�173million to reduce train overcrowding

A �173 million investment to reduce overcrowding on commuter services between London and East Anglia was announced by the Government yesterday.

Duncan Brodie

A �173 million investment to reduce overcrowding on commuter services between London and East Anglia was announced by the Government yesterday.

Public funding is being used to allow regional train operator National Express East Anglia to add 188 more carriages to its fleet - including 30 new four-car electric trains to be built at the Derby plant of manufacturer Bombardier and 68 other units to be redeployed from elsewhere on the network.

The first additional capacity, involving carriages previously used by National Express on its former Midland Mainline franchise, which ended in 2007, will be introduced in December this year.


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And once the new trains arrive in 2011, around 11,000 extra seats will be available into Liverpool Street during the three-hour morning peak period.

The new Electrostar trains will mainly be used on the Stansted Express route between London and Stansted Airport, plus some on Cambridge commuter services.

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The fleet currently operating on these, together with the ex-Midland Mainline stock, will be reallocated to provide longer trains elsewhere in the region too.

This will include the Great Eastern routes from London to Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Clacton, Chelmsford and Southend, with the Clacton depot in Essex being brought back into use as a maintenance facility.

Some timetable changes are also on the cards, which could affect through services from the main line to Lowestoft and Peterborough. These will be the subject of consultation, with National Express East Anglia (NXEA) due to publish a briefing document giving more details later this month.

The new fleet will cost around �155million, with a three-year maintenance agreement taking the total value of the deal to Bombardier to �173million.

The additional 188 carriages represent a 17% increase in the NXEA fleet and the company is expected to take on more than 100 additional staff while infrastructure improvements to support the longer trains will also help to safeguard jobs with Network Rail.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said: “This is one of the biggest changes to have been negotiated to an existing franchise since rail privatisation with the operator National Express East Anglia playing a key role in developing these plans, which are a mark of our continued commitment to invest in long term projects to improve the railways.

“This will be of major benefit to passengers in terms of reducing over-crowding, while Bombardier's success will help safeguard UK manufacturing jobs and the expansion of the fleet will create welcomed job opportunities with NXEA.”

Richard Bowker, National Express group chief executive, added: “National Express is delighted to work in partnership with the Department for Transport and welcomes the department's �155 million investment in new trains and improvements to seating capacity on our East Anglia network.

“The introduction of these 188 extra carriages will provide our customers across East Anglia with a significantly improved quality of service and demonstrates our commitment to high standards of customer service.”

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