.

They are:

Abellio Greater Anglia Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen)
Eastern Railway Limited (Go-Ahead Group PLC)
Stagecoach Anglia Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc) 

Today's short listing comes after the Government published requirements for franchise, seeking expressions of interest.

The Invitation to Tender for the Greater Anglia franchise will be issued in April.

The Government has set out the following objectives for the franchise:

Delivering a quality of service for passengers for the entire rail journey.
Working with the Department and other stakeholders to ensure value for money.
Managing and delivering changes required to accommodate Crossrail.
Implementing the station responsibilities if required.
Working effectively with Network Rail to maintain performance.
Delivering the plans around the Olympics.
Managing the introduction of the Class 379 HLOS vehicles.
Controlling operational costs and maximising revenue."

The current National Express East Anglia (NXEA) franchise will run until 5th February 2012.

National Express Lose Franchise

more to follow.....

New Franchise Shortlist To Be Announced

Today will see the announcement by the DfT detailing who is on the shortlist to run the next east Anglian rail franchise currently run by National Express East Anglia (NXEA) and due to expire in February 2012.

As the government are still reviewing the whole franchise process the next franchise will be very short - 18 months to 2 years - so it will be interesting to see who will be going to the considerable expense of bidding.  It is expected that the following franchise will be 15 years so some may apply for the shorter franchise in the hope of getting their foot in the door for the real prize of the 15 year franchise.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

NXEA Website Improvements

National Express East Anglia (NXEA) have made some changes to their website that will hopefully make it easier to monitor services during periods of disruption.  The MRUA has been critical of the NXEA website in the past as it has been used primarily as a marketing tool rather than a useful source of information detailing the state of services.  Hopefully these changes will make the site more useful.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Channel 4 Dispatches

A few weeks later than originally advertised but tonight's Dispatches programme (Channel 4 at 8pm) is about the state of Britain's railways. Previews suggest it will be worth watching....

Friday, 11 March 2011

Faulty Season Tickets

The MRUA is receiving a number of reports that it is now quite common to have to get season tickets replaced - sometimes 3 or 4 times a year - because they stop working at the barriers at Liverpool Street after only a few attempts.  The MRUA is also hearing about the surly attitude of certain NXEA staff members at Liverpool Street who react rudely when asked to let passengers through when their tickets don't work.  Please let us have details of your experiences at

Monday, 7 March 2011

"National Express will continue to deliver superior customer service and performance"

An interesting quote attributed to John Devaney, Chairman of National Express: "National Express will continue to deliver superior customer service and performance.....while we are leading the industry's investment to reduce commuter overcrowding, in partnership with the Dft"

Perhaps not a feeling shared on the ground....

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

NXEA & BTP Crackdown On Anti-Social Behaviour

British Transport Police (BTP) and National Express East Anglia (NXEA) have relaunched their joint initiative known as Safer Travel to combat anti-social behaviour on trains and stations in the Colchester, Clacton and Ipswich areas.

Staff have been enforcing railway bylaws to crackdown on unacceptable behaviour such as: Abuse or harassment of staff; illegal smoking; feet on seats; playing loud music; being drunk or under the influence of drugs and not having a valid ticket.

The campaign by BTP and NXEA is designed to send out a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Unreliable Wi-Fi?

A quick reminder to those experiencing problems with the Wi-Fi connectivity on London - Norwich services.  The Wi-Fi is specifically designed not to work in the Quiet Carriage(s) for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

'Meet The Manager'

A note for the diary.  There will be a 'Meet The Manager' session at Manningtree station on 17th May.  This is an opportunity for passengers to meet with senior managers from National Express East Anglia.  Exact times to be confirmed nearer the date.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Reports of Unreliable Wi-Fi on NXEA Inter City Services

Some passengers are reporting that the much publicised Wi-Fi service introduced by National Express East Anglia on its Inter City services last week is proving to be at best unreliable with it occasionally not working at all.  What is your experience of the service? Let us know at

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Trains 'On Time' Record Challenged

Passenger Focus, the rail passengers' watchdog, has called on train companies to review the way they report punctuality after a study found that passengers' experience of delays was different to official records.  As has been pointed out by many passengers on the Great Eastern mainline, trains may be late at stations along a route but make up sufficient time to arrive at the end of the journey according to the timetable - the train is therefore reported as having been 'on time'.  Most passengers commuting home in the evening leave the train before it reaches its final destination and can be late although the train goes on to reach its final destination on time.

Passenger Focus said the findings of a study it conducted among passengers on National Express East Anglia (along with Northern Rail and CrossCountry) had prompted it to call on the rail industry as a whole to review how it records train times, including punctuality along the route.

This is particularly relevant to NXEA passengers, some of whom have been in dispute with the company when making Delay Repay claims only to be told that the train arrived at its final destination on time and was therefore not delayed.  A train can be delayed only ten minutes along its route to ensure a connection is missed leading to far longer overall delays to passengers' journeys.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

WiFi Facilities Now Available On NXEA Inter City Services

WiFi is now available on National Express East Anglia Services between Norwich and London. Jointly funded by the East Of England Development Agency and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils to the tune of £346,000 the service will be free to first class passengers.  There will be a charge of £2.95 per session for Standard Class passengers with monthly and annual discounts available.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Channel 4 Dispatches - Update

Further to the earlier post about the Channel 4 programme Dispatches looking for contributions from passengers highlighting the much publicised complaints about late or cancelled services, overcrowding, filthy trains etc.  more information can be found at

Monday, 31 January 2011

Rail Travel At Highest Peacetime Level Since 1928

A report form the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) says that rail travel is now at its highest peacetime level since 1928.  The number of train journeys reached 1.3bn in 2010.  ATOC claims this is down to the rising cost of motoring and perhaps surprisingly good service and attractive pricing!

Overall the proportion of the population using the train has actually decreased with the amount of usable track having more than halved since the heyday of the 1920s.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Channel 4 Dispatches - Looking For Feedback On Rail Services

Channel Four's Dispatches are making a documentary about Britain’s train services. They are investigating the reasons behind highly publicised complaints including delayed and cancelled services, confusing pricing, poor public information, over-crowding, dirty trains and above-inflation increases in fares.

Over the next four weeks they are asking people from all over the country to send them their phone footage and videos. They would like to see clips showing what train services are like, telling them your stories and sharing your views.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in participating in then please keep an eye on their website for more detail on how to take part.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Customer Satisfaction With NXEA Still Low

In a report out today overall customer satisfaction with the service provided by National Express East Anglia is shown to be the second worst in the country.  The survey by Passenger Focus shows that 79% of passengers were satisfied with the service.  Only First Capital Connect scored lower with 76%.  Despite this poor showing there is actually a 2% improvement on the previous set of figures.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Franchise Update

The National Express East Anglia franchise has been further extended to February 2012.  The government has made it clear it wishes to review the whole franchising system and it is likely that any future franchises will be for a longer period than currently awarded - a length of 15 years is being mentioned.  This is to encourage the train operating companies to invest properly in the railway they are responsible for.  Current franchises typically run for 7 years or so which is not long enough for companies to necessarily see the benefits of their investment, so they don't do it to the extent that perhaps they should.

So, in a rather bizarre move it seems that the government will be going out to tender for the new Greater Anglia franchise which will run from February 2012 to the summer of 2013.  Such a short franchise is being considered to give the Department for Transport sufficient time to define the future of franchising so that a longer such arrangement can be tendered to run beyond 2013.

It is unlikely of course that there will be many bidders - other than National Express - for the franchise to summer 2013.  There is significant expense in putting together a bid and most companies are likely to wait until the 'main' franchise to run from summer 2013 goes out to tender rather than bid for such a short franchise which will only run for just over a year.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Amendments To Timetable

The NXEA website is saying there will be minor changes to the Norwich and Colchester line timetables by the end of January to correct 'teething problems' following the introduction of the new timetable in December.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Maintenance Work At The Station

Electrical contractors are investigating the cause of the recent power outages at the station which have become more regular in recent weeks.  Additional emergency lighting has been drafted in the provide cover in the meantime.

Network Rail is being chased to fix the increasing number of potholes that have appeared on the approach road following the recent cold snaps.

Work to upgrade the lighting on the approach road is to commence next week.  All the light heads are to be replaced and the older ones in the car park that were not replaced 14 months ago will also be replaced.  There will be some trench works from the bus stop taking a diagonal route from the bottom deck of the car park to the staircase and also on the slope of the main car park.  Paths and walkways will be maintained for pedestrians and road access will be maintained all times with any trenches refilled or plated prior to the start of the evening peak period to prevent any bottlenecks with people being picked up or leaving the car park.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

NX Profits From Rail Highlighted In Private Eye

An article in Private Eye highlights the bizarre thinking behind the rail franchising system - a system that supposedly ensures that the profits of train companies are not ring fenced.  You may remember that National Express Group (NX) won the East Coast mainline franchise in 2007 by making unrealistic assumptions about growth.  Instead of suffering the financial consequences of its recklessness NX dumped the business on tax payers in November 2009.  Labour ministers at the time had said that any firm handing back a franchise would lose its other franchises by "cross default".  This sounded good but proved to be, in the words of Private Eye, piffle.  NX was not stripped of its two remaining franchises - C2C and National Express East Anglia (NXEA) - both of which are profitable.  In the case of NXEA, the profits are enhanced by 'revenue support' i.e millions in tax payers' money.

Following on from the handing back of the East Coast franchise, NX UK rail profits rose by 544 percent in the first six months of 2010 and now the government has extended both C2C and NXEA franchises.

As Private Eye says, the lesson for future franchise bidders is clear: bid recklessly to win because franchising guarantees big, risk free rewards.

So, a 544% increase in profits? Something to bear in mind next time you purchase a ticket to travel on your filthy, overcrowded and more than likely, late train.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Season Ticket Prices

Does anybody have details of season ticket prices over the past ten years or so?  Interested to see how fares have increased over that period.  Please email us at

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Overrunning Engineering Works Again

Once again the return to work following the Christmas and New Year break is disrupted by overrunning engineering works and once again the communications in this regard by NXEA leave a lot to be desired.