2019 should be a good year for rail passengers - what's on line for East Anglia?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 31 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:47 02 January 2019
If Greater Anglia's promises come true, 2019 should be a very good year for the region's rail passengers - the first new trains will start to be introduced and Network Rail should finish its long-term upgrade work between Shenfield and London.
The first of the new Swiss-built Stadler trains for the region have started to arrive in East Anglia and less than a fortnight ago one was taken out on the main line for its first test run.
However passengers will have to wait until the early summer for their first chance to travel on these trains in normal service – they need to be tested on every line they will run on and every driver will have to be given specific training on how they work.
But it will be these “bimode” diesel/electric trains that will be the first of the new generation of trains to enter service in the region and they should be relatively common on several cross-country routes by the end of the year.
The first routes that are likely to see the new trains are major cross country routes like Ipswich to Peterborough and Cambridge and Norwich to Cambridge. There is also a possibility they will turn up fairly soon on East Suffolk line trains from Lowestoft to Ipswich.
The first trains to be withdrawn from the region following the introduction of the bimodes will be the Class 170 Turbostar units that were introduced in the 1990s.
They are actually the most modern trains on the Greater Anglia network and will be moved to Wales for long-distance cross-country services in the Principality.
During the early months of 2019 the first new 12-carriage InterCity trains – will start to arrive in the region. They will eventually enter service on the Norwich to London and Stansted Airport to London lines with the first passenger-carrying services expected to start during the second half of the year.
By the end of 2020 they will have to replace the existing InterCity trains – the Mark Three coaches currently in use do not meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act and there are no plans to amend them.
Some date from the mid-1970s and most are expected to end up being scrapped.
The Class 90 locomotives that currently haul these carriages are expected to be offered to freight operators, especially Freightliner, for long-distance container trains.
As more bimodes arrive during the end of 2019 and into 2020, the existing Class 156 two-car trains and Class 153 single-car trains are likely to be withdrawn.
Their fate is still undecided. They date from the mid-1980s but there is a chronic shortage of diesel multiple units in some parts of the UK rail network and it is possible they could be refurbished and put back to use.
One thing that is uncertain is when the bimodes will be put to use on the three service enhancements heralded in the 2016 franchise agreement – an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough, through trains from Lowestoft to London along the East Suffolk line, and running trains from Sudbury through to Colchester Town station.
Greater Anglia remains committed to these improvements – but the dates for their introduction have been put back following the problems faced in other parts of the country by the introduction of new timetables earlier this year.
The last units to be introduced are the new Bombardier Aventra trains that will take over the suburban trains from Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Ipswich to London.
They will start to arrive next year and the first will enter service by 2020 – allowing electric units currently in service to be replaced. It will take time for all 111 five and 10-carriage trains to be introduced, however.
What happens to them still has to be decided. Some of the oldest electric units will almost certainly be scrapped, but some of the older trains have been upgraded with air-conditioning, new seats and wi-fi and they should find a new use elsewhere in the country.
But the cancellation of some electrification programmes has reduced the demand for electric units – and some have been converted to bimode or battery power to allow them to run on non-electric lines as well as overhead lines.
The other good news for rail passengers is, of course, that Network Rail says the weekend closures of the main line between Ingatestone and London during the first three months of the year should be the last time we see long-term disruption because the overhead line replacement work should be complete by then – so 2019 should be a good year for travellers.