The Anonymous Widower

Use Of A Bi-Mode Class 755 Train On The Sudbury Branch Line

I took these pictures today on a visit to the Sudbury Branch Line in Suffolk.

The two stations shown are Marks Tey, where the branch joins the Great Eastern Main Line and Sudbury, which is the Western terminus of the branch.

Both stations have short platforms.

To simplify this description, I will identify the four cars of the Class 755 train as follows.

  • Driver East Car – Driver car with passengers on the Marks Tey end of the train.
  • Passenger Car – The passenger car, which also has the bike space and the Universal Access Toilet.
  • PowerPack – The smaller car that powers the train.
  • Driver West Car – Driver car with passengers on the Sudbury end of the train.

This Google Map shows Marks Tey station.

The short and gently curving, Sudbury Branch Line platform is on the North side of the station.

To make it easy for passengers to get in and out of the train, Greater Anglia seem to have devised a cunning plan.

  • The Class 755 trains run with the end with the Driver East and Passenger Cars are towards Marks Tey and Colchester stations.
  • The driver stops the train in the station, so that the two passenger cars, are in the same place as a two-car diesel multiple unit, like a Class 156 train, would be.
  • The two pairs of wide double doors and the level step-free access, encourage passengers to enter the train.
  • Interestingly, the PowerPack Car of the train is at the narrowest part of the platform and is this deliberate to encourage passengers to enter through the doors facing them on the platform.
  • The Driver West Car doesn’t come into the platform.
  • At busy times, when the Driver West Car will need to be used, passengers will walk through the PowerPack Car.
  • Bicycles can be wheeled between the platform and the space in the Passenger Car.

The method of operation has avoided any expensive lengthening of the short and curvy platform.

This second Google Map shows Sudbury station.

At least the single platform is straight.

A similar procedure is used at Sudbury station to that at Marks Tey.

  • The driver stops the train in the station, so that the Driver West and Passenger Cars either side of the PowerPack Car are in the station.
  • Passengers have two sets of doors and level access to get into and out of the train.
  • Bicycles can be wheeled between the platform and the space in the Passenger Car.
  • There is no direct access to the Driver West Car at the Marks Tey end of the train, but passengers can walk through the train.

Lengthening of the platform is not necessary.

Important Routes With Few Passengers

Suppose you have a route that at certain times of the day needs a three-car train, but at other times two-cars or even only one car.

I can think of the case of a large industrial site like a nuclear facility or power station, that has lots of passengers, when people are going to and from work and students are going to and from school and college, but at other times of the day, passenger numbers are low.

The conductor indicated to me, that the design of the train allows the doors on the PowerPack to be locked, thus restricting movement.

This could save operating costs if thought out properly.

Wheelchair Passengers To And From Sudbury

The conductor indicated that this was a problem for some directions.

  • London to Sudbury  is just a walk or push between platforms.
  • Sudbury to Ipswich and Norwich is just a walk or push between platforms.
  • Sudbury to London is take a train to Colchester from Marks Tey and use the lifts to change direction for London.
  • Ipswich and Norwich to Sudbury is take a train to Witham and use the lifts to change direction for Marks Tey.

The local MP is Pritti Patel and she has been pushing hard for a step-free bridge with lifts, which would solve the problem.

Sudbury And Colchester Town

Greater Anglia have proposed that the Sudbury service be extended to Colchester Town station.

There may be problems running on the busy Great Eastern Main Line between Marks Tey and Colchester, but at least there appears to be a freight loop just to the North of Marks Tey, on the London-bound track.

Some things would help.

  • Redesign of the junction to allow a faster turnout.
  • The extra power of the Class 755 trains.
  • Electrification of Platform 3 at Marks Tey station.
  • Full digital in-cab signalling on the Great Eastern Main Line.

It might even be worthwhile putting in a simple flyover for Sudbury-bound trains.

Could Battery Power Be Used On The Sudbury Branch Line?

Class 755 trains have been designed, so that diesel engines in the ~PowerPack Car can be replaced with batteries, which can be charged from electrification.

If and when a suitable battery module is developed, then it could just be slotted in.

Some form of charging would be needed and the proposal to change the service into s Sudbury and Colchester Town service, would allow the trains to be charged on the main line.

The German Solution

I can’t help feeling that the Germans or the Welsh would use a different solution.

In Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?, I discuss the East-West Rail Link’s idea of running tram-trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

  • It would have a frequency of four trains per hour.
  • It would probably start in the forecourt of Ipswich station.
  • It could either go to Felixstowe station or perhaps through the High Street and down to the Sea Front.
  • It would go via Portman Road, Ipswich Town Centre, Ipswich Hospital, before joining the Felixstowe Branch Line to the East of the town.

The reason for this proposal, is to get more freight trains into the Port of Felixstowe.

Now look at this Google Map of North Colchester.


  • Colchester station in the middle of the map on the Great Eastern Main Line, which runs East-West.
  • A junction to the East of the station, where the lines from Colchester Town, Clacton and Walton join the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Colchester Hospital at the top of the map.

Without doubt,, the Germans would create a tram-train network based on Colchester station.

  • Sudbury and Marks Tey could be served in the West, by perhaps building a third track alongside the Great Eastern Main Line
  • Marks Tey and Sudbury would be on battery power.
  • Colchester Hospital and perhaps the football ground and a Park-and-Ride could be served in the North, by adding tracks to the junction East of Colchester.
  • Colchester Town could be served in the South, using the existing tracks.

The network would certainly connect a lot of important places to the main station.

  • It would improve access to Colchester Hospital.
  • It would solve the step-free problem at Marks Tey.
  • It could open up much needed new housing developments.

With 100 mph tram-trains or trains able to work as trams, it could reach places using the various routes in the area, like Clacton, Harwich and Walton.

Stadler have already designed 100 mph diesel trains, that work in Zwickau in Germany, alongside and share tracks with the city’s trams.

It seems that if you have a specification, Stadler will make it.


Greater Anglia are going to have fun with these trains.

Their level access is liked by passengers.

The short car length, allows the trains to call in curvy platforms.

January 23, 2020 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. You miss the problem here.
    The bicycle space is in Driver West Car, this is accessible in Sudbury while Driver East Car is not as it is beyond the platform. The Bicycle space is not accessible at Marks Tey because the doors to Driver West car are off the platform.

    So Network Rail/GA need to lengthen both platforms anyway to enable the bicycle spaces to be properly utilised.

    There are cyclists using bike spaces on most journeys on this line so it is an issue.

    For now bicycles are carried in the Passenger Car which is the only car accessible at both stations.

    I have photographic proof of what happens at Sudbury.

    Comment by Tim Regester | January 23, 2020 | Reply

    • Network Rail are being tardy here. Their attitude, is that it’s probably only a little-used branch Line.

      Platform lengthening is also probably best avoided, as it would close the branch for some months.

      Am I right in remembering, that there are proposals for a possible Park-and-Ride station at Sudbury?

      I am looking at the possibility of extending the service to Colchester Town. I think it’s possible, especially as the new trains have very fast acceleration for joining the GEML.

      Rail traffic seems to be controlled by the Port of Felixstowe, as they always seem to mop up any spare capacity going.

      I know what the Germans in Karlsruhe would do. They add an extra track on the West side of the GEML and run tram-trains from Sudbury to Colchester at a frequency of four trains per hour. It should be noting that East-West Rail are proposing to run tram-trains at this frequency between Felixstowe and the forecourt of Ipswich station via the hospital and the town centre

      Comment by AnonW | January 23, 2020 | Reply

      • Platform lengthening (in fact a complete rebuild of whole station) at Sheringham was planned to take about 5-6 weeks (scheduled across Easter), but dragged on a couple of extra weeks due to construction and signalling issues (confirmed by a quick scan of an article in Archant’s North Norfolk News online). Bustitution to/from Comer.

        The new station shelter took a few weeks beyond reopening the station.

        I would expect a similar time for Sudbury (just to lengthen). Mark’s Tey could take a lot longer, though.

        Sudbury is already a park and ride, just not advertised or priced as such, or we optimal train connections to Colchester, and with limited parking available. To create a proper park and ride would need a multistory to be built, possibly in association with the nearby sports centre.

        Comment by MilesT | January 23, 2020

      • I seem to remember, the proposed Park-and-Ride wasn’t in the centre.

        Comment by AnonW | January 23, 2020

      • Given that we need to wheen the people off car travel by 2030 if we are to have a liveable planet, a Park and Ride would seem to be a stupidly 20th Century solution. Sudbury already has way too much traffic and on Saturdays all the car parks are near capacity if not over. So adding to Sudbury Traffic is a non starter while adding more parking is a singularly short sighted use of resources.

        What Sudbury and indeed East Anglia needs is policies from it’s County Councillors that make use of the car more difficult than using the bus or train (or cycling or walking) not policies to encourage even more car use.

        Comment by Tim Regester | January 24, 2020

      • The trouble is that everybody feels they have to have a car and any taxes or methods to cut car usage usually mean those politicians are history! But as a non-driver, I can’t see a problem.

        Comment by AnonW | January 24, 2020

      • An “out of town” park and ride station (new station on the line) could reduce traffic and parking in Sudbury, especially if the short train ride Surbury town-park and ride was free (included in the cost of parking or vice versa).

        Or replace the whole line with tram-train, and potentially re-instate route onwards to Long Melford and beyond towards Bury St. Edmunds, and put the park and ride between Sudbury and Long Melford (good roads available in that section).

        Comment by MilesT | January 24, 2020

      • Not sure you could build a park and ride along the line anywhere between Sudbury and Bures, its Water meadows and floods regularly. Meanwhile the route from Sudbury to Long Melford only exists in any usable form between Sudbury and Rodbridge, the rest has been built on or the trackbed (again on water meadows) has been removed, so unlikely to ever be reinstated. Better to make it an all weather cycle path instead of the muddy mess it currently is. Much kinder on the environment and likely to remove more traffic than a tram/train system for much lower cost.

        Comment by Tim Regester | January 25, 2020

  2. Would lengthening the platforms for the convenience of cyclists be the best use of limited Network Rail resources?

    Comment by JohnC | January 23, 2020 | Reply

    • Probably not! Especially, as cyclists going to London would put more pressure on the footbridge.

      Comment by AnonW | January 23, 2020 | Reply

  3. There’s not a set orientation for these trains, they show up either way around, some days the engine room will be at the London (Sudbury) end and some days it will be at the Country (Colchester) end. The bike rack, either way around is useless.

    Peak loading and unloading it very slow due to the lack of doors and need to walk between carriages. Nice trains, but they’ve failed at the last hurdle by it not fitting in the Platforms. SDO is great for places like Brundall Gardens, but not at the major terminals of a line

    Comment by Joseph | January 24, 2020 | Reply

    • BTW the Sudbury to Colchester (Town) service will never happen, foot crossing issues aside there’s a lack of capacity on the mainline to path this either way.and it really isnt worth massive spend to make it work for the sake of an average of 5 people an hour

      Comment by Joseph | January 24, 2020 | Reply

      • A friend of my late wife’s nearly died in the crash with the sludge tanker, so I know the problems of East Anglian lines. One driver joked to me, that GA hadbought so many 755s to allow for the inevitable level-crossing accidents.

        As to main line capacity,I think that will come, when ERTMS is installed, which I think will be needed to increase the number of Norwich-in-Ninety trains.

        Comment by AnonW | January 24, 2020

  4. “at” Tim Take your point about the water meadows–could be resolved but would need some heavy civil works to create an above-ground parking lot (multi-story presumably), and let the meadows continue to flood underneath.

    Extending the line to the nearest main round roundabout to Rodbridge (where the Long Melfold bypass starts) would allow a park and ride from there for town and beyond to Marks Tey–last I looked on the satellite maps on Google the trackbed still seems to be there around Sudbury to somewhere close to there (unless I am misremembering). Beyond that the trackbed is partially lost (and yes to improvement to proper cycle provision) and a new trackbed/route would be needed–if a battery tram-train (light rail) was used there are more options including road-running.

    Comment by MilesT | January 28, 2020 | Reply

    • The Marks Tey and Cambridge Line is a classic example of where the track bed should have been protected from development. Perhaps, it should have been made into a long distance cycle path, that could have been converted back to rail use.

      Comment by AnonW | January 28, 2020 | Reply

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