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Suffolk: Rail travellers promised new seat covers and carpets, plus wi-fi and electricity plugs as Abellio Greater Anglia’s franchise is extended

PUBLISHED: 14:50 16 April 2014

Greater Anglia train.

Greater Anglia train.

Archant

Major improvements are on the way for rail travellers on the main line to London with government confirmation that Abellio Greater Anglia will run trains for another two years.

As part of their franchise extension, the Dutch-owned company will refurbish all the InterCity carriages used on the main line to London.

As well as being repainted, they will be completely refreshed internally.

New seat coverings and carpets will be fitted. New wi-fi will be installed, and electricity plugs to enable owners of mobile phones or computers to recharge their devices will be installed at all seats. New lighting will be installed.

Tanks to collect effluent will be installed below all the carriages – ending the practice of dumping waste on the track.

As well as the InterCity carriages, Greater Anglia will also oversee the updating of many of the electric units used on commuter services in Essex and up to Ipswich.

The Class 321 units will have accessible toilets and wheelchair spaces installed for the first time.

The improvements to the carriages will make journeys more comfortable, but Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said this would not be a long-term solution to the region’s rail needs – in the long term there would be a need for new trains.

Mr Gummer, a member of the task force looking at improving services on the Great Eastern Main Line, said:

“This is another important step along our journey to a better rail service.

“This will improve the travelling experience in the short term for commuters and travellers going between Ipswich and London until the new rolling stock – that my colleagues and I are working on procuring at the moment – is ready to go.

“It is understandable that people are frustrated with how long they have had to wait for these improvements but I want to re-iterate that we are reversing sixty years of under-investment.

Witham MP Priti Patel said: “Today’s announcement of the refresh of rolling stock will be welcomed by commuters in Essex.

“This investment will keep ensure that commuters can have access to modernised trains to travel in and state of the art facilities.

“By campaigning together with one voice across the East of England we’ve been able to secure these improvements.”

Chairman of New Anglia LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) Mark Pendlington said: “This is a turning point after years of under investment in rail in the East, and encourages us all in our campaign to achieve even greater improvements in the vital rail services that serve all parts of this area.”

The announcement about the new franchise extension for Abellio was made to the London Stock Exchange first thing this morning. The franchise extension runs from July this year until October 2016.

Meanwhile new figures from the Office for Rail Regulation show that rail users in East Anglia receive one of the lowest government subsidies in the country.

Abellio Greater Anglia had to pay the DTp 19% of its revenue – but 29% of the cost of running the infrastructure was met by the government, meaning that overall the taxpayer funded 10% of the region’s rail services.

East Anglia’s trains are some of the oldest on the network – the average age is 25.5 years and is getting older as no new vehicles will be coming in before 2016 at the earliest.

Another major finding from the survey is that 44% of Abellio Greater Anglia’s passengers travel on season tickets – that is a similar proportion to other suburban services around London.

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