Dirty trains and disruptive delays - Rail bosses told Great Eastern rail link is the “line of misery” for commuters

Railway engineering work replacing track on the Norwich to London line through Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith Railway engineering work replacing track on the Norwich to London line through Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
12:25 PM

Dirty trains and disruptive delays were among a catalogue of complaints which rail bosses were told makes the Great Eastern Rail link the “line of misery” for commuters.

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Abellio Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles.Abellio Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles.

A group of regular train travellers, who have been copying in MPs on social media as they vent their frustrations about their daily commute, were invited to Westminster to spell out to Greater Anglia and Network Rail their experiences of life travelling on the line.

Six members of a group who use Twitter to chronicle the shortcomings of the service, attended the meeting chaired by Norwich MP Chloe Smith, who is leading a taskforce currently writing a report to make the case for investment in the line.

Greater Anglia’s managing director Jamie Burles was told that while rail fares have gone up, the standard of the service had got worse, with dirty trains and increasing numbers of delays.

Grant Lee, who commutes from Colchester to London, said that he had started using Twitter as his fares went up and met other users who he said seemed to be suffering an even worse service than he was.

“It led me to questions why it is that the service has dipped when rail fares have gone up? Why is the reliability getting worse? It seems to me as though maintenance and cleanliness have gone down, and so has the general repair of the trains. Seats have fallen apart, toilets have been closed, windows and pantographs are getting struck on a more regular basis these days.

“It seems to me fundamental stuff. If that is the stuff I see inside the trains, then what about wider security and safety concerns.”

James Elmer, who commutes from Marks Tey and is a long-standing campaigner for a better rail service, said there were four pillars - comfort, cleanliness, reliability and value for money.

“That is what I feel all of us around the table want from the service,” he told Mr Burles.

Another traveller from Marks Tey, who uses the Twitter handle @Delayed_Again, told MPs that the Great Eastern Main Line was one of the most profitable in the country for the Department for Transport, yet suffered poor quality signals and tracks.

He added: “Every other commuter line into London has even decently refurbished rolling stock. We don’t have that. It is just falling apart, That is the great medium of Twitter, we have many disenfranchised people out there.

He added: “This is not just Abellio’s fault, it National Express that started it, and John Prescott who put the original franchise in place with zero investment. That is where the problems come from.”

A spokesperson for Abellio Greater Anglia said: “Abellio Greater Anglia and Network Rail together with regional MPs held a positive and constructive meeting with a group of rail customers who travel from stations in Essex, to discuss priorities and progress in delivering improved services on the Great Eastern Main Line.

“We outlined initiatives the company was already planning and implementing to make further improvements in some of the key areas mentioned - such as punctuality, reliability, train cleanliness and customer information - and highlighted enhancements planned as part of the new short franchise through to October 2016, which includes a major refresh for the intercity trains used on the Norwich - London route.

“Another key point discussed was the importance of continuing to lobby the Department for Transport and ministers to ensure that major upgrades to trains and infrastructure in this region are secured as part of the next Greater Anglia franchise process and investment plans agreed for Network Rail. The Norwich in Ninety Taskforce, of which Abellio Greater Anglia is a key player, is preparing a report which will recommend the best way of achieving many of the upgrades which everyone wishes to see on the Great Eastern Main Line.”

19 comments

  • I think to be fair to Abellio, in the times I have used train toilets they have been pretty rank, however, to be frank, it is the passengars that leave an unspeakable mess in the bowl, arbitrarily throw half the paper tissues in the bowl and leave an embarrassing floater in it. I dread to imagine what these peoples homes are like! I would happily travel in cattle trucks if the fares were cheap and they ran on time, but the problem is that they dont- I paid over £50 one day to travel to london and back leaning on the rubber join between carriages as there were no seats, on a train running 15 minutes late.

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    Sentinel Red

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

  • So big spot seems to think that if toilets don't work the it must be the fault of passengers? On that basis the only solution would appear to be to remove them ALL from service then nobody could complain as passengers would know what to expect. It could be sold by our polititions as an improvement, a service enhancement, and as such a fare increase could be justified.

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    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

  • Lousy expensive service across the country . Why is it that these " Private " franchises receive £4 billions of taxpayers money annually ? I suppose it goes someway to pay for the many millions of pounds paid in bonuses to the top people who run this shambolic system,

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    stormy

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

  • Having travelled to London eight times this month via Ipswich, every train was on time and the carriages I checked were cleaned at Liverpool Street. The quality of ride in the existing carriages is usually better than that experienced in some of the new electric multiple units except when there is a "flat". However there does remain serious problems with the toilets and the wash basins on these trains. The tanks should be filled in London before the train is sent back to Norwich, but this never happens. I presume the facilities to do this have been taken out at Liverpool Street by Network Rail or there is just not enough time to do it. Perhaps the people who vote in governments that pass the running of the railways to overseas companies are partly to blame for the state of the railways today. The latest overseas takeover to be announced is the London Docklands Railway, which will be run by a French company later this year.

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    Port Watcher

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Quite simply: UK is in heavy deficit and the railway is expected to cost less year on year, therefore Dep.for Transport determines the template to which Abellio works, indeed, every franchise around the country. So grab your MP and complain.

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    Gotrain

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • whilst I don't use the trains for a daily commute I do use them on a regular basis. Recently my wife and I treated ourselves to first class travel from Gt Yarmouth to London for a few days. We worked out that less than 50% of our travel was spent in first class. On one section that we did travel in a first class carriage, from Norwich to Colchester (change due to engineering works) three out of the four toilets were out of order. The train we were transferred to we were unable to secure first class and once again the carriage we sat in had only one toilet working.

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    Yarco

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The East coast line is in public service and makes a profit. Isn't it time to allow a few more contracts to lapse and run more of our railways as public services? What benefit have customers derived from private rail services in East Anglia? Ever higher fares and worse services.

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    amsterdam81

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The privatisation of the Utilities, Water and Railways has been an unmitigated disaster. However, do we want to go back to the dark days of constant strikes and being held to ransom by the trade unions?

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    Tedbundy

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Why is it that people feel justified in complaining about dirty trains or buses. It's not the train or bus company that make the trains dirty. Don't the passengers have a social responsibility to keep the trains clean and place rubbish into bins and maybe have the same responsibility to make sure those amongst us who insist on littering do the same.

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    Big Spot

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • I don't think commuters will have any problems now Chloe is on the case Electioneering!

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    beverley

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • I find it hard to comprehend why the government thinks it OK to have the UK railway owned and run by the Dutch government,or the French government,or the German government,and yet not OK for the UK government to own and run UK railways in the UK.

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    Peter Watson

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The public transport system in Norfolk is a joke, whether it's buses or trains the service is abysmal third world countries have it better, you can't even plan a journey as you don't ever know what to expect.

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    mr mayhem

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Poor rail services and poor bus services both are a joke. Heddingham & Chambers bus have just announced big cuts to their bus services in Essex and Suffolk. Sudbury seem as usual to take a big hit. Bus services there are fast disappearing and the train service frequently ends up as a bus service

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    BobE

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • It's time the railways were run as a public service for the people of Britian rather than for the shareholders. Ironically many of our rail companies are now owned by the Dutch, French and German state, so their citizens benefit from the profit made from us.

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    IpswichMan

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Starting to think this paper is owned by Chloe Smith, the way they lick her @rs3. We need a new train order with the current old rolling stock going to the razor blade factory ASAP.

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    Mooseyt4

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The reason why trains keep breaking down? The amount of rolling stock on the line is now kept to a minimum, with no back-up units "sitting idle" on shed any more. The few remaining trains get flogged up and down the line to maximum capacity with little or no maintenance. This is also the reason for long delays whenever a train breaks down en route (no replacement is kept readily available); and why trains are so dirty! I often see a branch line train arrive at its terminus, unload, reload and be off again in the opposite direction within 5-10 minutes - that's how the timetables are stacked now, no "idle" time allowed to clean trains between runs. No bins available on board, either. Result: by the end of the day they are disgusting, rubbish-strewn tips. And Abellio wonder why people don't fancy using them!

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    blue&white

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The trains are a joke. The story about the investment over the next 15 years should be put in the context of do the rail companies know how to run the most basic of services? Yesterday it took me 6, (yes 6!), phone calls to book 2 open return tickets from Downham to London. Websites didn't display tickets that met our needs and when I called them to explain my very simple requirements they said they do not take 'phone bookings. On one occasion I had to explain what the word "consecutive" means. I just wanted to make our journey as easy and simple as possible because I don't think the ticket office will be open at Downham on Saturday afternoon and I find the machine difficult to read as it is outdoors so the screen does not display well. Especially if I don't have my glasses handy! Forgive me for not holding out much hope on the improvements, here we are in the 21st century and it takes 6 phone calls to book two open return tickets! Unbelievable!

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    Lord 'Elp-Us

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • I see Chloe Smith took a Tory mouthpiece with her - blame Labour, deny all responsibility for what happens now.

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    Jeffrey Osborne

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • This is just typical of the tory party propaganda machine !, blame Labour for the total failure of Privatisation which the TORIES did !, there is NOT any Privatisation which HAS worked........yet still they do it.......why......so they can invest their INHERITED wealth in an ESSENTIAL service and get a guaranteed income from the shares which keep going up !. All they are interested in is making as much money as possible for themselves from Gt Britain PLC !

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    freedomf

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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