The Rail Delivery Group have recently announced a new fleet of trains to be rolled out across the UK. 7000 new locomotives and carriages will be joining Britain’s railway networks until 2021. This will be the biggest upgrade to British Rail since the 1970s. It has come as great news for many train travellers, especially myself as an active train traveller and railway enthusiast. Trains are the most magical adventures that anyone can have representing direction and motion toward a delightful destination.
I have travelled on some of the country’s most scenic routes by rail and on some of the finest trains that are until now past their sell by date. One of these is the Greater Anglia route running from London Liverpool Street to Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich. Swiss train maker Stadler is making a fleet of 58 FLIRT EMUs to run on the intercity routes. FLIRT means Fast Light Innovative Regional Train and it does have flexible ergonomics for regional specific rail transport which can serve either side of the Greater Anglia lines. A set of 38 FLIRT Bimodal units will also run to service the regional routes.
I have travelled on the intercity service of Greater Anglia in the past and some of the current carriages date back to 1975. At the time the average train passenger had a paperback book for entertainment and a view to the trackside. In those days transportation by rail was about networking across the country. These days it’s about working on the go. Some business people even manage their companies on their train journeys.
Today’s passengers in the digital internet age have a lot more expectations of their train journeys. They also have a lot more to carry with them on their journey. This includes mobile devices which require power sockets and Wi-Fi access, storage space for luggage in overhead racks, and in some cases onboard film streaming services. And of course good quality food from the buffet car and decent air conditioning in the carriages.
Can we expect those luxuries to come to these new trains? Well according to Stadler’s press release they have got all those things. More seats and a plentiful supply of rolling stock are at the forefront of this investment. Refurbished and new carriages are going to be vital to cope with the ever increasing number of passengers on the line every year.
There will be USB ports and three pin charging plugs for electronic devices, onboard Wi-Fi and enhanced mobile coverage, low floors to allow for ease of access for disabled rail travellers using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. The seats are also evenly spaced between each other allowing for individual and accompanying passengers. There is also a lot more legroom compared to the previous trains.
At this time Greater Anglia is currently road testing these trains for efficiency and reliability. As a train lover I can not wait to experience the comfort and joy of these new trains. I am also hoping that they can cut the journey times between London and Norwich.
Last year TfL started operating the new rolling stock for the Crossrail Line. This fleet are built by British train manufacturer Bombardier called Aventra. Bombardier is planning to bring several of these locos to many other lines. Among them are South Western Rail, c2c, London Overground, Greater Anglia and West Midlands. It is a boom time for manufacturing rolling stock in Britain. Bombardier has an order for 2600 of these Aventra trains between six operators.
I have travelled on the Aventra trains from Romford to London. These are one of the best commuter trains I have ever travelled on. The livery and levels of comfort onboard is amazing. Passengers have a lot more value for the tickets on these trains. They also have a surprisingly spacious interior. They will certainly be very useful when the route between Shenfield and Heathrow Airport is complete. Especially for all those holiday makers bringing large suitcases.
Hitachi are one of the most experienced and advanced passenger train makers from Japan. They have set up factories in County Durham and are supplying trains for UK rail operators. One of these is the Class 385 built for Scotrail, which runs between Scotland’s biggest cities. I’ve travelled on some of these trains and they have a good quality of comfort and have gotten me to my destination on time for my sports volunteering work.
Hitachi have also built the Class 800 for the Great Western Railway for services between London, Bristol, Penzance and parts of Wales. I travelled on this train once for a holiday to Swindon to visit the STEAM Railway Museum. It was a very comfortable carriage to ride in and had some decent catering services. For a long time GWR used to be known for unreliability and slowness. Not this time. I think these Class 800s will also be a boon to the LNER when they are brought into service on the East Coast Mainline from 2019.
This investment in upgrading railway rolling stock is a sign of bettering Britain’s infrastructure. A means of advancement to make the economy go full steam ahead. It’s not just about new rolling stock, it’s also the infrastructure connecting millions of people across the country. There are plans from campaign groups lobbying for the reopening of railway lines closed by the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. Some of these lines might lead to new routes and economic growth and reduce pressure on the overcrowded rail networks. In November 2017 the government invited proposals to reopen these lines.