East Anglia: New trains still several years away

Greater Anglia train.

Greater Anglia train. - Credit: Archant © 2012

RAIL passengers on the main line between London and East Anglia are likely to have to wait at least five years for new trains.

But a decision on whether to upgrade existing carriages is still possible before the end of this year – which could improve services from early 2014.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer asked Transport Minister Simon Burns about investment in the line at Question Time in the House of Commons yesterday.

He said: “The minister and secretary of state will know that world’s largest financial centre is connected via the Great Eastern mainline to some of the leading centres of research and development.

“Commuters and travellers are expected to use rolling stock deemed unsuitable for travellers on the West Coast mainline 10 years ago.

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“I know the minister is investing in infrastructure. When will he be able to invest in rolling stock too?

Mr Burns replied: “There is considerable interest in upgrading the rolling stock in East Anglia. I am interested as well in Chelmsford (his constituency).

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“My ministerial colleagues, and I stress that, are currently looking at what might be included in the interim franchise that will run to 2016.

“And our priority, as always, is customer satisfaction as well as obtaining value for money for the tax payer.”

Building new trains can be a lengthy business – there is usually a two to three-year delay between planning new trains and their delivery.

However Mr Gummer and his parliamentary colleagues are hopeful that a deal can be reached so production of new trains starts as soon as the new long-term franchise is announced, probably in the middle of 2016.

That would bring new trains into service during 2018 – but in the meantime the existing carriages would need to be refurbished, probably with new seats, power points for people to use computers and tablets, and possibly new electric doors.

Greater Anglia have recently started a consultation period on what improvements their passengers want to see up to 2016.

There is no timescale for this consultation, but they are thought to be looking for responses over the next few weeks and hope to hear from the government what improvements should be made by the end of the year.

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