Greater Anglia drops “Abellio” from its title as new era starts on the region’s railways
- Credit: Archant
A nine-year Greater Anglia rail franchise, which has been hailed as a turning point for the region's trains, begins today.
In August, Dutch company Abellio – part of the state-owned Dutch Railways – won the franchise it had been running on a temporary basis for four years, with a promise to completely renew the region's trains by 2020.
It will invest £1.4bn in buying 1,043 new carriages to transform rail services in the region and will pay the Treasury £3.7bn for the right to run services.
The first new trains should appear early in 2019 with the complete fleet in place by the end of 2020.
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said that while much hard work had been undertaken to reach this stage, the hard work of delivering improvements to the service was only just starting.
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Upgrading existing trains would continue to improve things in the short term – and the contract for the new trains to be introduced in the longer term had now been agreed.
The franchise announcement came after three years of campaigning by the Great Eastern Taskforce headed by MPs Chloe Smith and Ben Gummer alongside New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Mark Pendlington.
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Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said commuters would be 'watching carefully'.
'The catastrophic approach to Brexit means we now have a Sterling crisis,' he said. 'We know because of it we will see a spike in inflation.
'That will mean we are going to be paying even more for our rail travel and we know with a lot of private rail operators that people have already been left unhappy.
'The jury is out and we will see what happens, but there will commuters keeping a close on eye on Greater Anglia.'
Today there are a series of events to officially mark the start of the new franchise – including an official government event and photo-calls at stations across the region.
The new trains, which come in from 2019, should allow timetables to be significantly improved with more trains being able to travel from London to Ipswich in 60 minutes and to Norwich in 90.
However if most trains are to achieve these timings, work needs to be undertaken by Network Rail to improve the tracks and the overhead wires.
Although today is crucial for the company, the immediate changes for passengers might not be so clear.
The name on the trains is being shortened to Greater Anglia and there should be free wi-fi on all InterCity trains.
Rail nationalisation campaigners to protest today
A Norfolk group campaigning to see the railways put back in public hands will mark the start of the new contract with a protest.
Norfolk for Nationalisation of Rail (NOR4NOR) will be at Norwich station from 4.30pm to 6.30pm today.
The group believes that Abellio's promises will not be delivered, including regular 90-minute services between Norwich and London.
They instead say a publicly owned railway would create cheaper fares, improve services and give better security to employees.
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