Keep up the pressure to improve rail services, says Greater Anglia manager

Greater Anglia had problems with its new trains earlier this year. Picture: HELEN BOTT

Greater Anglia had problems with its new trains earlier this year. Picture: HELEN BOTT - Credit: Archant

The campaign to improve rail services in East Anglia has lost momentum in recent years and needs to be given fresh impetus, Suffolk councillors have been warned by a senior Greater Anglia manager.

Greater Anglia head of corporate affairs Jonathan Denby said the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce had achieved great success over the last 10 years – and was seeing a complete new fleet of trains being introduced in the region.

But he warned that the momentum of the early years was flagging – and needed to be rekindled to get more infrastructure improvements, so the new trains could reach their full potential

Mr Denby was speaking to members of Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee at a virtual meeting called to discuss the problems at the end of last year and start of 2020, when the fleet of new rural trains suffered major problems with software issues following delays to testing because of a track problem in Norfolk.

The meeting also heard from Matt Brennan, from Network Rail, who said that the cause of a problem with a level crossing just outside Norwich, which opened as a train approached, was still being investigated by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

Mr Denby said that after the accident, the new trains had to go through more tests - which delayed their introduction into service and led to major train cancellations. During two weeks in early December, about half the trains were cancelled on many regional lines in the area.

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After the trains did start running, software problems cropped up.

Felixstowe councillor Stuart Bird asked why those software problems had not been sorted out during testing. Mr Denby said the trains had been tested before introduction, but some software problems showed up later.

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After the meeting Alexander Nicoll, deputy cabinet member for transport, said: “We welcome the introduction of the new rolling stock, which has been delivered as part of the Greater Anglia franchise.

“However, we recognise that during the introduction of the new Stadler trains in December 2019 and the first two months of 2020 there was a period of significant disruption to train services across the Suffolk rail network.

“This was attributed to a number of infrastructure problems on rail routes and train software issues which was experienced by the new rolling stock. Suffolk County Council is therefore working with Greater Anglia and Network Rail to better understand the issues, ensure that the rail industry learns from them, and delivers the rail investment Suffolk deserves.”

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