Monday, 23 December 2013

Fare Increase Announced

The expected fare increases have been announced with the Annual season ticket from Manningtree to Liverpool Street going up from £5,060 to £5,232 - an increase of 3.4%.

Harwich to London will go up from £5,104 to £5,312 - an increase of 4.07%.

The increase kicks in on 2nd January.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Class 321 Demonstrator

Eversholt Rail Group, the company that owns the Class 321 trains (the older sliding door trains that stop at Manningtree) used by Greater Anglia (GA), in conjunction with Wabtec and GA has completely rebuilt one of these trains to see what could be done to bring them up to date.  Although they are now over 20 years old they are considered to be only halfway through their working lives.  However, they are looking very shabby and are in desperate need of a major overhaul to incorporate features that reflect the needs of today.

Features include air conditioning and new heating; Sealed windows; LED lighting; Leather seats and Power sockets in 1st Class; Refurbished standard toilet; New wheelchair accessible toilet.

Eversholt has effectively split the four carriage train into two to evaluate different seating arrangements.  Two carriages have the conventional 3+2 seating that we currently have and is designed for longer journeys.

These seats have been raised slightly when compared to the current model which will please some but they are still quite cramped when 3 people try to sit together.  To provide more space for the seats reserved for those less able, the seats facing each other in the middle of the carriage are very close together.  So much so, passengers would have to sit with their legs intertwined!

Pic: Stuart Wilks

The other two carriages have been fitted out with 2+2 seating.

This seating arrangement is intended for the Metro routes and as such has fewer seats.  The thinking being that passengers can stand on shorter journeys.  These seat's have a higher back and are much firmer.  Concerns have been raised as to the consequences of being in an impact when in one of these seats.  Without seat belts, the only way to go would be to smash into the seat in front.  (Having said that, all the seats have been thoroughly crash tested.)

With fewer seats in this configuration, there is much more standing room with extra space around the exits.  However, apart from the handles on the seats as visible above, there are no grab handles, on the ceiling for example, to hold onto.  The added space next to the exists incorporates bench type 'seats' to lean against.

Pic: Stuart Wilks

There are new leather seats in 1st Class where there are also power points fitted.

The current model has 2 toilets and one of these has been removed with the remaining one having a complete refurbishment.  In addition however, there is now a wheelchair friendly toilet too.

This train will be in service throughout 2014 and will be used on the Great Eastern Mainline to Ipswich together with the Harwich, Southend, Braintree and Clacton / Walton branch lines.  Eversholt and GA will be looking for comments from passengers and feedback can be provided at either or

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Inter City - Short Formations #2

The MRUA has been advised that the current short formations of certain Inter City services are down to the following reasons:

  1. A number of carriages are out of service having 'wheel flats' corrected - a condition caused by slippery rails conditions.
  2. A number of carriages are out of service at any one time undergoing heavy maintenance under a periodic programme that takes place every few years.  The cover usually provided for such maintenance has been reduced by the wheel flats issue.
  3. Following accident damage to a couple of Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) elsewhere on the GA network a couple of Inter City carriages (hauled by a diesel) are being used in their place. GA are trying to source replacement DMUs but at the time of writing there are none going spare in the UK.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Inter City - Short Formations

Passengers may have noticed that a number of Inter City services are missing a carriage, something that is particularly apparent in the morning peak period.  The MRUA has asked for an update on how long this is likely to continue.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Ticket Office Availability

Following on from pressure by the MRUA, Bernard Jenkin MP has received an acknowledgement from Greater Anglia that the ticket office at Manningtree has been subject to "unscheduled closures" in recent months.  This has been caused by long term staff sickness and other stations nearby being subject to higher than usual long term sickness making relief cover difficult to balance.

Greater Anglia now state that Manningtree is back up to full strength having employed new members of staff to fill gaps left by ill health, retirement and redeployment.

Greater Anglia also caveat their assurances by stating there may still be occasions where the office is closed temporarily due to train despatch duties and to provide platform assistance to those who have requested it.

The MRUA will continue to monitor the situation as best we can but please do let us know if you find the ticket office closed for long periods.

Friday, 8 November 2013

New MD for Greater Anglia

Abellio, the parent company of Greater Anglia, this afternoon issued the following press release:


Following the conclusion of a rigorous selection process, Abellio UK has selected Jamie Burles to succeed Ruud Haket as Managing Director of the Abellio Greater Anglia franchise.

Commenting on the appointment, Abellio UK Managing Director Dominic Booth said: “We are delighted to appoint Jamie as MD of the Abellio Greater Anglia business. Ruud and the team have done an amazing job in a very short time, and we were determined to find a replacement with the calibre and inspirational qualities to maintain the momentum for change and improvement across the whole franchise. Jamie will do just that.”

Jamie is a Bid Director at Abellio UK, where he is currently managing the company’s bid for the new Thameslink franchise. He will continue in that role until the decision on franchise award, and will take the reins at Abellio Greater Anglia on 1 April 2014.

Commenting on his appointment, Jamie said “I’m looking forward immensely to being part of what is already a very dynamic and successful team at Abellio Greater Anglia. Building on the impressive start they have made, and delivering even more exciting improvements for passengers will be my sole focus. Abellio Greater Anglia serves one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and a modern, efficient, attractive rail network will be crucial to sustaining that growth.”

Prior to joining Abellio UK, Jamie had experience as an MD in the healthcare sector and Commercial Director roles within Northern Rail, Vax and Midland Mainline.

Ruud Haket will leave the business at the end of January 2014. Adam Golton, currently Finance Director of Abellio Greater Anglia, will be appointed Interim Managing Director to provide continuity until Jamie arrives. "

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Refurbished Class 321

The long awaited refurbished class 321 train - (The Class 321 often referred to as the green sliding door trains) has now arrived at Ilford sheds prior to going into service on the Greater Anglia line in December.

This is an experiment to demonstrate how an ageing train can be given a new lease of life at a fraction of the cost of a new one.  The seating will be a mix of 3+2 and 2+2 to gauge reaction from users.

Details of the train can be found here.

Let us know what you think of the train if you get the opportunity of travelling on it.

Storm Damage

Now the dust has settled after the recent storm and the disruption it caused has finished, a couple of facts about the damage caused.  Firstly, over 240 trees fell on or close to tracks in the Greater Anglia region.  Over 40 of these were on the Braintree line alone. Whilst Network Rail have been clearing trees from near the railway in recent years there are still many on private land that can cause disruption in severe weather.

Secondly there were six instances of overhead wires being damage.  Experience has shown that wires coming down causes significant disruption at the best of times.  To have six instances at once stretches the resources of Network Rail to the limit.

Most passengers have been understanding of the problems caused by the weather with he biggest criticism being lack of communication.  However this seems to depend on where you were on the network as many have been complimentary of the information received.

The MRUA recommends passengers make use of the excellent Twitter service provided by Greater Anglia.  Even if you're not a Tweeter yet, it's worth setting up an account and just following @greateranglia for up to date information on services and a very prompt personal response to queries.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

No Trains Before 9am on 28th October

Due to the forecast storm approaching the region, Greater Anglia have issued the following statement:

"On Monday 28th October Greater Anglia will be suspending services on all Greater Anglia routes until 09:00. Customers are advised not to attempt to travel before 09:00.

We have worked with Network Rail and our plans are based on the high winds of up to 75mph forecast across our region early on Monday morning which presents a significant risk of falling trees/branches, damage to railway equipment and will severely limit our ability to safely and quickly respond to any incidents which may occur.
We will be working with Network Rail throughout the night to ensure that the railway is open as soon as possible on Monday morning but we need to undertake checks across every area of our routes in order to ensure that services can run safely. We are working closely with Network Rail to deploy additional staff across the network overnight and throughout the early morning.
From 09:00 we will look to run a reduced service on all lines but we expect there to be significant disruption to services throughout the day.
We will update our website ( and our Twitter feed (@greateranglia) throughout the morning with the latest advice and information. Customers are strongly advised to check the latest travel information before setting out.
Customers with Greater Anglia tickets dated for travel on Monday 28th October can travel on Sunday 27th and Tuesday 29th October. Customers with Advanced Purchase tickets dated for Sunday 27th are advised that restrictions on the time of travel are suspended.
Other operators across South East England are likely to be affected and details of their services are available here"

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Greater Anglia MD to leave...

Greater Anglia has announced that Manageing Director Ruud Hacket is to leave the company to take up the role of CEO at Keolis.  His replacement will be announced in due course.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Trains To Be Cleaned (Externally)

A new cleaning programme for Greater Anglia is to restore exterior paintwork on the electric, sliding door fleet.  All Class  321 (the older sliding door trains) and 360 (Purple sliding door trains) will be cleaned this year.
GA is using a new cleaning product to strip away contamination like embedded brake dust. The work will take place at Ilford depot in London.
Sadly there is no news on improving the interiors.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Greater Anglia Shortlisted For Top Award

Greater Anglia has been nominated for Rail Operator Of The Year award at the National Transport Awards.  Among the reasons fro being nominated are:

  • Best punctuality ever seen in this region
  • Improved ticketing service
  • Service provided during the Olympics
  • The alliance with Network Rail resulting in fewer weekend disruptions

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony in October.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bike & Go

Instructions on the new Bike & Go stand say that keys should be returned to the ticket office at the end of the day.  It is not clear what to do if the ticket office is closed....

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Ticket Office Availability

There is much talk amongst neighbouring Rail User Groups of ticket offices being closed more and more often.   Regular travellers at Manningtree will know this has been a matter of concern here for some time now.  Have you been affected?  Let us know at

Friday, 19 July 2013

Station Parking

Motorists are reminded to take heed of the road markings outside the station and on the approach road.  The area directly in front of the station is a roundabout and the usual rules apply.  Motorists parking in the bus and taxi bays are causing congestion at busy times, and poor use is being made of the waiting spaces in the approach road.  Congestion will always be a problem at busy times, but adhering to the markings will alleviate the problems somewhat.

NCP Parking Fines

NCP continue to issue parking fines to poorly parked cars and we again ask that motorists take care when parking.  Those motorists trying to fill spaces reduced in size by irresponsible parking by others are also being penalised.  The fines levied are by no means small so it is worth taking the time to park properly.

Farewell to David Bramhill

Today Manningtree station bids farewell to David Bramhill.  Always a friendly face and extremely helpful to all, Dave is off to enjoy a well-earned retirement.  He has set a wonderful example to the current generation of staff in treating rail users well by keeping them informed when problems occur and giving useful advice when needed.  Upon leaving Dave says “I would like to thank all regular rail users at Manningtree for their tolerance and forbearance during times when the railways have not worked as they should”. 

We wish Dave a long and healthy retirement.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Franchise To Revert To 3 Companies....?

The government is apparently considering splitting the current Greater Anglia franchise into three separate companies when it comes up for renewal in 2016.  The current Metro service will be taken over by Crossrail in 2017 anyway and the prospect of splitting the remaining outer suburban and Inter City services into separate companies is being considered.

Prior to the disastrous 'one' franchise services to Manningtree were split between Great Eastern and Anglia trains.  Could we be heading back to that arrangement?

Further details can be found in today's EADT

Monday, 24 June 2013

Ticket Office Availability (Lack of)

The MRUA has again raised the issue of Manningtree ticket office being unavailable more often than is reasonable.  The official line from Greater Anglia is that is is due to long term staff sickness but that is now wearing a bit thin and contingency plans need to be in place to ensure the ticket office is open at the advertised times.

The problem has been further exacerbated recently with the station itself being locked up making the ticket machine - the suggested alternate to the closed ticket office - inaccessible too.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

WiFi Now Available At 2 More Stations

Wifi is now available at Harwich International and Dovercourt stations.  As at Manningtree, the service is free for up to an hour a day or all day for existing Sky customers.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Ticket Office Availability

The MRUA has asked Greater Anglia for an explanation for the ticket Office at Manningtree station being closed so often recently.  This is causing great inconvenience for many and is hoped to be just a temporary blip in service.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Committee Appointments

At the 2013 AGM the following officers were elected:

  • Chairman - Neil Skinner
  • Vice Chairman - Derek Monnery
  • Treasurer - Valerie Pretty

Friday, 26 April 2013

Inter City C6 Overhaul Confirmed

Railcare has been awarded a £5m contract by Porterbrook, the owners of the Greater Anglia's Inter City coaches, to undertake the scheduled C6 overhaul and additional repairs to the 111 vehicles in the GA's fleet.

The work is scheduled to commence in October and will continue through to July 2016 with 5 carriages undergoing work at any one time.

The work to be done includes exterior shot blasting, examination of vehicle structures, corrosion repairs and repainting in Greater Anglia colours. There will also be a full test of the electrical systems and an overhaul of the air conditioning and central locking systems.  Floors and carpets will be cleaned or replaced as appropriate.

Porterbrook is investigating the possibility of also including the extensive modifications needed to make the trains compliant with disability regulations which would see them continue to operate beyond 2020.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Class 321 Refurbishment

An advertisement in RAIL magazine from Evershot Rail suggests they will be refurbishing the Class 321 fleet for Greater Anglia.  The 321 trains are the older sliding door units that form the backbone of outer suburban services between Ipswich and London including branch services to Clacton, Walton, Harwich and Braintree.

The Advertisement says "coming soon" and promises "modern seat design; Bright, quiet and comfortable environment; Air conditioning, LED lighting and new windows."

Watch this space....

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Tweet The Manager

Greater Anglia will be holding another Tweet The Manager session with station managers north of Chelmsford on Friday (12th April) between 07:30 and 09:00.  Join in by following @greateranglia and using the #ttmga hashtag

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Greater Anglia Franchise Extended

The Department for Transport (DfT) has today announced that the Greater Anglia franchise run by Abellio is to be extended to October 2016.  It had originally been due to expire in July 2014.  This has come about as part of a review of the whole franchising process following the West Coast main line debacle that has seen many franchises extended.

Full details of the DfT announcement can be found here.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cold Waiting Room

The faulty heater in the waiting room has been reported to Greater Anglia.  Hopefully something more up to  the job will be installed.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

2nd Deep Clean To Be Carried Out

Greater Anglia has announced that it will be carrying out a second deep clean of their trains.  This is over and above the usual daily clean the trains allegedly get.  One train will be deep cleaned per day.

A tacit admission perhaps that the first effort wasn't exactly a resounding success?  Or a requirement of the franchise that a second clean be done within a year of the first.

Greater Anglia Named Best UK Train Operator(!)

Less than two weeks after being voted second worst operator (worst amongst commuters) in the UK by Which? Magazine, Greater Anglia has been awarded Train Operator Of The Year at the annual Rail Business Awards.  The independent judging panel - who judging from the feedback that we have been getting from regular travellers have never been on a Greater Anglia train in their lives - praised GA's improved punctuality, higher customer service standards and engagement, and station improvements.  Special mention was made of the excellent performance during the Olympics but nothing about the poor state of the trains on the Great Eastern main line.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Which? Survey Results

Further to our blog entry yesterday is transpires that Greater Anglia (GA) actually came bottom with commuters in the Which? survey published yesterday.  GA got 42% overall but when only commuters were surveyed the figure was just 36%.  Virgin Trains - the company almost stripped of its franchise in the West Coast debacle - came top with 67% overall with First Capital Connect coming bottom overall with 40%.

GA's scores were as follows:

  • Frequency - 2/5
  • Punctuality - 3/5
  • Reliability - 2/5
  • Cleanliness 2/5
  • Passenger space 2/5
  • Value for money 1/5

Monday, 18 February 2013

Which? Survey Results Different To Passenger Focus

Which? Magazine has published results of a survey which suggests that less than 50% of passengers are satisfied with the service provided by their train operating company.  This is a sharp contrast to to those figures published by Passenger Focus recently which suggested satisfaction levels of 85%.  The Which? results however are more in line with feedback received by the MRUA.

The Passenger Focus survey questioned 31,626 passengers in their survey to Which? Magazine's 7,500 passengers.  However the Which? survey questioned regular travellers.

Friday, 8 February 2013

MRUA Meeting With GA

The MRUA this morning met with GA Management where a number of topics were discussed including Harwich connections and direct services to London, selective door opening, car parking, disabled access at Manningtree Station and recent disruption.  A lot of useful information was exchanged to the benefit of both parties.

Job Track Scheme Launched

Greater Anglia has launched a new 'Job Track' scheme - a free rail ticket scheme for job seekers in the region. The scheme will help the unemployed by offering free train tickets to travel to job interviews and, when successful in gaining employment, further help is available - with a free season ticket for their first two months in work.

It is a new initiative, aimed at helping the unemployed find work and enabling them to broaden their horizons to consider employment opportunities outside of their immediate local area, but within reasonable commuting distances.

Greater Anglia will offer those joining the scheme a maximum of six day return tickets to attend job interviews at locations within the train operator’s network and, on securing work, eligible applicants can apply for an initial two-month season ticket free-of-charge. This will provide those successful in securing employment with a month to establish themselves in their new job, followed by a second month of free travel to assist them in putting their finances on a firm footing.

The scheme is being promoted and publicised at Job Centres and applicants meeting the required criteria to qualify for the scheme, will be able to apply for tickets through the Greater Anglia website.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

MRUA To Lobby The ORR For Investment In Local Rail

Following on from the East Anglian Rail prospectus published last year, Greater Anglia has asked over 200 interested parties to lobby the government for greater investment in the region's railways.  The prospectus was prepared with input from county and district councils, user groups and Greater Anglia themselves and is possibly the first time all interested parties have been calling for the same thing!

Specifically, interested parties are being asked to look for investment in three particular areas:

  1. Improvements to infrastructure to allow for faster journey times on the Great Eastern Mainline and West Anglia routes
  2. Additional track to the north of Chelmsford - ideally long passing loops parallel to the existing tracks in the vicinity of the proposed Beaulieu Park station
  3. Extension of the third track from Stratford to at least Angel Road and ideally Brimsdown on the West Anglia Route

As a contributor to the original prospectus the MRUA will be lobbying the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for the necessary investment to achieve these aims.

To view an ITV Anglia news item on this please click here.

Weekly Seasons - Advanced Purchase

There is a strange ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies of which Greater Anglia is a member) ruling that says Weekly Season tickets cannot be purchased in advance - something you are able to do with other types of ticket.  However it seems that in certain cases staff can override this restriction.  Have you ever been refused such a ticket when trying to purchase one in advance?  Perhaps you could let us know please at


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Discount Ticket For Couples

Greater Anglia has launched the Duo ticket to mark the end of regular weekend engineering work, which has seen bus replacement services operating on The Great Eastern line on Saturdays and Sundays for some years.

The Duo is available from all mainline stations south of Manningtree, including Colchester, Clacton, Harwich, Braintree and Chelmsford.
It can be used when two adults buy a super off peak day return. The second adult’s ticket is charged at half the usual price.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Disabled Access At Manningtree - Progress?

The MRUA has been campaigning for a considerable time now to get disabled access at Manningtree Station improved.  Passengers transferring between platforms 2 & 3 can only do so via the subway which itself can only be accessed via steep, narrow stairs.

Those less able, parents with buggies and those with heavy luggage often struggle to negotiate these stairs without assistance and in some cases have to be escorted across the tracks by staff.  This problem has been exacerbated by the decision to all but stop direct services between Harwich and London thereby requiring passengers from Colchester and London to change platforms to get the connection to Harwich.

The MRUA has canvassed both district and county councils, together with Greater Anglia (and NXEA before them), Network Rail and Passenger Focus to get cross platform access improved.  We are encouraged therefore that Tendring District Council is at last in contact with Greater Anglia to progress the matter with the Community Leadership Partnership Committee taking responsibility.  We hope for swift progress now contact has been established.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Manningtree Parking Charges - Correction

Following on from the article yesterday is now appears that Manningtree parking charges are to stay the same.  Other stations are affected - for example Colchester goes up from £6.60 to £7.20.  Apologies for the confusion.

Greater Anglia In U Turn Over Harwich Connections

Greater Anglia have withdrawn their plans for not holding Harwich trains at Manningtree should a connection be running late.  They have now agreed to hold trains for up to five minutes.

The decision to not hold trains was met with incredulity by most and has led to Passenger Focus and Bernard Jenkin MP calling for the decision to be reconsidered.  Common sense has prevailed but sadly the decision to not hold trains has done the reputation of Greater Anglia much harm.

Any future statistics on train punctuality improvements will be taken with a pinch of salt as it may be that trains elsewhere on the network are being run to ensure good statistics rather than good passenger service.  Something to bear in mind next time you're thrown off an Ipswich bound service at Colchester so the train's return journey is not delayed.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Station Car Parking Charges To Increase

Greater Anglia have announced that car parking charges are to increase in February by an average of 6.2%.

You may remember that GA's predecessor, NXEA, outsourced parking at Manningtree, and other car parks, to NCP.  This ludicrous arrangement continues with Greater Anglia and made worse by the fact that NCP use yet another company - RingGo - to do the ticketing for them.  Such an inefficient way to run any organisation will inevitably lead to greater charges with at least three companies trying to make money on the deal.

Greater Anglia have said that they continue to invest in their stations and services for the benefit of their customers.  It is not clear that many customers will have seen these alleged benefits with their trains looking tattier by the day and performance statistics apparently taking priority over providing an actual service to their customers.

It is sad to report that Greater Anglia really seem to be no better than their predecessors and we really didn't think it could get much worse than NXEA.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Great Anglia To Review Connection Policy?

Following on from a complaint lodged by the MRUA, Passenger Focus have confirmed they have asked Greater Anglia to review the connection policy announced last week regarding trains to Harwich.

Watch this space...

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Rail Minister Takes The Car

There has been much coverage in the media over Simon Burns MP choosing to take the car to work rather than the train.  Mr Burns is MP for Chelmsford but also the government Rail Minister.  If ever we needed proof that the rail service in this region isn't good enough then this is surely it.

Neil Skinner, Chairman of the MRUA, is featured in this Guardian article on the subject.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Statistics Over Customer Service

Passengers at Manningtree Station may have noticed a poster on the subway wall advising us all of the fact that from 7th January Harwich Branch services will not be held for late running connecting services.

This will ensure that trains on the Harwich branch will run on time, even if they're empty, thereby making the reliability figures look good.  If you have the misfortune to be on a late running connecting service then sadly you will have to wait.  This is an extraordinary decision to take, especially as there is so much padding in the existing Harwich branch timetable.  An indication sadly that Greater Anglia is more interested in reliability figures than providing good customer service.

This is clearly a decision taken by the company and not locally so please bear that in mind before taking out any frustration on the station staff.

The one Show Would Like To Hear From You!

The BBC one Show would like to hear from anybody who has taken up alternate measures to combat the ever increasing cost of travelling by train.  Walking or cycling perhaps? Buying strange ticket combinations to reduce cost?  Anything at all to get round the price increases.

If you are interested in talking to them please contact Phil Holmes at The one Show on