Watch: Greater Anglia’s new trains really are a game-changer for rural routes
- Credit: Archant
I’ve been writing about Greater Anglia’s plans for new Swiss-built trains now for more than three years, ever since Abellio was re-awarded the rail franchise for the region.
I first saw one of the trains earlier this year after it arrived in the region in November 2018 - and now I've finally got to ride on one to answer the big question. Are they as good as the company and rail experts claim?
The new Stadler Flirt Bimodes (to give them their correct name) haven't yet reached Ipswich - but they are used on Greater Anglia's Wherry Lines between Norwich and Lowestoft/Great Yarmouth and on the Breckland line from Norwich to Cambridge.
So I took a tour of the region, with a timetable provided by the Greater Anglia press office and left Ipswich for Cambridge to catch the 11.09 to Norwich.
This was my first experience of a Stadler train. Two things struck me as I got in. Firstly, although it is all standard class (there are no first class seats on Greater Anglia's new trains except for the Intercity services from London to Ipswich and Norwich) it is certainly of Intercity-quality for passengers. Secondly, the seats at the end of the carriages are raised slightly above the train's wheels - a very continental touch.
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Once we started moving, it became clear the trains are as good as we were promised - they're smooth and fast (we were delayed at a couple of stations because we had arrived early).
The wifi and charging points are much better than those "bolted on" to existing Intercity coaches - although the charging points are a bit fiddly to find the first time around.
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After a short break I travelled on to Lowestoft - on the same train, as it happened. Looking at my fellow passengers I certainly wasn't the only person on board for the journey rather than an overwhelming desire to reach Britain's most easterly town!
Norwich to Lowestoft is the finest scenic route in East Anglia across the southern end of the broads - and to be able to enjoy it in real comfort is a huge plus. I'm sure the Wherry Lines Partnership will use these new trains as a promotional tool.
At present all these new trains are Norfolk-based, but Greater Anglia is doing test runs on routes from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough - they are coming south. And they should be operating across the region by the middle of next year.