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What is going wrong with Greater Anglia’s new £1.4bn trains?

PUBLISHED: 08:07 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:15 19 December 2019

Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Greater Anglia, at the launch of the new trains on the Norwich to Cambridge line. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme

Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Greater Anglia, at the launch of the new trains on the Norwich to Cambridge line. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme

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The litany of problems with Greater Anglia’s new trains that are causing misery for passengers can today be revealed.

Problems with the new trains include software issues and their communication with the track. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme.Problems with the new trains include software issues and their communication with the track. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme.

The train operator cancelled more than 80 services on Monday with rural lines particularly badly hit.

It said disruption would continue "until further notice" and blamed the cancellations on signalling issues.

But a string of problems with Greater Anglia's fleet of new electric trains is also behind some of the delays, including:

■ Problems between how the trains communicate with the rail system through sensors on the track

There are further delays and cancellations on routes including Norwich to Sheringham. Photo: Greater AngliaThere are further delays and cancellations on routes including Norwich to Sheringham. Photo: Greater Anglia

■ Software issues

■ A problem last week switching between electric and diesel power

According to sources working at Greater Anglia there is also a shortage of drivers trained on the new engines. This was denied by the company.

Greater Anglia now has 19 of its 38 new £1.4bn trains operating and has handed over 17 of its old diesel engines to operators in other parts of the country.

Greater Anglia has apologised for the problems. Photo: Greater AngliaGreater Anglia has apologised for the problems. Photo: Greater Anglia

Campaign group NOR4NOR, which wants to nationalise the railways, said: "The choice to give away old rolling stock, rather than retaining it to create an operational safety net, has created an appalling level of service for the passengers of Norfolk."

The company denied it had a lack of trains.

Ipswich to Peterborough services were cancelled on Monday because of a train shortage but Greater Anglia said this was down to the wider signalling issues.

On November 24, one of the new trains was one-quarter of a second from tragedy at Thorpe End level crossing. It almost ploughed into a car at 7.53pm when the crossing's barriers were lifted with the train still fast approaching.

Greater Anglia's new trains pictured in July being stored at sidings on the Mid Norfolk Railway. Picture: Mike PageGreater Anglia's new trains pictured in July being stored at sidings on the Mid Norfolk Railway. Picture: Mike Page

The near miss is being investigated by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, but according to two sources one problem being looked at is something called the "flange lubricators" on the train's wheels, which reduces the friction between the train and track.

It is understood they are examining whether the lubrication system could have blocked the circuit at the crossing which controls the automatic barriers.

Greater Anglia said the cause was still under investigation, including train equipment and weather.

It means that the Bittern Line between Norwich and Cromer continues to be hit by delays and cancellations.

Other problems with the new trains include its software.

Greater Anglia said the train manufacturer Stadler was working closely with the software provider on updates.

One source said: "The faults with the train are simply and wholly due to the new rolling stock not being designed for UK infrastructure."

Mark Budden, from Network Rail, and Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: "Our engineers have been working round the clock to investigate why we are having problems with the track signalling system, which has led to us reducing the number of services we can run.

"We are examining every factor including components of the signalling system, the impact of leaf fall, and the interaction between the signalling system and passenger trains, old and new.

"We both fully appreciate that this situation is extremely frustrating for passengers and it is an absolute priority for us to get these problems resolved as soon as possible."

One of the new trains also had a problem switching between its diesel engine and electric power, which led to lengthy problems on the Cambridge to Ipswich line last week.

Part of the train which connects to the overhead electric cable hit the bridge at Elmswell.

A Greater Anglia spokesman confirmed: "The problem was that the pantograph did not lower as planned after the switch from electric to diesel power and the technical cause of that fault is being investigated."

The effect of all the problems on passengers has been huge.

Patrick Barkham, who regularly travels from Hoveton to London, described the Bittern Line service as "total carnage".

He said: "Greater Anglia should come clean about the problems.

"Conductors give a different reason each time - usually vague "signalling" problems - but the problem seems to be that the new trains can't use the signalling system and so have to creep across every level crossing.

"These new trains may look lovely but they've been tested for six months and they still don't work."

One passenger, who uses the Wherry Line to get to work each day, said: "The service is simply appalling, even the poor guards that take the brunt of the public's frustrations are embarrassed by the service."

Chris Cullen, 63, who travels between Cromer and Norwich every week, said: "There is absolutely no reliable information available.

Read More: More than 80 trains cancelled as problems on the train lines escalate


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