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So where will Greater Anglia’s old trains go?

PUBLISHED: 10:11 24 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:39 25 October 2016

A Class 90 locomotive with Mark III carriages on an InterCity train.

A Class 90 locomotive with Mark III carriages on an InterCity train.


When Abellio won the Greater Anglia rail franchise for the next nine years, the most eye-catching pledge was to replace every train, every carriage operated by the company by the end of 2020.

But what will happen to the current fleet?

Some of the trains are very long in the tooth – some date back to 
the 1970s – but some are merely middle-aged in rail terms and potentially have many years’ life left in them.

A final decision on what will happen to these trains will not be made until the new trains start
 entering service – but today we look at what the future may hold for 
the carriages that will become redundant when the new units are introduced.

One thing that will be noticed by most passengers is that there will be no more traditional trains with electric locomotives pulling – or pushing – unpowered carriages.

Abellio does not actually own the trains – they are owned by rail leasing companies. At present the company deals with Porterbrook, Eversholt Rail, McQuarrie Rail and Angel Trains.

After 2020 there will be three types of train operating in the region. All will be “multiple-units”, even the InterCity trains, either electric powered – or “hybrids” with both electric and diesel motors. They will all be owned by Angel Trains.

But for now we look at what could happen to the existing trains.

InterCity services:

These are currently formed by Class 90 electric locomotives, which entered service in the late 1980s, and Mark III British Rail carriages which entered service in the mid-1970s. Both have been refreshed and refurbished over the years.

The locomotives will probably find a new use, probably pulling freight. There is a shortage of electric freight power, and electric engines have very long lives – some built in the 1960s are still operating in this country or on the continent.

The carriages, which have recently been refurbished, will not be Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant after 2020 so although they should still be in good condition they are unlikely to have a future on normal services.

Some may still be kept in service for charter work on heritage trains – they could be used behind some steam locomotives – because they could be granted a DDA exemption for these uses.

The rest will either be scrapped, converted to other use (some carriages have been turned into holiday cottages), or exported – rail companies in Eastern Europe have taken on redundant UK rolling stock.

Diesel units:

Class 170 (Turbostar) units: There is a shortage of diesel units across the country and these relatively modern (built from 2002) units will quickly find a new home on long-distance rural services elsewhere in the country.

They could end up on almost any part of the network – but are particularly prized in Scotland for services like Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig or Inverness to the far north.

Class 153 (single-car) and Class 156 (two-car) units: Originally called Sprinters these trains were introduced in the mid-1980s and are now reaching the end of their lives.

However there are much worse trains in other parts of the rail network – ask passengers in the north of England who are still using “Pacers” which used a bus body as its base!

These trains are unlikely to have a long-term future with another operator – but could well continue in service until the mid-2020s (or beyond).

Electric Units:

Class 321 units: Built between 1988 and 1991 these are the most numerous electrics on service with Greater Anglia, and many are currently being refurbished with air conditioning and wi-fi being installed.

With electrification schemes currently being undertaken in the north west of England and in the Bristol/Cardiff area there is likely to be no shortage of bids to take on these trains.

They are seen by experts as some of the most successful electric units ever built for Britain’s railways.

Class 360 (Desiro) units: Built between 2002 and 2006. Likely to find a new use on inter-urban services on newly-electrified lines in the north of England. Routes between Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool and Leeds.

These trains are operated by many different rail companies around Britain – and the East Anglian fleet of 21 units is likely to be snapped up.

Class 317 units: Used mainly on the West Anglia routes, these trains (dating back to the early 1980s) do sometimes find their way to the Great Eastern lines at weekends.

Of all the units to be replaced by the arrival of the new trains, these are the ones that are least likely to find a new use.

They are likely to be retained by their owner for a time after Greater Anglia gives them up in case there is a need for trains for newly-electrified lines – but it would be no surprise if they were driven to the breakers’ yard during the early 2020s.

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