The Anonymous Widower

National Grid Invites Local Community To Comment On Proposals For Green Electricity Projects Needed To Boost Home-Grown Energy Supplies And Progress Towards Net Zero

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from National Grid.

These are the four main bullet points.

  • New interconnector with Netherlands and subsea cable between Suffolk and Kent will strengthen electricity supplies and transport low carbon power to homes and businesses.
  • 8-week public consultations will introduce the plans and ask for views of local communities.
  • The proposals include possible co-location of infrastructure (buildings and underground cables.) to reduce the impact on local communities.
  • Projects form part of the electricity network upgrades identified across the UK to help deliver the government’s energy security strategy and net zero targets.


  1. Eurolink is a subsea electricity cable between Great Britain and the Netherlands.
  2. Sea Link is a subsea electricity cable between Suffolk and Kent.
  3. The consultations will start on October the 24th.

This paragraph from the press release describes Eurolink.

Developed by National Grid Ventures, the Eurolink multi-purpose interconnector (MPI) is designed to harness the increasing volumes of offshore wind power in the North Sea and has the potential to power approximately 1.8 million homes. It will enable the connection of offshore wind farms to both the British and Dutch electricity grids via an interconnector, enabling the transport of clean electricity from where it’s produced to where it’s needed most.

And this paragraph describes Sea Link.

Developed by National Grid Electricity Transmission, Sea Link will add additional capacity to the electricity network in Suffolk and Kent, enabling low carbon and green energy to power local homes and businesses and be transported around the country. The proposals outline a preferred route of 10km of onshore and 140km of undersea cables, together with potential landfall and converter station locations at the proposed Friston substation in Suffolk and in Richborough in Kent.

These two new interconnectors would appear to open up the delivery of green electricity to the South-East of England and the Continent.

As I’ve said before, there doesn’t be any shortage of money to build wind farms and interconnectors between Great Britain, Belgium and The Netherlands.

How Much Wind Capacity Is Lined Up Around The South-East Of England?

Wind farms listed in the area include.

  • Operation – Dudgeon – 402 MW
  • Operation – East Anglia One – 714 MW
  • Operation – Greater Gabbard – 504 MW
  • Operation – Gunfleet Sands – 184 MW
  • Operation -Kentish Flats – 140 MW
  • Operation – London Array – 630 MW
  • Operation – Rampion – 400 MW
  • Operation – Scoby Sands – 60 MW
  • Operation – Sheringham Shoal – 317 MW
  • Operation – Thanet – 300 MW
  • Proposed – East Anglia Three – 1372 MW
  • Proposed – Norfolk Boreas – 1386 MW
  • Exploratory – East Anglia One North – 800 MW
  • Exploratory – East Anglia Two – 900 MW
  • Exploratory – Rampion 2 Extension – 1200 MW
  • Exploratory – Norfolk Vanguard – 1800 MW
  • Exploratory – North Falls – 504 MW
  • Exploratory – Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon Extensions – 719 MW


  1. These wind farms total to 12.3 GW.
  2. As the UK needs about 23 GW, these wind farms can power about half the UK.
  3. But no matter, as the East Anglian Array is planned to go to 7.2 GW and only 4.7 GW is so far operational or planned.
  4. So there could be up to another 2.5 GW to come.

This is not bad news for Rishi Sunak’s first days in office.

There’s More To Come

The National Grid press release finishes with these two paragraphs.

Last year, National Grid Ventures also ran a non-statutory consultation on Nautilus, a proposed MPI linking Britain and Belgium, which proposed a connection at Friston. National Grid Ventures is now investigating the potential to move the Nautilus MPI project to the Isle of Grain in Kent.

Much of the UK’s electricity network was built in the 1960s when the country was more reliant on fossil fuels. Today, we need to connect huge volumes of renewable power, such as offshore wind, to the network, to help deliver the government’s energy security strategy and net zero targets and to transition to a cleaner, more affordable, and more independent energy system. New infrastructure, and network upgrades are necessary to get the new clean energy from where it’s generated to where it’s needed.In addition to these proposals in Suffolk and Kent (and the East Anglia GREEN proposals which are currently being consulted on) the need for new network infrastructure has also been identified in North and South Wales, the Scottish Islands and West Coast, the East Coast of Scotland and Aberdeenshire, Lancashire, North-East England, and Yorkshire & Humber.

National Grid have numerous plans to connect up all the renewable energy being developed.

October 26, 2022 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is There A Need For A Norfolk-Suffolk Interconnector?

The coast of East Anglia from the Wash to the Haven Ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich is becoming the Energy Coast of England.

Starting at the Wash and going East and then South, the following energy-related sites or large energy users are passed.

Bicker Fen Substation

Bicker may only be a small hamlet in Lincolnshire, but it is becoming increasingly important in supplying energy to the UK.

Nearby is Bicker Fen substation, which connects or will connect the following to the National Grid.

  • The 26 MW Bicker Fen onshore windfarm.
  • The 1,400 MW interconnector from Denmark called Viking Link.
  • The proposed 857 MW offshore wind farm Triton Knoll.

This Google Map shows the location of Bicker Fen with respect to The Wash.

Bicker Fen is marked by the red arrow.

The Google Map shows the substation.

It must be sized to handle over 2 GW, but is it large enough?

Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm

The Dudgeon offshore wind farm is a 402 MW wind farm, which is twenty miles off the North Norfolk coast.

  • It has 67 turbines and an offshore substation.
  • It is connected to the shore at Weybourne on the coast from where an underground cable is connected to the National Grid at Necton.
  • It became operational in Oct 2017.
  • Equinor and Statkraft are part owners of the windfarm and this is the home page of the wind farm’s web site.
  • Equinor is the operator of the wind farm.

This Google Map shows the location of Weybourne on the coast.


  1. Weybourne is in the middle on the coast.
  2. Sheringham is on the coast in the East.
  3. Holt is on the Southern edge of the map almost South of Weybourne.

This second map shows the location of the onshore substation at Necton, with respect to the coast.


  1. The Necton substation is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Holt and Sheringham can be picked out by the coast in the middle.
  3. Weybourne is to the West of Sheringham.
  4. Necton and Weybourne are 35 miles apart.

Digging in the underground cable between Necton and Weybourne might have caused some disruption.

Looking at Weybourne in detail, I can’t find anything that looks like a substation. So is the Necton substation connected directly to Dudgeon’s offshore substation?

Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm

The Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm is a 316.8 MW wind farm, which is eleven miles off the North Norfolk coast.

  • It has 88 turbines and two offshore substations.
  • As with Dudgeon, it is connected to the shore at Weybourne on the coast.
  • But the underground cable is connected to an onshore substation at Salle and that is connected to the National Grid at Norwich.
  • It became operational in Sept 2012.
  • Equinor and Statkraft are part owners of the windfarm and this is the home page of the wind farm’s web site.
  • Equinor is the operator of the wind farm.

This second map shows the location of the onshore substation at Salle, with respect to the coast.


  1. The Salle substation is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Holt, Weybourne and Sheringham can be picked out by the coast in the middle.
  3. Weybourne is to the West of Sheringham.
  4. Salle and Weybourne are 13.5 miles apart.

Could the following two statements be true?

  • As the Sheringham Shoal wind farm was built first, that wind farm was able to use the shorter route.
  • It wasn’t built large enough to be able to handle the Dudgeon wind farm.

The statements would certainly explain, why Dudgeon used a second cable.

Extending The Dudgeon And Sheringham Shoal Wind Farms

Both the Dudgeon And Sheringham Shoal web sites have details of the proposed join extension of both wind farms.

This is the main statement on the Overview page.

Equinor has been awarded an Agreement for Lease by the Crown Estate, the intention being to seek consents to increase the generating capacity of both the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm and the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm.

They then make three points about the development.

  • Equinor is proposing a joint development of the two projects with a common transmission infrastructure.
  • As part of the common DCO application, the Extension Projects have a shared point of connection at the National Grid Norwich Main substation.
  • These extension projects will have a combined generating capacity of 719MW which will make an important contribution to the UK’s target of 30GW of electricity generated by offshore wind by 2030.

This statement on the Offshore Location page, describes the layout of the wind farms.

The Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm extension is to the north and the east of the existing wind farm, while its Dudgeon counterpart is to the north and south east of the existing Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm site. The proposed extension areas share the boundaries with its existing wind farm site.

They then make these two important points about the development.

  • Equinor is seeking to develop the extension project with a joint transmission infrastructure. A common offshore substation infrastructure is planned to be located in the Sheringham Shoal wind farm site.
  • The seabed export cable which will transmit the power generated by both wind farm extensions will make landfall at Weybourne.

There is also this map.


  1. The purple line appears to be the UK’s ten mile limit.
  2. The Sheringham Shoal Extension is outlined in red.
  3. The Dudgeon Extension is outlined in blue.
  4. The black lines appear to be the power cables.

I suspect the dotted blue lines are shipping routes sneaking their way through the turbines.

This statement on the Onshore Location page, describes the layout of the offshore and onshore cables.

A new seabed export cable will bring the electricity generated by both the Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm extensions to shore at Weybourne, on the coast of Norfolk.

They then make these two important points about the development.

  • From there a new underground cable will be installed to transmit that power to a new purpose built onshore substation, which will be located within a 3km radius of the existing Norwich main substation, south of Norwich. This will be the National Grid network connection point for the electricity from both wind farm extensions.
  • The power will be transmitted from landfall to the substation using an HVAC system which eliminates the need for any relay stations along the onshore cable route.

There is also this map.

It will be a substantial undertaking to build the underground cable between Weybourne and South of Norwich.

Bacton Gas Terminal

The Bacton gas terminal is a complex of six gas terminals about ten miles East of Cromer.

  • It lands and processes gas from a number of fields in the North Sea.
  • It hosts the UK end of the BBL pipeline to The Netherlands.
  • It hosts the UK end of the Interconnector to Zeebrugge in Belgium.
  • The Baird and Deborah fields, which have been developed as gas storage, are connected to the gas terminal. They are both mothballed.

This Google Map shows the location of the terminal.


  1. The Bacton gas terminal is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Sheringham is in the North West corner of the map.
  3. Cromer, Overstrand, Trimingham and Mundesley are resort towns and villages along the coast North of Bacton.

This second map shows the Bacton gas terminal in more detail.

Would you want to have a seaside holiday, by a gas terminal?

Norfolk Boreas And Norfolk Vanguard

Norfolk Boreas and Norfolk Vanguard are two wind farms under development by Vattenfall.

  • Norfolk Boreas is a proposed 1.8 GW wind farm, that will be 45 miles offshore.
  • Norfolk Vanguard is a proposed 1.8 GW wind farm, that will be 29 miles offshore.

This map shows the two fields in relation to the coast.


  1. The purple line appears to be the UK’s ten mile limit.
  2. Norfolk Boreas is outlined in blue.
  3. Norfolk Vsnguard is outlined in orange.
  4. Cables will be run in the grey areas.

This second map shows the onshore cable.


  1. The cables are planned to come ashore between Happisburgh and Eccles-on-Sea.
  2. Bacton gas terminal is only a short distance up the coast.
  3. The onshore cable is planned to go from here across Norfolk to the Necton substation.

But all of this has been overturned by a legal ruling.

This article on the BBC is entitled Norfolk Vanguard: Ministers Wrong Over Wind Farm Go-Ahead, Says Judge.

These are the first four paragraphs.

A High Court judge has quashed permission for one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms to be built off the east coast of England.

The Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Wind Farm was granted development consent in July by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

But Mr Justice Holgate overturned the decision following legal action from a man living near a planned cable route.

A Department for BEIS spokeswoman said it was “disappointed by the outcome”.

I bet the spokeswoman was disappointed.

Vattenfall and the BEIS will go back to the drawing board.

But seriously, is it a good idea to dig an underground cable all the way across Norfolk or in these times build a massive overhead cable either?

Perhaps the solution is to connect the Norfolk Boreas And Norfolk Vanguard wind farms to a giant electrolyser at Bacton, which creates hydrogen.

  • The underground electricity cable across Norfolk would not be needed.
  • Bacton gas terminal is only a few miles up the coast from the cable’s landfall.
  • The UK gets another supply of gas.
  • The hydrogen is blended with natural gas for consumption in the UK or Europe.
  • A pure hydrogen feed can be used to supply hydrogen buses, trucks and other vehicles, either by tanker or pipeline.
  • Excess hydrogen could be stored in depleted gas fields.

The main benefit though, would be that it would transform Bacton gas terminal from a declining asset into Norfolk’s Hydrogen Powerhouse.

Great Yarmouth And Lowestoft

Great Yarmouth Outer Harbour and the Port of Lowestoft have not been the most successful of ports in recent years, but with the building of large numbers of wind farms, they are both likely to receive collateral benefits.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the support ships for the wind farms switching to zero-carbon power, which would require good electrical connections to the ports to either charge batteries or power electrolysers to generate hydrogen.


Sizewell has only one nuclear power station at present; Sizewell B, but it could be joined by Sizewell C or a fleet of Small Modular Reactors (SMR).

The Sizewell Overhead Transmission Line

Sizewell also has a very high capacity overhead power line to Ipswich and the West.

I doubt, it would be possible to build an overhead transmission line like this today.

Sizewell And Hydrogen

EdF, who own the site are involved with Freeport East and may choose to build a large electrolyser in the area to create hydrogen for the Freeport.

East Anglia Array

The East Anglia Array will be an enormous wind farm., comprising up to six separate projects.

It will be thirty miles offshore.

It could generate up to 7.2 GW.

The first project East Anglia One is in operation and delivers 714 MW to a substation in the Deben Estuary, which connects to the Sizewell high-capacity overhead power line.

Most projects will be in operation by 2026.

Freeport East

As the Freeport develops, it will surely be a massive user of both electricity and hydrogen.

Problems With The Current Electricity Network

I don’t believe that the current electricity network, that serves the wind farms and the large energy users has been designed with the number of wind farms we are seeing in the North Sea in mind.

Every new windfarm seems to need a new connection across Norfolk or Suffolk and in Norfolk, where no high-capacity cables exist, this is stirring up the locals.

There is also no energy storage in the current electricity network, so at times, the network must be less than efficient and wind turbines have to be shut down.

Objections To The Current Policies

It is not difficult to find stories on the Internet about objections to the current policies of building large numbers of wind farms and the Sizewell C nuclear power station.

This article on the East Anglia Daily Times, which is entitled Campaigners Unite In Calling For A Pause Before ‘Onslaught’ Of Energy Projects ‘Devastates’ Region is typical.

This is the first paragraph.

Campaigners and politicians have called on the Government to pause the expansion of the energy industry in Suffolk, which they fear will turn the countryside into an “industrial wasteland” and hit tourism.

The group also appear to be against the construction of Sizewell C.

I feel they have a point about too much development onshore, but I feel that if the UK is to thrive in the future we need an independent zero carbon energy source.

I also believe that thousands of wind farms in the seas around the UK and Ireland are the best way to obtain that energy.

Blending Hydrogen With Natural Gas

Blending green hydrogen produced in an electrolyser  with natural gas is an interesting possibility.

  • HyDeploy is a project to investigate blending up to 20 % of green hydrogen in the natural gas supply to industrial and domestic users.
  • Partners include Cadent, ITM Power, Keele University and the Health and Safety Executive.
  • Natural gas naturally contains a small amount of hydrogen anyway.
  • The hydrogen gas would be distributed to users in the existing gas delivery network.

I wrote about HyDeploy in a post called HyDeploy.

Thje only loser, if hydrogen were to be blended with natural gas would be Vlad the Poisoner, as he’d sell less of his tainted gas.

An Interconnector Between Bicker Fen And Freeport East

I believe that an electricity interconnector between at least Bicker Fen and Freeport East could solve some of the problems.

My objectives would be.

  • Avoid as much disruption on the land as possible.
  • Create the capacity to deliver all the energy generated to customers, either as electricity or hydrogen.
  • Create an expandable framework, that would support all the wind farms that could be built in the future.

The interconnector would be a few miles offshore and run along the sea-bed.

  • This method of construction is well proven.
  • It was used for the Western HVDC Link between Hunterston in Scotland and Connah’s Quay in Wales.
  • Most wind farms seem to have existing substations and these would be upgraded to host the interconnector.

Connections en route would include.

Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm

The interconnector would connect to the existing offshore substation.

Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm

The interconnector would connect to the existing offshore substation.

Dudgeon and Sheringham Shoal Extension Offshore Wind Farms

These two wind farms could be connected directly to the interconnector, if as planned, they shared an offshore substation in the Sheringham Shoal Extension offshore wind farm.

Bacton Gas Terminal

I would connect to the Bacton Gas Terminal, so that a large electrolyser could be installed at the terminal.

The hydrogen produced could be.

  • Stored in depleted gas fields connected to the terminal.
  • Blended with natural gas.
  • Exported to Europe through an interconnector.
  • Supplied to local users by truck or pipeline.

After all, the terminal has been handling gas for over fifty years, so they have a lot of experience of safe gas handling.

Norfolk Boreas And Norfolk Vanguard

These two wind farms could be connected directly to the interconnector, if they shared an offshore substation.

It would also help to appease and silence the objectors, if there was no need to dig up half of Norfolk.

Great Yarmouth And Lowestoft

It might be better, if these ports were supplied from the interconnector.

  • Either port could have its own electrolyser to generate hydrogen, which could be.
  • Used to power ships, trucks and port equipment.
  • Liquefied and exported in tankers.
  • Used to supply local gas users.
  • Hydrogen could be supplied to a converted Great Yarmouth power station.

Both Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft could become hydrogen hub towns.


This site has a high-capacity connection to the National Grid. This connection is a big eyesore, but it needs to run at full capacity to take electricity from the Energy Coast to the interior of England.

That electricity can come from Sizewell B and/or Sizewell C nuclear power stations or the offshore wind farms.

East Anglia Array

There would probably need to be a joint offshore substation to control the massive amounts of electricity generated by the array.

Currently, the only wind farm in operation of this group is East Anglia One, which uses an underground cable connection to the Sizewell high-capacity connection to the Bullen Lane substation at Bramford.

Freeport East, Ipswich And Bullen Lane Substation

This Google Map shows the area between Ipswich and the coast.


  1. Sizewell is in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. Felixstowe, Harwich and Freeport East are at the mouth of the rivers Orwell and Stour.
  3. The Bullen Lane substation is to the West of Ipswich and shown by the red arrow.

I would certainly investigate the possibility of running an underwater cable up the River Orwell to connect the Southern end of the interconnector Between Bicker Fen And Freeport East.

This Google Map shows the Bullen Lane Substation.

It looks impressive, but is it big enough to handle all the electricity coming ashore from the offshore wind farms to the East of Suffolk and the electricity from the power stations at Sizewell?


I believe there are a lot of possibilities, that would meet my objectives.

In addition, simple mathematics says to me, that either there will need to be extra capacity at both Bicker Fen and Bullen Lane substations and onward to the rest of the country, or a large electrolyser to convert several gigawatts of electricity into hydrogen for distribution, through the gas network.



January 30, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Could Norfolk And Suffolk Be Powered By Offshore Wind?

This week this article on the BBC was published, which had a title of Government Pledges £100m For Sizewell Nuclear Site.

These are the first three paragraphs.

The government is putting up £100m to support the planned Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has announced.

The investment marks the latest stage in efforts to build the £20bn reactor on the east coast of England.

However, it does not commit the government to approving the project, which is still subject to negotiations.

My view of the proposed Sizewell C nuclear plant is that of an engineer, who used to live within thirty minutes of the Sizewell site.

  • Hinckley Point C power station, which is currently being constructed, will have a nameplate capacity of 3.26 GW.
  • Sizewell C would probably be to a similar design and capacity to Hinckley Point C.
  • Sizewell C would likely be completed between 2033-2036.
  • Sizewell B is a 1250 MW station, which has a current closing date of 2035, that could be extended to 2055.
  • East Anglia and particularly the mega Freeport East, that will develop to the South at the Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich will need more electricity.
  • One of the needs of Freeport East will be a large supply of electricity to create hydrogen for the trains, trucks, ships and cargo handling equipment.
  • Sizewell is a large site, with an excellent connection to the National Grid, that marches as a giant pair of overhead cables across the Suffolk countryside to Ipswich.


  • We still haven’t developed a comprehensive strategy for the management of nuclear waste in the UK. Like paying for the care of the elderly and road pricing, it is one of those problems, that successive governments have kept kicking down the road, as it is a big vote loser.
  • I was involved writing project management software for forty years and the building of large nuclear power plants is littered with time and cost overruns.
  • There wasn’t a labour problem with the building of Sizewell B, as engineers and workers were readily available. But with the development of Freeport East, I would be very surprised if Suffolk could provide enough labour for two mega-projects after Brexit.
  • Nuclear power plants use a lot of steel and concrete. The production of these currently create a lot of carbon dioxide.
  • There is also a large number of those objecting to the building of Sizewell C. It saddened me twenty-five years ago, that most of the most strident objectors, that I met, were second home owners, with no other connection to Suffolk.

The older I get, the more my experience says, that large nuclear power plants aren’t always a good idea.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

In Is Sizewell The Ideal Site For A Fleet Of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors?, I looked at building a fleet of small modular nuclear reactors at Sizewell, instead of Sizewell C.

I believe eight units would be needed in the fleet to produce the proposed 3.26 GW and advantages would include.

  • Less land use.
  • Less cost.
  • Less need for scarce labour.
  • Easier to finance.
  • Manufacturing modules in a factory should improve quality.
  • Electricity from the time of completion of unit 1.

But it would still be nuclear.

Wind In The Pipeline

Currently, these offshore wind farms around the East Anglian Coast are under construction, proposed or are in an exploratory phase.

  • East Anglia One – 714 MW – 2021 – Finishing Construction
  • East Anglia One North 800 MW – 2026 – Exploratory
  • East Anglia Two – 900 MW – 2026 – Exploratory
  • East Anglia Three – 1400 MW – 2026 – Exploratory
  • Norfolk Vanguard – 1800 MW – Exploratory
  • Norfolk Boreas – 1800 MW – Exploratory
  • Sheringham Shoal/Dudgeon Extension – 719 MW – Exploratory


  1. The date is the possible final commissioning date.
  2. I have no commissioning dates for the last three wind farms.
  3. The East Anglia wind farms are all part of the East Anglia Array.

These total up to 8.13 GW, which is in excess of the combined capacity of Sizewell B and the proposed Sizewell C, which is only 4.51 GW.

As it is likely, that by 2033, which is the earliest date, that Sizewell C will be completed, that the East Anglia Array will be substantially completed, I suspect that East Anglia will not run out of electricity.

But I do feel that to be sure, EdF should try hard to get the twenty year extension to Sizewell B.

The East Anglia Hub

ScottishPower Renewables are developing the East Anglia Array and this page on their web site, describes the East Anglia Hub.

This is the opening paragraph.

ScottishPower Renewables is proposing to construct its future offshore windfarms, East Anglia THREE, East Anglia TWO and East Anglia ONE North, as a new ‘East Anglia Hub’.


  1. These three wind farms will have a total capacity of 3.1 GW.
  2. East Anglia ONE is already in operation.
  3. Power is brought ashore at Bawdsey between Felixstowe and Sizewell.

I would assume that East Anglia Hub and East Anglia ONE will use the same connection.

Norfolk Boreas and Norfolk Vanguard

These two wind farms will be to the East of Great Yarmouth.

This map from Vattenfall web site, shows the position of the two wind farms.


  1. Norfolk Boreas is outlined in blue.
  2. Norfolk Vanguard is outlined in orange.
  3. I assume the grey areas are where the cables will be laid.
  4. I estimate that the two farms are about fifty miles offshore.

This second map shows the landfall between Eccles-on-Sea and Happisburgh.

Note the underground cable goes half-way across Norfolk to Necton.

Electricity And Norfolk And Suffolk

This Google Map shows Norfolk and Suffolk.


  1. The red arrow in the North-West corner marks the Bicker Fen substation that connects to the Viking Link to Denmark.
  2. The East Anglia Array  connects to the grid at Bawdsey in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. Sizewell is South of Aldeburgh in the South-East corner of the map.
  4. The only ports are Lowestoft and Yarmouth in the East and Kings Lynn in the North-West.

There are few large towns or cities and little heavy industry.

  • Electricity usage could be lower than the UK average.
  • There are three small onshore wind farms in Norfolk and none in Suffolk.
  • There is virtually no high ground suitable for pumped storage.
  • There are lots of areas, where there are very few buildings to the square mile.

As I write this at around midday on a Saturday at the end of January, 49 % of electricity in Eastern England comes from wind, 20 % from nuclear and 8 % from solar. That last figure surprised me.

I believe that the wind developments I listed earlier could provide Norfolk and Suffolk with all the electricity they need.

The Use Of Batteries

Earlier, I talked of a maximum of over 7 GW of offshore wind around the cost of Norfolk and Suffolk, but there is still clear water in the sea to be filled between the existing and planned wind farms.

Batteries will become inevitable to smooth the gaps between the electricity produced and the electricity used.

Here are a few numbers.

  • East Anglian Offshore Wind Capacity – 8 GW
  • Off-Peak Hours – Midnight to 0700.
  • Typical Capacity Factor Of A Windfarm – 20 % but improving.
  • Overnight Electricity Produced at 20 % Capacity Factor – 11.2 GWh
  • Sizewell B Output – 1.25 GW
  • Proposed Sizewell C  Output – 3.26 GW
  • Largest Electrolyser – 24 MW
  • World’s Largest Lithium-Ion Battery at Moss Landing – 3 GWh
  • Storage at Electric Mountain – 9.1 GWh
  • Storage at Cruachan Power Station – 7.1 GWh

Just putting these large numbers in a table tells me that some serious mathematical modelling will need to be performed to size the batteries that will probably be needed in East Anglia.

In the 1970s, I was involved in three calculations of a similar nature.

  • In one, I sized the vessels for a proposed polypropylene plant for ICI.
  • In another for ICI, I sized an effluent treatment system for a chemical plant, using an analogue computer.
  • I also helped program an analysis of water resources in the South of England. So if you have a water shortage in your area caused by a wrong-sized reservoir, it could be my fault.

My rough estimate is that the East Anglian battery would need to be at least a few GWh and capable of supplying up to the output of Sizewell B.

It also doesn’t have to be a single battery. One solution would probably be to calculate what size battery is needed in the various towns and cities of East Anglia, to give everyone a stable and reliable power supply.

I could see a large battery built at Sizewell and smaller batteries all over Norfolk and Suffolk.

But why stop there? We probably need appropriately-sized batteries all over the UK, with very sophisticated control systems using artificial intelligent working out, where the electricity is best stored.

Note that in this post, by batteries, I’m using that in the loosest possible way. So the smaller ones could be lithium-ion and largest ones could be based on some of the more promising technologies that are under development.

  • Highview Power have an order for a 50 MW/500 MWh battery for Chile, that I wrote about in The Power Of Solar With A Large Battery.
  • East Anglia is an area, where digging deep holes is easy and some of Gravitricity’s ideas might suit.
  • I also think that eventually someone will come up with a method of storing energy using sea cliffs.

All these developments don’t require large amounts of land.

East Anglia Needs More Heavy Consumers Of Electricity

I am certainly coming to this conclusion.

Probably, the biggest use of electricity in East Anglia is the Port of Felixstowe, which will be expanding as it becomes Freeport East in partnership with the Port of Harwich.

One other obvious use could be in large data centres.

But East Anglia has never been known for industries that use a lot of electricity, like aluminium smelting.

Conversion To Hydrogen

Although the largest current electrolyser is only 24 MW, the UK’s major electrolyser builder; ITM Power, is talking of a manufacturing capacity of 5 GW per year, so don’t rule out conversion of excess electricity into hydrogen.


Who needs Sizewell C?

Perhaps as a replacement for Sizewell B, but it would appear there is no pressing urgency.



January 29, 2022 Posted by | Computing, Energy, Energy Storage | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Birth Of The East West Main Line

Today, the East West Rail Consortium has changed its name to the East West Main Line Partnership.

The home page on the new web site, is emblazoned with this headline.

Championing The Ambition For East West Rail

This mission statement is then given.

The East West Main Line Partnership (previously the East West Rail Consortium) is led by local authorities and works closely with sub-national transport bodies, LEPs, government and its agencies to realise the vision for an East West Main Line.

It is followed by six main areas of interest.

Delivery Of Oxford-Cambridge

The Partnership will continue to work with government and the East West Railway Company to support delivery of Oxford-Cambridge (including Aylesbury-Milton Keynes) at the earliest opportunity.

Read More.

Coast-To-Coast Connectivity

For East West Rail to realise its full potential, direct services must extend beyond Oxford-Cambridge. Its potential should truly be ‘coast to coast’ – from Norfolk and Suffolk to Bristol and South Wales.

Read More.

North-South Connectivity

It is important to recognise that East West Rail is not just about improving east-west connectivity: it is integral to improving connectivity across the country.

Read More.

Interchange And Strategic Transport Hubs

The East West Main Line’s potential to connect to services on other main lines is significant. Frictionless interchange is required for onward rail journeys and to other modes.

Read More.

A 21st Century Main Line

The East West Main Line should reflect the 21st century communities it serves. It must be an exemplar for its high-quality standards of design, construction and operation.

Read More.


Greater use of rail for freight and logistics provides additional resilience for the business community, while also supporting the need to achieve net zero.

Read More.


It has to be remembered that the original driving force for the East West Rail Consortium was Ipswich Borough Council.

This new direction is a bold vision and it has the spirit of East Anglia written all over it.

Related Posts

Freight On The East West Main Line

Route Map Of The East West Main Line

October 7, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

Transport Secretary Urged Not To Derail Aylesbury Spur Plans

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Bucks Herald.

This is the sub-heading of the article.

Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to confirm Government support and funding for the much needed Aylesbury link section of East-West rail.

I think this Aylesbury link needs very careful thinking.

There are certainly a lot of issues to consider.

The Aylesbury Link

The Great Central Main Line used to run from London Marylebone station to the East Midlands and North.

Much of the route closed in the 1960s and the only section with a regular passenger service is that that run by Chiltern Railways, between Marylebone and Aylesbury Vale Parkway station.

North of Aylesbury Vale Parkway this rail link connects to the East-West Rail Link.

It was originally proposed to run a service between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

High Speed Two

High Speed Two is the herd of elephants in the room and it could have multiple effects all over the country.

Is High Speed Two For London, The Midlands, The North And Scotland Or For The Whole UK?

The answer surely, is that High Speed Two is for the whole UK.

Train Services Between Wales and the West Of England And The North Of England And Scotland


  • North Wales is well served by a change at Crewe for passengers from the North and Scotland.
  • Mid Wales is served by a change at Crewe or in Birmingham.
  • South Wales, Bristol and the West and South-West of England are well-served by high speed trains from London Paddington and Reading.

Could South Wales, Bristol and the West and South-West of England, be better connected to the North and Scotland?

One of the ways to improve these services could be with a connection between High Speed Two and East-West Rail Link to allow trains to connect to the Great Western Railway at Didcot Junction.

Train Services Between East Anglia And The North Of England And Scotland

One of the ways to improve these services could be with a connection between High Speed Two and East-West Rail Link to allow trains to connect to and from Cambridge and East Anglia.

A High Speed Two Station At Calvert

Calvert is a village surrounded by landfill and wildlife sites to the South of where High Speed Two and East-West Rail Link cross to the North of Aylesbury.

This Google Map shows the area.


  1. Calvert is the village in the middle of the map.
  2. The light-coloured area to the South-East of the village is one of London’s biggest landfill sites.
  3. The single-track railway to Aylesbury runs along the North-East side of the landfill.
  4. To the North of the village, this railway connects to the East-West Rail Link.

This Google Map shows the junction between the two railways in greater detail.


  1. The Northern part of Calvert is in the South-East corner of the map.
  2. The East-West Rail Link crossing across the North of the map
  3. The railway to Aylesbury running SE-NW across the map, to the East of the village of Calvert.
  4. The chord connecting the two railways, which allows trains to and from the South to connect to the East.

This map from High Speed Two shows the route of the new railway through the area.


  1. High Speed Two is shown in yellow (cutting) and embankment (red).
  2. High Speed Two appears to run either on the same route or alongside the route to Aylesbury.

The Oakervee Review into High Speed Two, says this on Page 53, about a new station at Calvert in Buckinghamshire.

The Review also heard evidence from a number of informed stakeholders suggesting there should be a new station near Calvert, where HS2 would cross East-West Rail proposals to improve connectivity along the OxfordCambridge corridor. Previously, due to the impact on speed, no interim station had been planned between London and Birmingham Interchange.

The Review concluded that the DfT should consider making passive provision for a future HS2 station near to Calvert. If it is decided that a HS2 station should be built near to Calvert, passive provision will help prevent any disruption to HS2 services. There could be merit in developing an HS2 station in the future here if local plans support a significant residential and commercial development in this region, and if there is passenger demand to justify the cost of developing a station here. Without this coordinated planning, the experience of HS1 stations risks being repeated. The Review notes that the cost of developing a future station near Calvert could be shared with others including potentially the East West Rail Company.

I must admit, that I like the concept of a new station at Calvert.

  • The double-track High Speed Two and the single-track Aylesbury Link run alongside each other and a station wouldn’t be a very expensive one.
  • High Speed Two Trains will be very powerful and should be able to do a quick stop perhaps losing about two minutes.
  • The important Milton Keynes Central station would get a good High Speed Two service, with a change at Calvert.
  • Trains between Oxford and Cambridge could serve Calvert station.

It might also be possible for one of High Speed Two’s Classic Compatible trains to join High Speed Two at the station with a reverse.

This could enable a service between say Cardiff and Edinburgh.

  • Intermediate stops could be Newport, Bristol Parkway, Swindon, Oxford, Bicester Village, Calvert, Birmingham Interchange, Crewe, Preston and Carlisle.
  • It might even join and split at Swindon and Carlisle, with a second Classic Compatible train going between Penzance and Glasgow, which stopped at Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol Temple Meads, Bath, Swindon, Oxford, Bicester Village, Calvert, Birmingham Interchange, Crewe, Preston and Carlisle.
  • It would need extra two-hundred metre long platforms at Swindon, Oxford, Bicester Village and Calvert.

If this train ran hourly, there would certainly be a need for an hourly feeder train between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

But as yet, it hasn’t been decided to provide provision at Calvert for a possible High Speed Two station.

Rolling Stock For The East-West Rail Link

In July 2019, I wrote Tender Set To Be Issued For East West Rail Rolling Stock.

I analysed if battery electric trains could run services on the East West Rail Link.

I said this.


    • All the major stations except Oxford have electrification.
    • Sections of the route are electrified.
    • The route is not very challenging.
    • The longest section without electrification is around forty miles.

All this leads me to believe that a battery-electric train with a range of forty miles could handle the route, if there was the means to charge the train at Oxford.

Possibly the easiest way to achieve the charging station at Oxford station, would be to electrify between Didcot Junction and Oxford stations.

Since then Hitachi have released the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, whose specification is shown in this infographic.

I believe this train could work the East-West Rail Link and also between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

I also believe, that other manufacturers could provide battery electric trains for the route.

These or similar trains would also be suitable for the decarbonisation of Chiltern’s diesel multiple units, that run the suburban services.


High Speed Two could have a station at Calvert.

If it does, there will certainly be a need between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

To be continued…

February 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Nothing Changes

The Americans never change, when it comes to the crimes and misdemeanours of their diplomats, forces personnel and their families in the United Kingdom.

Over the last few days, the case of the death of Harry Dunn, by a stupid driver reportedly on the wrong side of the road, has come to attention on the news.

Perhaps, twenty-five years ago, C and myself were at a dinner party given by a Chinese friend and we got talking to a retired Chief Constable from East Anglia, who C knew through various legal connections.

At the time, there had just been a fatal road crash involving a United States serviceman, near one of the many bases and there was a row going on, as the suspect had been whisked back home.

I remember the retired Policeman saying that it was always happening and justice was rarely seen to be done.



October 8, 2019 Posted by | News | , , , , | 4 Comments

Coastal Communities Among Worst Off In UK, Report Finds

The title of this post is the same as an article on the BBC web site, which they are covering on BBC Breakfast.

When I was fifteen my parents partially-retired to Felixstowe and I remember a very boring couple of summers in the town. In summer 1963, I spent most of it reading Nelkon and Parker in preparation for my A Level Physics course.

In those days, public transport to Ipswich was dire with nothing back after working hours and I can remember that I only ever went to the cinema in Felixstowe once!

Today, the last train from Ipswich is 22:28, but in those days it was about 19:00.

So one factor that applied, was you needed a car to have any social life outside of the dreary town. The few people of my age, I knew in the town couldn’t wait to leave school, so they could earn money to buy a car.

If you look around the country, the coastal areas that are vibrant and successful like say Bournemouth, Brighton, Liverpool, Southend and Swansea, tend to be larger, with excellent external and internal public transport links.

Other non-successful coastal towns like Felixstowe, Hastings, Hull, Lowestoft, Redcar, Skegness and Ysrmouth don’t have the same quality of external transport links, although some like Hull have good bus networks.

I may be being selective, but I believe it would make a big difference to a lot of coastal towns, if they had a first class rail service to the nearby inland larger towns and cities.

If there is no rail route, then a first class bus connection is needed.


I’ll take Felixstowe as an example.

  • The train service is one train per hour and it finishes around ten in the evening.
  • The length of the line is such, that one train can do the return trip in an hour.
  • Most of the rolling stock used on the line are past it, although I’ve done the trip in a passenger-friendly Class 170 train.
  • If it is a sunny Saturday or Sunday, the train can get overloaded at times.

Hopefully, the train service will get better.

  1. Greater Anglia have ordered new three-car Class 755 bi-mode trains.
  2. Network Rail are improving the Felixstowe Branch Line.
  3. Ipswich station is to be upgraded with an extra bay platform for Felixstowe and Lowestoft services.

Point 1 would probably attract more passengers and points 2 and 3 would allow a half-hourly service at selected times of the day.

The increase in capacity and quality, should be enough, so that on a glorious day if people in Ipswich decide to go to the coast, the trains can make it a good experience.

It will be interesting to see how the number of rail passengers to Felixstowe change in the next few years.

Incidentally, Felixstowe station shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The Grade II Listed station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a four-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

Felixstowe used to have a second station at Felixstowe Beach, which is near to the Port of Felixstowe and Landguard Fort.

Some might argue that reopening the station would be a good idea, especially as it could be a modern single platform station.

But surely, it would be better to improve the bus services in the town or provide quality bike hire at the station.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 Trains

Greater Anglia have ordered 24 x four-car and 14 x three-car Class 755 trains.

  • The trains are bi-mode.
  • In terms of carriages, the new bi-mode fleet will be at more than twice the size of the current diesel fleet.
  • Greater Anglia have said, that they will use electric power from overhead wires, even if it’s only available for short distances.
  • The trains are probably large enough for an on-board full function ticket machine and lots of buggies, bicycles and wheel-chairs.
  • They will probably carry their own wheelchair ramp, as I saw in What Train Is This?

This article in RailNews is entitled Greater Anglia unveils the future with Stadler mock-up and says this.

The bi-mode Class 755s will offer three or four passenger vehicles, but will also include a short ‘power pack’ car to generate electricity when the trains are not under the wires. This vehicle will include a central aisle so that the cars on either side are not isolated. Greater Anglia said there are no plans to include batteries as a secondary back-up.

So Stadler are using their well-proven design, which I saw in Germany.

What surprises me is the ruling out of batteries by Greater Anglia.

The central powercar would surely be the ideal place to put energy storage, for the following reasons.

  • It could be easily integrated with the diesel power-pack.
  • The weight of the battery is probably in the best place.
  • It could be part of an energy saving regenerative braking system, which would work under electric or diesel power.
  • In Battery EMUs For Merseyrail, I wrote how Stadler were fitting batteries in Merseyrail’s new fleet.

When the trains arrive, it’ll all be explained. Perhaps, Greater Anglia’s words were carefully chosen.

How will these trains change the coastal towns of Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth?

If it’s positive, Greater Anglia will be setting a strong precedent.

What Needs To Be Done To Railways To And Along The Coast

In no particular order, there are various topics.

A Coastal-Friendly Train Fleet

From personal experience on East Anglian trains, I feel that the passenger profile is different with always several bicycles on a train. Greater Anglia will have researched their passengers’ journeys and this has resulted in their choice of three- and four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains.

  • One- and two-car diesel multiple units are being replaced with three-car bi-modes
  • The Class 170 trains appear to be being replaced by four-car bi-modes.

So it would appear that Greater Anglia are expecting more passengers on the coastal routes to Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Yarmouth, as they are always running at least three-car trains.

I also suspect they will be allowing for more bicycles and buggies, with higher traffic at weekends with good weather.

Their fleet choice will also allow them to use a four-car train instead of a three-car.

Looking at the fleet choices of other train operators like Northern working over a wide area with a large proportion of leisure traffic, they seem to have a degree of flexibility.

Stations In Coastal Towns

Many  stations in coastal towns were built in the grand manner. This is St. Leonard’s Warrior Square station.

Felixstowe station was built in this way and the station buildings are Grade II Listed. This is the single platform.

But it also shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a six-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter, underneath an ornate 1898 canopy.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

These are a few pictures of other stations in coastal towns.

Some are grand, some are simple and some need a lot of improvement.

But if you want to improve the fortunes of a coastal town, or any town for that matter, you must give it a decent station, which will be one of main entry points for visitors.

The larger stations must have the following characteristics.

  • A certain style.
  • Good understandable information and perhaps a proper Tourist Office.
  • A cafe or a bar.
  • Decent bus connections to the rest of the town.
  • Bicycle hire
  • A shop for a paper and some chocolate.
  • A cash machine with no extra charges.

Hopefully, the station needs a central location in the town.

But Felixstowe station shows what can be created, with its Victorian canopy and a single platform, tucked away behind a shopping centre, built around the original Listed station building.

These days with modern signalling and double-ended multiple units, single-platform stations like Felixstowe, could probably handle four trains per hour.

New Stations

In DfT Names Five Winners Of Fresh £16m Stations Fund, I talked about new stations funded by the Government’s New Stations Fund. Two of the five stations are near the coast; Bow Street and Horden Peterlee.

So does the Government realise the value of good rail links to coastal areas?

The Walkers’ Halt

Some of the coastal lines go along some of the most spectacular coast-lines in the UK.

This Google Map shows the Durham Coast Line just South of Seaham station.

A modern train like a bi-mode Class 755 train could have the following characteristics.

  • The ability to execute station stops with a short dwell time.
  • In-cab radio signalling.
  • CCTV to aid the driver at a station stop.
  • On-board ticketing machine.
  • On-board wheelchair ramp.
  • Two crew members.

So would it be able to stop to pick up and set down at an old-fashioned halt with perhaps a single platform?

The England Coast Path

The England Coast Path will be 4,500 kilometres long and go round the whole coast of England.

In places, it must go near to railway lines, so will we see simple walkers’ halts, as I described in the previous section?

It strikes me, that we need a large helping of careful design to make sure that the England Coast Path and our costal rail routes would well together.

I used England as an example, but I suspect, the same logic applies in the rest of the UK.


This post isn’t complete yet!

I do feel though based on my East Anglian experience, that improving the train service to coastal towns could be the first step in improving their prosperity.

Too often going to the coast by train is a second-rate experience. Greater Anglia with its train fleet renewal seem to be creating a new era of getting to the coast in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Other companies should be made to follow.









September 4, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stadler On A Swiss Roll

Over the past couple of years, I have written about several orders for new trains or deliveries, where the manufacturer is  Stadler Rail or a company controlled by the Swiss group.

If there is one theme that goes through these articles, it is that a lot of the products involved are innovative., whether they were designed by Stadler or other companies the group now owns.


The Class 68 locomotive has proven itself, as a capable locomotive for hauling express passenger trains with Chiltern Railways and will be doing a similar task for TransPennine. A total of 32 have been delivered or are on order.

The Class 88 locomotive is an electro-diesel version of the Class 68 and is just starting to be delivered. Will it find its home on the front of passenger or freight trains? A total of ten is planned for this go-anywhere locomotive.

Sheffield’s Tram-Train

The Class 399 tram/train has rather stalled in the sidings at Sheffield, probably more to do with Network Rail’s inability to get a job done on time, than anything to do with the tram/train, which runs successfully in Germany and Spain.

Greater Anglia’s Flirts

Electric and bi-mode versions of the Stadler Flirt will make an appearance in East Anglia in the next few years. Very little is known about the trains, except for visualisations for the press like this.

Stadler Flirt

Stadler Flirt

This press release on the Stadler web site says little of substance. This is a typical paragraph.

The trains are designed to provide a significantly enhanced passenger experience that will transform rail travel for the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.  The FLIRT trains to be used on the East Anglia franchise will be equipped with air-conditioning; ‘2×2’ seating; Wi-Fi and power points throughout the train; a low floor design, allowing easier access to platform from the train; passenger information systems with real-time information; and have regenerative braking.

But then it’s not for serious consumption and could be said by any manufacturer about their trains.

This is a section from the Specification section in the Wikipedia entry.

The FLIRT is a new generation of multiple units, even though it has a striking resemblance with GTW vehicles. The trains can have two to six sections and electric variants are available for all commonly used power supply systems (AC and DC) as well as standard and broad gauge. It has jacobs bogies between the individual sections, with wide walk-through gangways. The floor height at the entrances can be chosen by the operator, providing level boarding at most stations. Automatic couplers of either Schwab type (on all Swiss units) or Scharfenberg type at both ends of the train allow up to four trains to be connected.

Look closely at the press picture and you can see, that there are two cars either side of a smaller power section. In A Train With The Engine In The Middle, I described a Stadler GTW, that I saw in Kassel.

A Train With The Engine In The Middle

So it looks like East Anglia’s bi-mode Flirts could have a power car in the middle. Stadler says this about the power car in the product specification for the GTW.

The GTW is a low-floor single-decker regional train. The drive unit is arranged between the carriages, but the train can still be accessed throughout.

Is the train in my picture considered to be a two-car or three-car train?

I obviously haven’t ridden one of Stadler’s trains with a power unit in the middle, but is the full-accessible toilet in the power car? It would seem logical that it could be!

Glasgow And Merseyrail

This visualisation shows Glasgow’s proposed tram-train link to the Airport.

Glasgow Airport Tram-Train

Glasgow Airport Tram-Train

And this visualisation shows Merseyrail’s new train.

Merseyrail's New Train

Merseyrail’s New Train

Could they be related?

  • The Merseyrail train is definitely to be built by Stadler
  • Stadler are building the new vehicles for the Glasgow Subway.
  • The rail routes to Liverpool and Glasgow Airports are very similar in nature.
  • Both vehicles are reported to possibly use onboard energy storage.
  • Stadler have all the tram-train technology.
  • Supporting a small number of vehicles in Glasgow could be expensive, but having similar vehicles in Liverpool must make it easier.

I said that the two routes to the airports are similar in nature.

  • In Glasgow, the train starts at Glasgow Central station and goes to Paisley St. James station using the Inverclyde Line’s 25 KVAC overhead electrification and then could use onboard stored energy to run as a tram on a dedicated track without electrification to Glasgow Airport.
  • In Liverpool, the train starts to the North of the City, calls at Moorfields and Liverpool Central stations in the City Centre and then goes to Liverpool South Parkway station using the third-rail electrification and then could use onboard stored energy to run as a tram on a dedicated track without electrification to Liverpool Airport.

I don’t know, but it would surely mean that the vehicles needed for the Glasgow Airport tram-train, would be substantially cheaper, if they were one of Merseyrail’s vehicles with a modified exterior and interior.


Stadler seem to be picking up all of the small and tricky rail vehicle projects, by applying large dollops of innovation and a fair helping of common sense.

I wouldn’t give odds, that Stadler will land the contract to build new trains for the Docklands Light Railway!


December 23, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Making Sense Of The New East Anglia Franchise

This document discusses the various issues concerning the new East Anglian Franchise.

It is divided into the following sections.

1. The New East Anglian Franchise

2. Performance Considerations

3. Regenerative Braking

4. 660 Carriages Will Be Built By Bombardier In Derby

5. 383 Carriages Will Be Built By Stadler In Switzerland


7. East Anglia And IPEMUs

8. East Anglia And Bicycles

9. London – Colchester – Ipswich – Norwich Services

10. London – Lowestoft – Yarmouth Services

11. London – Stansted Airport – Cambridge Services

12. Conclusions On The New Trains

13. Peterborough To Ipswich Is Extended to Colchester

14. Ipswich To Cambridge

15. Ipswich

16. Cambridge South Station And The East-West Rail Link

17. A Cambridge Metro

18. Norwich – Ely – Cambridge – Stansted

19. Ely

20. London – Shenfield

21. Shenfield

22. The Shenfield To Southend Line

23. The Crouch Valley Line

24. Beaulieu

25. The Braintree Branch Line

26. Sudbury To Colchester Town

27. The Gainsborough Line And The Sunshine Coast Line

28. Thorpe-le-Soken Station To The Coast

29. Manningtree And The Mayflower Line

30. Manningtree Maintenance Facilitity

31. Felixstowe

32. The East Suffolk Line

33. Lines From Norwich

34. New Lines

35. Stour Valley Railway

36. Norfolk Orbital Railway

37. Aldeburgh Branch Line

38. Bramley Line

39. Summarising Abellio’s Franchise

40. Abellio’s Train Philosophy

41. Abellio’s Main Line Philosophy

42. Abellio’s Branch Line Philosophy

43. Freight Affects

44. Electrification

45. More On Regenerative Braking

46. Why So Many Bi-Mode Flirts?

47. Long Distance Routes

1. The New East Anglian Franchise

The only thing definite about the new East Anglia Franchise, that will run from October 2016, is that it will be going to Abellio.

This article in the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled Abellio wins East Anglian rail franchise for nine years in £1.4bn deal.

This is said.

Abellio Greater Anglia is to run rail services in the region for the next nine years after being awarded a £1.4bn contract by the government.

Some information is given in several places including the main government announcement, so we can assume it is correct.

  • The entire fleet is being replaced.
  • 660 carriages will be built by Bombardier in Derby
  • 383 carriages will be built by Stadler of Switzerland.
  • Liverpool Street-Ipswich-Norwich will be three trains per hour (tph) all day.
  • Two services a day between Norwich and London in each direction will be done in ninety minutes.
  • One service a day between Ipswich and London in each direction will be done in sixty minutes.
  • There will be four direct services a day between Lowestoft and London.
  • There will be an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough and most services will be extended to Colchester.
  • Most services on the Sudbury branch will run to Colchester Town, through Colchester main station.
  • £120million will be spent on depots with a new maintenance facility at Manningtree
  • Free Wi-Fi for all passengers on trains and at stations.
  • Improved ticketing.

By 2021, there will be more than 32,000 more seats on services arriving at London Liverpool Street in the morning peak, while the new franchise will introduce 1,144 additional weekday services – an increase of 13% – to stations including Cambridge, Norwich, Stansted Airport, Lowestoft, Southend and London Liverpool Street.

Back To Contents

2. Performance Considerations

Before I look at the various proposals in detail, I shall just state some of the principles I found in Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?,

  • Liverpool Street to Norwich trains probably need to be capable of over 110 mph and possibly 125 mph., when running North of Haughley Junction.
  • All passenger trains on the line need to be able to hold at least 110 mph, so they don’t slow the Norwich expresses.

I also think that as the franchise mandates four trains between London and Norwich in Ninety, but only two trains between London and Ipswich in Sixty, that it might be because the Norwich target is easier.

Consider, the route North of Haughley Junction.

  • The only trains are the Norwich expresses and perhaps the occasional freight train or special train.
  • There are no branch lines.
  • The only station is Diss.
  • The line is fairly straight.

So could this line be upgraded into a 125 mph high-speed line? I don’t know, but a quick estimate, indicates that this could save 3-4 minutes.

This doesn’t seem much, when the current timing to Norwich is 110 minutes! But every little helps!

In addition, every engineering and operational trick should be used to minimise stopping time. A fast 110-0-110 mph time is needed.

  • Quick acceleration and braking
  • Wide doors for easy and fast access.
  • Train floor level with the platform surface, so buggies, wheelchairs and luggage are pushed across and the gap is easy to mind.

The platforms and stations should also be updated, so that passengers can move away quickly to allow the train to be safely on its way.

In An Illustration That Ipswich In Sixty Is Possible, on the 27th August 2016, I travelled from Ipswich to London in just 67 minutes, in a Class 321 train of all things.

It showed me what sort of times, a 100 mph train is capable of achieving between Ipswich and London.

Back To Contents

3. Regenerative Beaking

Regenerative braking has the advantage of smoother  and more precisely controlled braking, coupled with perhaps a fifteen to twenty percent saving in electricity use, as some of the braking energy is recycled.

I suspect that all electric passenger trains and some freight locomotives on the East Anglian rail network, will be fitted with regenerative braking and the Great Eastern Main Line will have overhead wiring and equipment capable of accepting the return current.

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Electric switch needed to increase freight speeds – NR, So will we be seeing some more electric freight locomotives in East Anglia? If they are new-build, they will certainly have regenerative braking.

At present of the various East Anglian trains running into Liverpool Street only Class 360 and Class 379 trains have regenerative braking. I also feel that some of the overhead wiring is unable to handle the return current and may need to be updated to a large degree.

I’ll now look at some of the proposals in detail.

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4. 660 Carriages Will Be Built By Bombardier In Derby

These will be Aventras and I would assume they will replace most of the Class 317 trains, Class 321 trains and Class 360 trains, that currently run the suburban services out of Liverpool Street. As the Class 379 trains, that run to Stansted Airport and Cambridge are only six or so years old, I think we can assume, they could be upgraded with wi-fi and a few other cosmetic changes.

Currently the fleet consists of the following.

  • Class 317 trains – 46 trains
  • Class 321 trains – 94 trains
  • Class 360 trains – 21 trains
  • Class 379 trains – 30 trains

Adding them up and excluding the Class 379 trains, gives a total of 161 four-car trains or 644 carriages.

What will be the specification of these trains?

In Performance Considerations, I said, that to do Norwich in 90, that the other trains on the Great Eastern Main Line, should be capable of cruising as fast as possible.

So I believe these trains will be capable of 110 mph, which is within Bombardier’s design limits for the Aventra.

Coupled with other Aventra features, like.

  • Regenerative braking.
  • Reduced stopping time at stations.
  • Limited automation.
  • Intelligent driver aids.
  • Better aerodynamics and less weight and rolling resistance.

These trains will assist in speeding up suburban services.

This article in Rail Magazine describes the trains.

The Bombardier units will be based on the Class 345 Aventras being delivered for Crossrail, but with the focus on seating capacity rather than standing space. The trains will come in two versions: ten-car and 240 metres long; and five-car and 110 metres long. All will be electric.

Note, if these train and car lengths are correct, the cars are longer than for the Class 360 trains and a ten-car Aventra is as long as a twelve-car Class 360 train.

This might point to the fact that for each passenger carried, there is less weight, axles and equipment, than the current trains. This can’t be a bad thing.

What is also unusual, is that five- and ten-car trains have different average car lengths of 22 and 24 metres respectively.

As Aventras are a walk-through train, with wide gangways, I suspect that these new trains will be much better than those they replace, with lots more space, comfort and passenger-oriented features.

I suspect too, that as with Bombardier’s Class 378 trains, that the only difference between the ten-car and five-car trains would be the number of trailer cars between the two end driving cars and a setting in the train software. They are really true plug-and-play trains.

I do wonder if all trains going into Liverpool Street will be ten-car 240 metre long trains.

  • Crossrail is designed around nine-car trains, but provision has been made to increase this to ten, if needed.
  • Platforms at Liverpool Street are being extended to take then-car Crossrail trains.
  • Train paths are not plentiful on the Great Eastern Main Line and fewer higher-capacity trains might increase capacity.
  • Liverpool Street station could do with more platforms.

In addition, there are only three electrified branch lines, without a full-service to Liverpool Street.

  • The Braintree Branch, which has a one train per hour service to Liverpool Street with more in the peak.
  • The Mayflower Line to Harwich, which has a one train per hour service with some extended to Liverpool Street in the peak.
  • The Crouch Valley Line, which is self-contained and has a rather unusual three trains in two hours schedule.

A five-car 110 metre long train could probably work each service, with perhaps some platform lengthening in a couple of stations.

I suspect too, that two five-car trains will be able to work as a pair, but will they have end gangways, so passengers can more between trains?

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5. 383 Carriages Will Be Built By Stadler In Switzerland

These trains will be version of the Stadler Flirt, of which over a thousand units had been sold. So it is not an untried design.

This is the specification of the train from Wikipedia.

The FLIRT is a new generation of multiple units, even though it has a striking resemblance with GTW vehicles. The trains can have two to six sections and electric variants are available for all commonly used power supply systems (AC and DC) as well as standard and broad gauge. It has jacobs bogies between the individual sections, with wide walk-through gangways. The floor height at the entrances can be chosen by the operator, providing level boarding at most stations. Automatic couplers of either Schwab type (on all Swiss units) or Scharfenberg type at both ends of the train allow up to four trains to be connected.

All FLIRT variations use IGBT based traction converters from ABB, which drive the induction motors located in the two bogies at either end of the train. On the two-section trains, only one bogie is powered, while on longer versions it is possible to have a third powered bogie in the middle, found on the trains for NSB and for PKP Intercity in Poland. Each bogie usually has a continuous power rating of 1,000 kW (1,300 hp) giving a typical four-section train 2,000 kW (2,700 hp) total power output as well as maximum power output of 2,600 kW (3,500 hp) over a short time. Depending on the number of powered bogies, the length and weight, they will reach top speeds between 120 and 200 km/h (75 and 124 mph) (typically 160 km/h or 99 mph). Acceleration also varies between 0.8 and 1.2 m/s2 (2.6 and 3.9 ft/s2).

There is also this page on Swiss Railways for Manchester, which gives a lot more details.

So I suspect, Abellio will be receiving a version of the Flirt tailored to their needs.

Flirts will probably run on the following routes.

  • Liverpool Street – Colchester – Ipswich – Norwich – Yarmouth(?)
  • Liverpool Street – Ipswich – Lowestoft
  • Stansted Airport – Cambridge – Cambridge North – Ely – Norwich – Yarmouth(?)
  • Colchester – Ipswich – Ely – Peterborough
  • Ipswich – Cambridge

But given the electro-diesel nature of some of the trains and the flexibility of the Flirt, we might see new services.

The article in Rail Magazine gives the make-up of the new trains.

Stadler’s order will comprise 240 electric vehicles to form 12-car sets and 138 bi-mode vehicles to form three-car and four-car sets.

That gives twenty twelve-car EMUs and something like twenty-two three-car and eighteen four-car bi-mode sets.

Or in other words, a very large number of new trains, with the EMUs probably capable of 200 kph, which I believe might be needed for Norwich In 90.

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Abellio were involved in the IPEMU trial at Manningtree, that used one of their Class 379 trains as a demonstrator.

I have never met any other person, rail enthusiast or not, who rode that demonstrator, when it was available for any Tom, Dick and Harriet to try.

  • I sat next to a Bombardier engineer monitoring the train on a laptop.
  • In the trial, trains ran one way on overhead power and the other on the onboard storage.
  • As a passenger, there was no difference of the experience between the two trips.

So they must have some very good data on what an IPEMU or electric train with onboard storage can do. The train could certainly handle a twenty kiometre double-track line, where only one track is electrified.

They have probably looked at some routes like Cambridge-Norwich, Ipswich-Lowestoft and probably felt that a bi-mode Flirt is a better alternative.

But not all the uses of an IPEMU concern running around using stored power.

  • The onboard energy storage enables regenerative braking and cuts energy bills.
  • As a control engineer, I believe that onboard energy storage makes for a more efficient and smoother-driving train. All those hybrid-cars can’t be dead-end technology.
  • Depots and overnight stabling can be without overhead wires.
  • Gaps can be left in overhead wires at level crossings, complicated crossings or places where putting up wires is difficult for engineering, safety, environmental or heritage reasons.

Other factors will also effect whether an IPEMU-capability is provided on all or some of the Aventra.

  • Bombardier told me that all Aventras are wired for onboard energy storage and are thus potential IPEMUs
  • A lot of the overhead wiring in East Anglia is elderly to say the least. So will some of the electrification be simplified to save money, if all trains on the route had an IPEMU-capability?
  • Some of the overhead wiring probably can’t handle regenerative braking. So instead of upgrading, will trains with an IPEMU-capability be used.

As the franchising process, specifically gave extra points for using innovative technology, I can’t believe that there will be no uses of IPEMUs in East Anglia.

I said in 660 Carriages Will Be Built By Bombardier In Derby that I consider the Aventra to be a true plug-and-play train probably composed of three basic modules.

  • A driving car with motors and a cab. (DMOS)
  • A car with motors. (MOS)
  • A trailer car. (TSO)

Two driving cars and an appropriate number of motor and trailer cars, with the customer’s desired interior form the train.

So Abellio’s five-car trains would have three intermediate cars and the ten-car trains would have eight.

I think we could see a car with onboard energy storage that can be plugged into the train. We might even see Aventras, but probably not in East Anglia, with an onboard diesel generator.

I have a feeling that in a few years time, we’ll see the Aventra as a third great design to come out of Derby after with the RB211/Trent aero engine and the InterCity 125.

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7. East Anglia And IPEMUs

There is one other factor that I believe will lead to IPEMUs being used during the next East Anglian Franchise.

That is the nature of East Anglia and its rail network.

  • There are some lines like the Crouch Valley Line, where capacity has been severely restricted by electrification designed for least cost by the Treasury in the past.
  • Some rural lines, electrified or not, need extra tracks, points, passing loops and sidings to raise the service level. Costs will be saved if electrification could be simplified.
  • Some rural lines like the Gainsborough Line, go through environmentally sensitive and very beautiful countryside and the natives will be against electrification.

But East Anglian folk are sensible and would accept battery trains, if they were shown to work.

There is also the marketing value of battery electric trains gliding through the picturesque countryside. Especially, if the trains were updated for this type of route with perhaps.

  • Large windows.
  • All seats getting a view.
  • Wi-fi based commentaries.
  • Perhaps a driver’s eye camera available through wi-fi.
  • Drinks, snacks and refreshments.

Some of East Anglia’s more run-down areas might benefit from extra visitors.

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8. East Anglia And Bicycles

When I used to take my bicycle between London an Felixstowe in the 1960s, I used to put it in the guard’s van between Liverpool Street and Ipswich and cycle to those two stations at both ends. Interestingly, I don’t think I was ever hauled with my bicycle by BR Standard Class 7 steam locomotive on that route, although I do remember one trip with my mother, where we were.

Fifty years ago, bicycles weren’t very numerous on trains and the guard’s van provided adequate space for them, along with the parcels and the passengers in wheel-chairs.

Now though, trains carry a lot of bicycles and they can be very numerous on the trains of East Anglia, especially around Cambridge and to the coast.

I can see a time, when the modular nature of the Flirts and Aventras that Abellio has procured for East Anglia, allows a special area for bicycles to be provided.

It would surely be easy to design a coach that is mainly seats for passengers, with modern bicycle storage at one end. The two compartments could even be separated by a movable partition, so that according to route and traffic needs, the accommodation could be adjusted with time.

I suspect that both Stadler and Bombardier would be very helpful in the designs of an appropriate train for an operator.

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9. London – Colchester – Ipswich – Norwich Services

Some changes are mentioned in the various reports.

  • Liverpool Street-Ipswich-Norwich will be 3 tph all day.
  • Two services a day between Norwich and London in each direction will be done in ninety minutes.
  • One service a day between Ipswich and London in each direction will be done in sixty minutes.
  • There will be four services a day between Lowestoft and London.

The current services are as follows.

  • Liverpool Street-Ipswich-Norwich is 2 tph all day.
  • London-Norwich services take between 110-120 minutes
  • London-Ipswich services are augmented by a third train all day.
  • London-Ipswich services take between 67-83 minutes.

I should also say, that passenger pressure and Abellio’s Marketing Department, will want all Flirt services between Norwich and London to eventually achieve the following, at least for the fastest trains.

  • London to/from Norwich in ninety minutes.
  • London to/from Ipswich in sixty minutes.
  • Direct London-Lowestoft services would also travel between London and Ipswich in sixty minutes.

It should also be pointed out that there is no and/or about these objectives, as the protests in one county, if they were treated worse than the other would be immense.

It is an immensely tough ask!

Could the third train to and from Norwich in each hour be created by extending the London-Ipswich stopping train to Norwich?

  • Turning a train at Norwich is probably easier, than at Ipswich, as the station has more platform space.
  • If it still stopped at Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich and virtually everywhere South of Ipswich, It could create a lot of useful connectivity for passengers.
  • As between Colchester and Norwich, it would probably only stop at Manningtree, Ipswich, Stwmarket and Diss, it would only be a couple of minutes slower than the fastest trains on this section of the route.

Using a crude estimate, I reckon a Flirt stopping as above, could do Liverpool Street to Norwich in perhaps ten minutes under two hours.

That would be some stopping train!

How many twelve-car trains would be needed for this flagship service, assuming that the Lowestoft services were run using the bi-mode trains?

The following analysis is pretty crude, but you can see where I’m going.

If the first train left Norwich at 06:00 and it took say four hours to go to London and back including train turn-round at each end, then the same train would form the 10:00, 14:00, 18:00 and 22:00 trains.

As trains are 3 tph diagrams would start at 06:20, 06:40, 07:00, 07:20, 07:40, 08:00, 08:20, 08:40, 09:00, 09:20 and 09:40.

So just twelve trains out of the twenty on order, could provide a 3 tph service with a four-hour diagram. Some would need to start and finish diagrams from the London end to provide a complete service.

If there was just ten trains available to provide the service, then this would mean that the 06:00 train would have to return to Norwich to go back to London as the 09:20.

So this would mean that to do Norwich in Ninrty with ten trains, would need a turnround time of ten minutes at each end.

But it would be a complete Norwich in Ninety service for the fast trains.

The question of where the East Anglian Expresses stop on the Great Eastern Main Line has to be answered.


  • The new trains will stop and get going again much faster than the current locomotive-hauled stock.
  • Between Ipswich and Norwich, there are only possible three stops; Needham Market, Stowmarket and Diss
  • North of Haughley Junction, the trains generally have the line to themselves.
  • Between Colchester and Ipswich, there is only one possible stop; Manningtree.
  • North of Ipswich, under the new proposals, there will be at least 3 tph (all fast) in both directions.
  • Between Colchester and Ipswich, under the new proposals, there will be at least 4 tph (all fast) in both directions.
  • Important stations South of Colchester include Witham, Chelmsford, Shenfield, Romford and Stratford.

To get a rough estimate of how much a stop slows the current trains,  the fastest London-Ipswich  service take 67 minutes with stops at Colchester and Manningtree. The London-Ipswich stopping train takes 83 minutes, with nine stops. How much do the seven stops contribute to the train taking sixteen minutes longer?

I suspect that the a lot of work will go into making it poossible, that all the new trains stop at stations, with all the professionalism of Lewis Hamilton and his pit crew.

Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty will only be possible by stealing minutes all over the place.

I do wonder, if Abellio will say that you can’t please everybody and run a Norwich to London service that stops at as many stations as possible without breaking the ninety minute limit. These could include.

  • Diss
  • Stowmarket
  • Ipswich
  • Manningtree
  • Colchester
  • Beaulieu – New station
  • Chelmsford
  • Shenfield
  • Stratford

Passengers for intermediate stations like Kelvedon, Ingatestone or Gidea Park would have a simple change at Colchester, Chelmsford or Shenfield.

With at least four fast trains an hour to Colchester and three to London, would Ipswich still need a stopping train to London, that started at the town?

I doubt it! But some people won’t like it!

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10. London – Lowestoft – Yarmouth Services

There are going to be four direct services between London and Lowestoft each day. This probably initially means two trains to London in the morning peak and two trains back in the evening one.

When, I first moved back to Suffolk in the 1970s, I regularly caught a diesel-hauled train from Wickham Market to London for the day.

This is all motherhood and apple pie for those in Lowestoft wanting to go to London, but I suspect it isn’t the easiest service for a train operator to schedule efficiently and make money.

Would a train operator really want to start a full train at Lowestoft at say six in the morning and then have it wait around all day in London before returning in the evening?

The East Suffolk Line from Ipswich to Lowestoft has the following characteristics.

  • It is fifty miles long.
  • It is not electrified.
  • It has a speed limit of 40-55 mph.
  • There are nine intermediate stations. Many are just a single platform, and car parking is fairly limited.
  • It has enough double-track and a passing loop at Beccles station to run a train in both directions at the same time.
  • As it ran long trains in the past, I suspect, that most of the stations have platforms that can handle at least six-carriage trains.
  • Trains would appear to take around ninety minutes for the whole journey

But the most important characteristic, is that every time the line is improved, more passengers come rushing out of the woodwork.

There would certainly be no problem with running bi-mode Flirts on this route, as London-Lowestoft is just the type of route for which they  are designed.

  • They would use their on-board diesel engines on the East Suffolk Line.
  • As some would work along the busy lines to London, I suspect their top speed under electric power would be the same as the EMUs.
  • |Services to and from London, once on the Great Eastern Main Line, would join the high-speed race to and from the capital.
  • At the start and finish of the day, the trains could use the electrified main line to position between Ipswich and Crown Point depot at around 100 mph.

Abellio could use either a single three- or four-car train or perhaps two trains coupled together.

I mentioned Yarmouth in the heading of this section.

There used to be a direct Yarmouth to Lowestoft Line, but now it is possible to use the Wherry Lines, with a reverse at Reedham station.

So will we be seeing the direct London-Lowestoft trains being extended to Yarmouth?

As Yarmouth hasn’t had a direct connection to London for years and there are lots of fast, capable new trains, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Especially, as Network Rail are talking about reinstating the Reedham Chord to create a more direct route between East Anglia’s largest North-Eastern towns. This is said about the Reedham Chord in Direct Yarmouth Services in the Wikipedia entry for Lowestoft station.

In January 2015, a Network Rail study proposed the reintroduction of direct services between Lowestoft and Yarmouth by reinstating a spur at Reedham. Services could once again travel between two East Coast towns, with an estimated journey time of 33 minutes, via a reconstructed 34-chain (680 m) north-to-south arm of the former triangular junction at Reedham, which had been removed in c. 1880. The plans also involve relocating Reedham station nearer the junction, an idea which attracted criticism.

If we take these current approximate timings.

  • Ipswich to Lowestoft takes 90 minutes.
  • Lowestoft to Reedham takes 27 minutes.
  • Reedham to Yarmouth takes 16 minutes.

That means the service today would take 133 minutes, with a train reverse at Reedham station.

Given the following.

  • Modern three-car bi-mode Flirt trains, with better speed, acceleration and braking than the current Class 170 trains.
  • The short-cut along the Reedham Chord, which could save as much as ten minutes.
  • A few selective improvements to save a minute here and there.
  • Lowestoft station is redeveloped forty metres to the West and eighty metres to the South, as detailed in Wikipedia under Relocation Of The Station.

I think it would be possible for an Ipswich-Yarmouth service to do the trip in around two hours.

The service would have the following characteristics.

  • It would be timetabled for under the all-important two hours.
  • Trains would turnround efficiently in a few minutes at either end of the line.
  • It could be hourly with four trains or two-hourly with just two.
  • All stops would be at the same minutes past each hour at each station.
  • Trains would always leave Ipswich and Yarmouth at the same number of minutes past the hour.
  • Lowestoft and Yarmouth get a regular hourly direct train service in just thirty-three minutes.
  • Intriguingly if the trains left Ipswich and Yarmouth at the same time, they would pass each other at Beccles station, which incorporates a passing loop..
  • As Beccles and its passing loop, fits so well into this schedule, I suspect that it was designed with the Reedham Chord and this type of service in mind.
  • There would be no prizes for guessing the beer, that should be served on a train on this route.

I don’t think any better than an hourly service, could be run, without some extra passing loops or double-track.

But why stop at Yarmouth?

Currently, Norwich to Yarmouth is timetabled at thirty-six minutes.

So this would mean that Ipswich to Norwich by the scenic route of Lowestoft and Yarmouth could be done in under three hours, via the East Suffolk Line and the Wherry Lines with reverses at Lowestoft and Yarmouth.?


  • The service would call everywhere, giving a massive increase in connectivity for passengers.
  • It would provide a clock-face hourly service in both directions between all stations on the line.
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft would have a better hourly service than today.
  • Yarmouth and Norwich would have a similar service to that which they have today.
  • Lowestoft and Norwich would have a new hourly service.
  • Trains would only spend a few minutes stoating around at the ends of the route.
  • Abellio would probably find it easier to crew and service the trains.
  • As the trains are bi-mode, the trains could all get back easily to Crown Point at night for a good sleep.
  • If you look at the diagrams that the Class 68 and the coaches run at the moment, they are very complicated to say the least. But this direct service Norwich-Ipswich is as simple as possible.
  • This service would be good for locals and visitors, tourism, business and leisure.

Put three-car or four-car Flirts on the route and add a trolley or perhaps a buffet and plenty of space for bicycles and it could be a Marketing Man’s dream.

To do it hourly would need six trains, but you wouldn’t need any other trains for the East Suffolk Line and you’d robably save two on the Wherry Lines.

Could the two services to London and back every day, be created by extending some services to London from Ipswich?

For this analysis we can assume.

  • Ipswich-Ysrmouth takes 120 minutes.
  • London-Ipswich takes the current time of 70 minutes.
  • London-Yarmouth takes 190 minutes.
  • Turnround is twenty minutes, which is achieved by the current London-Norwich services.

The 0600 from Yarmouth would become.

  • The 0800 from Ipswich to London.
  • The 0930 from London to Yarmouth.
  • The 1300 from Yarmouth to London.
  • The 1630 from London to Yarmouth.

It would arrive back in Yarmouth around 1940. There’s still time for a another journey to and from London.

  • The 2000 from Yarmouth to London.
  • The 2330 from London to Yarmouth.

This would get into Yarmouth at around 0240, so perhaps it would go straight to Norwich after Ipswich.

I think for this sort of service to be possible, the following conditions must be met.

  • The bi-mode Flirts have as high a top speed as the current Class 90 locomotives/Mk 3 coaches on London Norwich services, when running using the overhead wires.
  • The Reedham Chord is built.
  • One direct Lowestoft/Yarmouth train in the Peak is sufficient.
  • Two four-car Flirts working as an eight-car is sufficient.
  • The platforms on the East Suffolk Line are long enough for the trains needed for the service.

In my analysis, I have tried to do the following.

  • Schedule at least one train each way in the Peak.
  • Schedule a mid-morning train from London and a late return, so that passengers can spend a day at Yarmouth Races or visit Auntie Gladys in the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.
  • Make the trains sweat.
  • Allow the trains to return to Crown Point Depot at night.

But I’ve still managed to squeeze in five services between London and both Lowestoft and Yarmouth with the following timings.

  • London-Lowestoft in two hours forty minutes.
  • London-Yarmouth in three hours ten minutes.
  • London-Ipswich in one ten minutes.

This analysis will probably have no relation to what Abellio actually do, but it does show the possibilities of using bi-mode Flirts on a route like that between London and Lowestoft/Yarmouth.

If the train could do Ipswich in Sixty and a few minutes could be saved on the East Suffolk Line, that would bring London-Yarmouth to around three hours and London Lowestoft to around two and a half hours.


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11. London – Stansted Airport – Cambridge Services

As I was writing this post, other articles were published and more information became available.

It became obvious that the Class 379 trains are to be replaced with twelve-car Flirt EMUs.

No specific reason has been given, but consider.

  • There must be operational savings in having a fleet with only two train types.
  • 30 x four-car Class 379 trains are being replaced by 24 x twelve-car electric Flirts, which can only mean more services.
  • Class 379 trains are only 100 mph trains, so may not be fast enough, when the West Anglia Main Line is upgraded to four-tracks.
  • Compared to say Class 387/2 trains, the Class 379 trains are not designed for airport routes.
  • They will not be difficult to pass to other operators.

Given, that the Flirts will be designed for the route, Cambridge commuters and Stansted flyers will see a big improvement.

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12. Conclusions On The New Trains

Abellio are spending a lot of money on new trains and these are my thoughts.

  • The mix of trains is designed to give a large capacity increase and eventually allow all Norwich services to be in ninety minutes.
  • The use of bi-mode Flirts on the unelectrified lines avoids any new electrification.
  • If electrification from Ipswich to Peterborough, should take place, the trains have already been sourced.
  • Three-car bi-mode Flirts could probably handle all the branch lines.
  • The larger number of trains, seems to be being used to create more services, including some late in the evening
  • London-Lowestoft services could be worked by bi-mode Flirts working in appropriate  formation.
  • Nothing has been said about trains with on-board energy storage or IPEMUs.

I suspect that East Anglian folk will welcome the new trains, as it’s been some decades since the area has received so many new trains, especially on the express services on the Great Eastern Main Line.

One problem, which the large number of bi-mode Flirts will help to alleviate, is the East Anglian rail network’s accident prone nature, where incidents like numerous level crossing accidents cripple everything.

In one case a year ago in very high winds, flying trees brought the Great Eastern Main Line to a halt as they destroyed the overhead wires at Chelmsford. A couple of redirected bi-mode Flirts would have eased the pressure by getting passengers to Cambridge, until the problem had been cleared.

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13. Peterborough To Ipswich Is Extended to Colchester

Network Rail have been discussing ideas for this over the least few years. I wrote about one in Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk, where they proposed building a new layout at Newmarket and starting Peterborough services from there.

Now Abellio are proposing an hourly service between Peterborough and Ipswich with most services extended to Colchester.

  • Ipswich seems to suffer from a platform shortage and finding Peterborough or Cambridge trains can be difficult.
  • Peterborough-Colchester services would all call at Platform 2, giving easy interchange to Felixstowe and Lowestoft services.
  • olchester-Peterborough services woud call at Platform 3
  • Currently, Colchester to Peterborough takes two hours with a change at Ipswich, but it’s quicker via London.
  • Colchester has a convenient North-facing bay platform for a service to Peterborough.
  • Hourly services from Ipswich to both Cambridge and Peterborough, has the benefit of creating 2 tph between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.
  • Extending the service to Colchester adds an extra service between the two towns, ehich generally makes a 4 tph service.
  • Journeys like Clacton to Peterborough become a single change at Colchester.

This would appear to be a good plan, as it creates a circular route that connects all the lines through East Anglia.

But there is room for improvement and development.

  • The line-speed between Ipswich and Peterborough is sometimes between 40-75 mph.
  • There are portions of single-track railway, that Network Rail would like to double.
  • Ely station can be a bit of a bottleneck.
  • In the future, when the East West Rail Link reaches Cambridge, this route will allow services to continue from Cambridge to Ipswich and Colchester.

One of the pities, is that the Southern route from Sudbury to Cambridge was closed in the 1960s. This would create a full Suffolk Circular Railway with Colchester-Peterborough.

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14. Ipswich To Cambridge

The Ipswich to Cambridge route is generally one three-car Class 170 train every hour., which is often inadequate.

But consider.

  • Not all trains stop at all stations.
  • The train sometimes gets very crowded with bicycles.
  • Some sections of the line can get very busy.
  • There is no late-night train from Ipswich to Cambridge, which makes Tuesday night matches at Portman Road difficult for some supporters.
  • There might be a case for some extra stations on the line.
  • The service doesn’t and probably can’t serve the new Cambridge North station.

If Abellio and Stadler do their design right, I suspect that the new trains would help ease the bicycle and some other problems, which is common on secondary and branch lines all over East Anglia.

However, the changes already announced, do help on improving services on this line.

  • The extended and hourly Colchester-Peterborough service will create a half-hourly service between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.
  • Abellio have already said, there will be more late night trains in East Anglia.
  • Modern trains, which handle station stops better, might enable trains to stop at all stations.

But it still does nothing about a direct connection between Cambridge North, Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich.

As I said in Cambridge North Station, I think eventually we’ll see Peterborough-Ipswich services calling at Cambridge North station, possibly via a new chord at Ely.

Improvements at Kennett, which is close to the A14, effectively creates a Park-and-Ride station for Cambridge and Ipswich with a possible half-hourly service to Ipswich, if the Ipswich-Peterborough service were to stop.

I can see this station becoming important for Ipswich fans living in the Cambridge and Newmarket areas, as if you miss the train home after a good match, you can have another beer and be in time for the next train.

I also think, just as Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds and possibly Kennett will be two tph, I think some way needs to be found to give  Bury St. Edmunds-Cambridge, the same frequency.

Remember too, that the western section of the Ipswich to Cambridge route has closed stations at Six Mile Bottom, Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton. The last two stations have been proposed for reopening by Cambridgeshire County Council, but surely if they were reopened a two tph service would be needed on the line between Bury St. Edmunds and Cambridge.

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15. Ipswich

Whilst searching for something else, I found this document on the Network Rail web site, which is entitled Anglia Route Study – Draft for Consultation Responses – Network Rail. It contains an interesting section about new platform proposals at Ipswich station. This is a summary of what is said.

  • The Freightliner fuel depot behind platform 4 at Ipswich station will be moved to Felixstowe.
  • Abellio want the space created to be used for a new 8-car platform 5 and a 6-car platform 6 for Cambridge and Peterborough services.
  • The new platforms 5 and 6 could be connected to the recently-installed footbridge.
  • A dedicated platform 0 is created for Felixstowe line services.

There is certainly some development that could be done to expand the station.

It looks like that by extending the Peterborough-Ipswich service to Colchester, that Abellio have got around the extensive and expensive works to create a new platform 5 and 6.

But surely, it would be sensible to have a platform layout at Ipswich something like this.

  • Platform 0 – Felixstowe – New and built for four- or five-car trains.
  • Platform 1 – Lowestoft and Yarmouth (?) – Extended for six-car trains.
  • Platform 2 – Colchester and London
  • Platform 3 – Norwich
  • Platform 4 – Cambridge and Peterborough

The current problems at Ipswich are well-illustrated after the football at Portman Road, where trains turn up in all sorts of unusual places. The proposed three tph London-Norwich service may mean that the football special might not be needed. But if it is, it could use the Southern end of Platform 4, as it sometimes does now anyway.

One nice feature that exists today, is that passengers from London going to Bury St. Edmunds or other places to the West, just walk across the platform for their onward train, from an on-the-hour departure from London.

With the half-hourly service from Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds, that will be created by the two hourly Ipswich-Cambridge and Colchester-Peterborough services, this means that services from London to Bury St. Edmunds will be more frequent.

There are certainly a lot of possibilities for scheduling trains between Colchester and Peterborough, so that passengers have simple interchanges to get to their required destination.

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16. Cambridge South Station And The East-West Rail Link

The East West Rail Link is proposed to join the West Anglia Main Line at a new Cambridge South station close to Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

The Cambridge-Norwich services will obviously serve this station on their extension to Stansted Airport, but what about the service from Ipswich.

This would require a change at Cambridge.

So if and when Cambridge South station is built, will we see the Ipswich-Cambridge service extended to the new station?

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17. A Cambridge Metro

Cambridge is bursting and needs more local transport systems.

Within a few years, all of these services will arrive at one or all of Cambridge, Cambridge North and the proposed Cambridge South stations.

  • Abellio from Ipswich
  • Abellio from Liverpool Street
  • Abellio from Norwich
  • Abellio, EastMidlands Trains and CrossCountry from Peterborough
  • Abellio and Crossountry from Stansted Airport
  • East West Rail Link from Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford
  • Great Northern from Kings Cross
  • Great Northern from Kings Lynn
  • Thameslink from Brighton
  • Thameslink from Maidstone East
  • Thameslink from St. Pancras

Cambridge is taking over the world.

What is needed is a system to tie all of these lines to the local area.

But here’s a cunning plan.

As I said, Network Rail have thought long and hard about what to do with services from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough. Abellio’s solution of hourly services using trains of a flexible size solves the problems Eastward from Kennett, by giving all stations two tph, if trains stop at all stations.

But the service to Cambridge is as now!

  • There is only one train an hour from Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds and all the other stations East of Kennett.
  • The service only goes to Cambridge and not Cambridge North or the proposed Cambridge South stations.
  • There is an alternative route with a change at Ely.

Could a triangular service be run that started and finished at a rebuilt Kennett station or a bay platform at Bury St. Edmunds, that served the following stations?

  • Kennett
  • Newmarket
  • Dullingham
  • Fulbourn – New station
  • Cherry Hinton – New station
  • Cambridge
  • Cambridge South – Reverse
  • Cambridge
  • Cambridge North
  • Ely – Reverse
  • Soham – New station
  • Fordham – New station
  • Kennett

On current speeds, the times on the three legs are as follows.

  • Kennett-Cambridge South – 32 minutes
  • Cambridge South -Ely – 13 minutes – Estimated
  • Ely-Kennett – 15 minutes – Estimated


  • That is about an hour for the round-trip.
  • Cambridge station is approximately half-way.
  • Modern trains would perform the existing and new stops faster.
  • If it was to start at Bury St. Edmunds instead of Kennett, that would add about twenty minutes.
  • I think the only pre-requisite of the trains, would be that they had a large enough capacity for people, bicycles and buggies.
  • It would connect at three stations to the Cambridge Busway.
  • Applying London Overground’s successful model, you would probably like at least four tph through the central core calling at Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely stations.

Bi-mode Flirts could probably beat the current timing.

I don’t know how you would integrate the services, but two trains could run in different ways around the loop. With the current and future trains running between London, Cambridge, Ely and Kings Lynn and Norwich, this would mean a train every few minutes connecting the three Cambridge stations in both directions.

Obviously, this is my speculation, but judging by the number of Flirts Abellio have ordered, they may have something planned for Cambridge.

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18. Norwich – Ely – Cambridge – Stansted

This route could turn out to be very important, as it provides valuable links to the new Cambridge North station.

The current service is hourly and only links Norwich and Cambridge.

But I believe this core route could be expanded further, than just to Stansted Airport.

  • It could be extended at Norwich to Yarmouth, perhaps taking over some of the hourly Norwich-Yarmouth services
  • Could it be arranged that at Ely, it had a convenient interchange with the hourly Peterborough-Colchester service, to give easy access between Cambridge North station and Peterborough, Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich and Colchester.
  • It could call at Cambridge North, Cambridge and the proposed Cambridge South stations.
  • It could also be extended South to London or along the East West Rail Link.

At present Cambridge-Stansted is an inadequate 1 tph provided by the Stansted-Birmingham service. So if both services run, Stansted-Cambridge-Ely will be doubled in frequency.

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19. Ely

I was surprised, that there wasn’t any mention about Ely station, which to me is a bit of a mess and a bottleneck.

This map shows the lines at Ely.


Ely Lines

Ely Lines

Lines join at Ely from the following directions.

  • Cambridge North, Cambridge, the future Cambridge South and Kings Cross
  • March and Peterborough
  • Downham Market and Kings Lynn
  • Thetford and Norwich
  • Bury St. Edmunds, Stowmarket and Ipswich

These are some of the problems with the station.

  • Some changes between trains are easy, but others are downright difficult and may involve a long wait or a dash through the tunnel.
  • There is also a level crossing by the station, that needs to be sorted, preferably by removal.
  • There is no way for trains to go from Cambridge to Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich via Ely without a reversal.

If the Norwich-Stansted and Peterborough-Colchester services are both hourly and were to meet at Ely, with a simple cross- or same-platform interchange, that would certainly improve services.

There is a bit of a pattern at the current time.

  • Stansted Airport to Birmingham services usually call at XX:15  on platform 1
  • Liverpool to Norwich services usually call at XX:16 in platform X
  • Cambridge to Norwich services usually call at XX:26 in platform 1
  • Kings Lynn to Cambridge services usually call at XX:26 in platform 2
  • Peterborough to Ipswich services usually call at XX:31 in platform X
  • Norwich to Cambridge services usually call at XX:39 in platform 2
  • Norwich to Liverpool services usually call at XX:45 in platform X
  • Cambridge to Kings Lynn services usually call at XX:51 in platform 1
  • Birmingham to Stansted Airport services usually call at XX:52 in platform 2
  • Ipswich to Peterborough services usually call at XX:59 in platform 3

Adding up the services you get.

  • 3 tph to and from Cambridge and Cambridge North
  • 1 tph to and from Ipswich
  •  1 tph to and from Kings Lynn
  • 2 tph to and from Norwich
  • 3 tph to and from Peterborough

I wonder if it could be made more passenger friendly, by any of the following.

  • Making better use of the island platform 2 and 3 at Ely.
  • Increasing services  between Cambridge and Kings Lynn.
  • Increasing Norwich-Cambridge services to 2 tph. These are being extended to Stansted Airport under the new franchise.
  • Opening the Bramley Line and running trains to Cambridge, would add another Cambridge-Ely train.

As all of these services would call at Cambridge North station, it would increase connectivity to this important new station.

Ely station will probably be improved one day, but I doubt I’ll see it.


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20. London To Shenfield

Crossrail will transform the lines and stations from Shenfield to London.

At present, not many trains stop at intermediate stations between Liverpool Street and Shenfield and I think when Crossrail opens, there is a good chance that this practice will continue.

I have said, that as the new crack expresses will serve stations very quickly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some or even all stopped at Shenfield to connect to Crossrail.

Could it be one of the reasons, that none of the expresses stop at Shenfield now, is that the Class 90/Mk 3 trains just don’t have the performance to do it, without seriously degrading the timetable?

As after Crossrail opens, the connectivity at Liverpool Street will be very similar to Stratford, will we see fewer trains stopping at both?

I also think that the pattern of outer suburban commuter trains serving Beaulieu, Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Southend and Walton will be very different.

  • They will need to keep to as fast a speed as possible on the main line North of Shenfield.
  • Beaulieu will probably be an important station, if it is built. It could have several trains per hour into London to attract those driving in on the nearby A12.
  • Many trains will probably have their first stop at Shenfield.
  • Will services like one-in-three of those from Southend still stop at Romford?

But the trains will be high-performance Aventras with probably a top speed of at least 110 mph and the trains will be designed to make fast stops.

The inner section of the Great Eastern Main Line will cease to be a leisurely main line, and become something more akin to the London ends of the East or West Coast Main Lines, where a succession of fast electric trains speed on their way to and from Liverpool Street.

Currently, the fastest trains between Shenfield and Liverpool Street with a stop at Stratford take 24 minutes and the Shenfield Metro takes 42 minutes, with Crossrail predicted to take 41 minutes.

As the Aventras and the Flirts will be like Usain Bolt, compared to the Harold Abrahams of the current trains, I suspect that Abellio will have a lot of scope to run fast services to Shenfield.

The current pattern of train services through Shenfield is as follows.

  • 3 tph from London to Southend Victoria.
  • 1 tph from London to Colchester Town
  • 1 tph from London to Clacton
  • 2 tph from London to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Not stopping.
  • 1 tph from London to ipswich
  • 1 tph from London to Braintree.

I think we could eventually see a pattern something like this.

  • 4 tph from London to Southend Victoria.
  • 3 tph from London to Colchester Town and/or Clacton
  • 3 tph from London to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Some may stop.
  • 1 tph from London to Beaulieu.

With the exception of the extra train to Southend, this is still the same number of trains as now.

Most trains will either be 12-car electric Flirts from Norwich or 10-car Aventras, with a few shorter trains to Lowestoft sneaking through.

As there is a lot more capacity between London and Norwich, will passengers for Colchester and Ipswich be encouraged to take the faster services?

They certainly won’t be discouraged.

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21. Shenfield

I do sometimes wonder, if the layout of Shenfield station after Crossrail, is not as passenger friendly as it could be.

Going between Heathrow Airport and Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich will be made a lot easier after Crossrail is opened and Norwich in Ninety is achieved by all trains.

The only question passengers will have is do they change at Shenfield or Liverpool Street.

Hopefully, the change at Liverpool Street will be easy, but given that passengers travel these days with virtually all their worldly goods in enormous suitcases, some might opt to make an easier change at Shenfield.

But the new passenger layout at Shenfield has not been designed for cross-platform interchange between Crossrail and longer distance services.

Coming out from London, you sometimes strike lucky and arrive in platform 4 at Shenfield and just walk across to platform 3 for onward services, but there is no such luck going into London.

The interchange between the two services is so twentieth century!

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22. The Shenfield To Southend Line

The Shenfield to Southend Line  does what it says on the tin and connects Southend to Shenfield with three tph.

  • It has nine stations, including the increasingly important Southend Airport.
  • It is thirty-six kilometres long.
  • It is electrified.
  • Services can use the slow lines to and from London.
  • The services are run by Class 321 trains.
  • The Crouch Valley Line to Southminster connects to the line at Wickford.

In addition to the trains the line has problems.

  • The electrification is not of the best and a station-man told me it regularly has problems.
  • I suspect the electrification can’t handle regenerative braking.
  • The 3 tph service is probably not enough.
  • The frequency on the Crouch Valley Line doesn’t match the main line very well.
  • Have the lines got the capacity for the developments in the area?

In addition it is one of the few rail services in the UK, that has direct competition from another company. So Abellio must be worried about losing passengers to c2c.

It is certainly in need of a massive improvement and will the following changes will probably happen.

  • The electrification will be replaced, as that of the Great Eastern Main Line is being now.
  • All the trains working the route will be new ten-car Aventras.
  • The trains could be fitted with onboard energy storage to handle regenerative braking and allow some simp0lication of the electrification.

I think that given the competition from c2c, if the service between Southend Victoria and London was a 4 tph semi-fast service using new Aventra trains, this would be an improvement that would go down well with passengers.

Currently, the service from Southend Victoria to London stops at Stratford and all stations from Shenfield to Southend, with one service in three stopping additionally at Romford. The complete trip takes about an hour.

In some ways it’s a bit like a Crossrail extension and a parallel fast service going between Liverpool Street, Stratford and Shenfield.

In a few years time, the two services will be run by two vaguely similar Aventra trains.

  • The Class 345 train on Crossrail will be a people carrier.
  • The Abellio version, will be the souped-up more luxurious speedster.

I wouldn’t be surprised, if the two trains had similar external dimensions, so they could call at each other’s platforms.

So could we see 3 tph between London and Southend taking the fast line route between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, probably saving a few minutes on the route.

The other train, which currently stops at Romford might take to the slow (Crossrail) lines at Shenfield and call at all stations to Liverpool Street, to give a direct connection between any two stations between Liverpool Street and Southend.

Note, this about a train serving Romford and other stations on the slow line.

  • A train stopping at all stations to Southend would probably take about 75 minutes, as opposed to an hour.
  • The route could also follow a stopping pattern anywhere in between the two extremes of non-stop to Liverpool Street and stopping everywhere.
  • The train could also call at the Crossrail platforms at Stratford for exchange with the Central Line.
  • Instead of going through the Crossrail tunnels, the train would go into Liverpool Street station.

If this pattern would work with trains to Southend, would it work for trains to Beaulieu, Colchester and Clacton?

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23. The Crouch Valley Line

The Crouch Valley Line suffers from several problems.

  • The clapped Class 321 trains are not fast enough to do an efficient passenger-friendly schedule.
  • The service frequency is a bit erratic and doesn’t interchange well with that on the Shenfield to Southend Line.
  • The line used to be double-tracked, but was singled in the 1960s.
  • The electrification is a Treasury-designed  el-cheapo special.

I’ll consider the trains first.

The current service along the line takes thirty one minutes and includes five stops, Two five-car Aventras as a straight replacement for the Class 321 rtrains would do the following.

  • Introduce modern trains, with all that entails, to the route,
  • Allow passengers to appreciate the views through the large hopefully-clean windows on the Aventras.
  • Increase capacity by 25%.
  • Provide a slightly faster service, because Aventras are faster and designed to make quick stops.
  • Save energy through regenerative braking, if the trains were to be fitted with onboard energy storage.

If the new trains could do the trip in a few minutes under half an hour, this would mean a regular 2 tph service would be possible.

  • Trains would leave Wickford and Southminster at the same time and pass at North Fambridge station.
  • Time between trains would be thirty minutes instead of the current forty.
  • Trains would interchange better to trains for Liverpool Street, Shenfield and Southend at Wickford.

In an ideal world, trains on the branch would have the same frequency as those on the Shenfield to Southend Line.

This would probably be 4 tph, but that would mean trains on the branch woud have to do two round trips in an hour. This would probably be impossible as I doubt any train could do the route in under fifteen minutes.

This probably means that unless the line is possibly extended and substantially rebuilt with lots of double track, passing loops and new platforms, that two tph is a practical upper limit to the frequency of trains on the Crouch Valley Line.

As substantial rebuilding is probably out of the question, on cost grounds and rebuilding issues, I think Abellio will stick with the current track layout on the branch, with perhaps a few minor sensible upgrades and modifications like a set of points here or a lengthened platform there.

But what about the dodgy life-expired electrification on the line?

  • Like much of East Anglia’s electrification, it has seen better days.
  • The electrification is rather intrusive into the visual environment.

The electrification should be replaced with a modern less-intrusive design.

But you also have to remember that this is the land of the Snow Goose and what better compliment is there to the Essex Marshes and all the birds, than a silent electric train passing along, with only minimal visual intrusion into the environment.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if major portions of this line, were run by trains running on the onboard energy storage of the Aventras.

  • The line is only twenty-six kilometres long.
  • Overhead wires could be replaced between say Wickford and South Woodham Ferrers and between Burnham-on=Crouch and Southminster to make sure the Aventra IPEMUs are adequately charged.
  • This would mean that only sixteen kilometres in each leg would be run using the onboard energy storage.

Once the system had been proven to work, all unwanted overhead electrification could be removed.

All of this improved service would be good for any housing and other developments along the Crouch Valley Line. It should be remembered that the line runs close to the RSPB’s big new bird reserve at Wallasea Island, that has been created using tunnel spoil from Crossrail.

What better and more environmentally-friendly way would there be to visit Wallasea, than by using an electric train powered by batteries or other onboard storage?

This post called Up And Down The Crouch Valley Line, gives a flavour of the Crouch Valley Line.

I’m sure, that with a decent train service to London and Southend, that the area around the Crouch Valley Line can become a very important and successful part of Essex.

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24. Beaulieu

Beaulieu station will probably be an important station, if it is built.

  • It could have several trains per hour into London to attract those driving in up and down the A12.
  • It is planned to have three platforms and be served by medium and long-distance trains.
  • It could be an important interchange between the A12 and the trains.
  • It is being built to serve a large development.

One of its main purposes would be to take pressure of Chelmsford station. As well as attracting passengers away, it could also be designed with the ability to turnback trains to London.

As long, as I’ve lived in Suffolk, there has been talk every few years about a station, just North of Chelmsford, but this time according to this article in the Essex Chronicle, one is expected to be up and running by 2022.

With respect to train services, the station has several possibilities.

  • London-Colchester-Ipswich-Norwich and other Great Eastern Main Line services could stop.
  • The station and the adjoining development could have extensive bus connections to all around the local area.
  • The station and its car parks could serve as a Park-and-Ride for Chelmsford, Colchester and London.
  • As it will have an extra platform, will this be available for turning back trains from London and/or the North?

It certainly gives added possibilities to train services in Essex.

Surely, though as a new station on a greenfield site, it can be designed to fit the tasks, it will be asked to perform.

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25. The Braintree Branch Line

The Braintree Branch Line is a short electrified line serving Braintree.

  • It is an electrified single-track.
  • There is no passing loop, but there are reports that one is in planning to be be built at Cressing.
  • It is 10 km. long.
  • It has three intermediate stations.
  • The train service is 1 tph to and from Liverpool Street, but on Sundays, it’s just a shuttle to Witham.

The line used to be connected to the West Anglia Main Line at Bishops Stortford, by the Braintree and Bishops Stortford Branch Line, which closed in the 1970s.

Currently, trains take sixteen minutes between Witham and Braintree. with services going to and coming from London.

As the branch is single-track all the way, only one train can be on the branch at any time.

Sixteen minutes per journey is a bit unfortunate, as that means two trains can’t be fitted into an hour.

But this article in the Echo talks about Network Rail installing a passing loop on the line at Cressing, which would enable two trains to work the line.

I suspect that with a bit of clever timetabling, the Braintree Branch Line could have a 2 tph service using five-car Aventras.

The interesting possibility would be to build the passing loop without electrification and use Aventras with an IPEMU-capability

It might even be good economic sense to remove the overhead wiring entirely, run two trains as a shuttle and charge the trains at Witham.


  • Currently, trains always call at platform 4 at Witham and obviously have to cross the down fast line to go to London.
  • A shuttle would remove this crossing.
  • Two trains would be needed to run a 2 tph service.
  • In an hour each train would spend thirty-two minutes travelling between the two stations and fourteen minutes waiting at each.
  • Fourteen minutes is probably enough time to charge an Aventra IPEMU for a twenty kilometre trip.
  • Trains would be timed to arrive at and leave from Witham to provide good connections with longer distance trains.
  • Witham station has lifts for passengers going from Colchester to Braintree and Braintree to London.

Not all trains would have to be shuttles between Braintree and Witham, as direct trains to and from London could take one of the shuttle slots in the Peak. The only restriction would be that any train working the branch line would have to have an IPEMU-capability.

I’m sure that there’s an affordable solution in there somewhere, that would be more than acceptable to passengers, Abellio and Network Rail.

I do think that Norwich In Ninety could see the end of most or even all direct services to and from London for Braintree, as ending them would release a path on the Great Eastern Main Line. If the direct service were to be replaced with two tph meeting fast London trains would this be acceptable?

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26. Sudbury To Colchester Town

Various reports on the new franchise say this.

Most services on the Sudbury branch will run to Colchester Town, through Colchester main station.

The following services typically call at Colchester Town during the off-peak.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to Colchester only.
  • 1 tph to London Liverpool Street, calling at all stations to Witham then Chelmsford, Shenfield, Romford and Stratford;
  • 1 tph to Walton-on-the-Naze, calling at all intermediate stations.

The current Class 360 trains will be replaced by new Aventra trains, which will link London to Colchester Town and  the Sunshine Coast Line.

  • The new trains will probably be faster than the current trains.
  • It is likely, that they will be fitted with onboard energy storage to handle regenerative braking energy on the Sunshine Coast Line.

On a brief look, it would appear that extending the Sudbury service to Colchester Town is a good idea.

  • The connectivity at Colchester station will be very good and better than that at Marks Tey.
  • Passengers from Colchester and the North to Sudbury, would catch the train st Colchester or Colchester Town stations.
  • Passengers from London and the South to Sudbury, would catch the train at Marks Tey.
  • Passengers to Colchester and the North from Sudbury, would change at Colchester.
  • Passengers to London and the South from Sudbury, would change at Marks Tey or Colchester and use the footbridge or subway respectively.
  • Trains will still call at Marks Tey on the Gainsborough Line platform, where a large waiting room appears to be under construction.
  • The South-facing bay platform at Colchester is on the wrong side of the tracks and would involve Sudbury services crossing the tracks on a flat crossing.
  • Colchester Town station has space for a  second platform, which could be used to turn the trains.
  • Between Colchester and Marks Tey, the signalling is bi-directional.
  • Removal of Colchester Town to Colchester services would release the North-facing bay platform at Colchester, which could be used by the new Colchester-Ipswich-Peterborough service.
  • There is a proposal from Network Rail  to put a passing loop between Bures and Wakes Colne stations, which would increase the capacity of the Gainsborough Line.

I do wonder though if a modern train could travel from Marks Tey to Sudbury and back faster than the current forty-four minutes, where a train leaves Marks Tey at a minute past the hour and arrives back at a quarter to.  If a train could do this short out-and-back journey in under thirty minutes, then Sudbury could be served by two trains per hour. But because there are only single platforms at Marks Tey and Sudbury, it would probably be difficult operationally.

Extension of the service to Colchester Town would mean the trains could pass each other on the main line, before they went on the single-track branch.

I feel that Abellio have a choice of trains for the extended service, whichever way they choose to run it.

As the route is fully electrified except for between Marks Tey and Sudbury, it would be easy to work with a bi-mode Flirt.

But extra points were awarded in the franchise submission for those, who were going to use innovative technology.

So will we be seeing IPEMU-capable Aventras with onboard energy storage on this route?

The trains would only need to travel just under forty kilometres without direct power.

I think this is a serious possibility.

  • Aventras equipped with an IPEMU-capability, will probably be working the Sunshine Coast Lines.
  • The Gainsborough Line would replace elderly diesel trains with modern, quieter electric trains.
  • There would be no modification to track and signalling. I doubt there would be a need for a passing loop on the Gainsborough Line.
  • The iconic Chappel Viaduct would not be electrified.
  • There might be some platform lengthening.
  • The line would get a serious upgrade in capacity.
  • Bombardier would get a serious demonstration of their IPEMU technology.

I also think that in the meantime two four-car Electrostars could be modified with an IPEMU capability, so that the new service pattern could start before new Aventras or Flirts became available.

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27. The Gainsborough Line And The Sunshine Coast Line

I also wonder, if there would be bigger sorting out of services  on both the Gainsborough Line and the Sunshine Coast Line.


  • Walton-on-the-Naze station and Sudbury station only get one tph.
  • Clacton-on-Sea station gets one tph, with 4 tph in the peak.
  • Thorpe-le-Soken station has an abandoned platform, that if brought back intro use, could increase services to Walton.
  • There are rumours of a new station at Clacton North to serve the Clacton Factory Outlet.
  • Some of the overhead electrification looks in need of upgrading.
  • The turn between Colchester Town and Colchester stations is rather tight and needs sorting.
  • It is likely that both lines could be worked by Aventras with an IPEMU-capability.

If the two services were linked, it might be easier to run more trains to all termini and they could stop at Marks Tey and Colchester stations for interchange to longer distance services  like these.

  • London-Colchester-Ipswich-Norwich.
  • London-Colchester-Ipswich-Lowestoft.
  • London-Colchester-Clacton-on-Sea.
  • Colchester-Ipswich-Ely-Peterborough.

I suspect that as Abellio has the possibilities and passenger figures, and will ask the views of travellers, that they will come up with a good solution.

But I do think Network Rail will do the following for Abellio on the Sunshine Coast Line.

  • Sort out the curve at Colchester Town station to speed up services into and out of Colchester Town station.
  • Build a second platform at Colchester Town station for the Sudbury service.
  • Rebuild Thorpe-le-Soken station with another platform to improve Clacton, Frinton and Walton services.

Doing these things will increase the capacity on the Sunshine Coast Line.

This extract from the Wikipedia entry for Colchester Town station describes the problem of the curve.

To the east of the station, Colne Junction is the western extremity of a triangle which gives access towards Colchester station to the west and Hythe station to the east. The curve to the north from Colne Junction to East Gates Junction is sharp, with a continuous check rail which necessitates slow passage.

I think the solution to this slow curve could  be solved by the new trains.

The new Aventras will be five- and ten-car trains with a different car length and bogie layout, to the existing trains that serve Colchester Town. Their design is also a couple of decades later, so do they have a superior ability to go round tight curves, than their predecessors?  I wouldn’t be surprised if train engineers have solved the problem of the curve! After all this is probably not the only tight curve on the world’s standard gauge network.

I suspect the same logic will apply to the Flirts, especially as the Swiss have some difficult railway lines in the mountains with sharper curves.

If the speed round the curve can be increased, this must surely open up services and London-Clacton services could call at Colchester Town.

I don’t know whether it would be possible, but the ideal service pattern at |Colchester Town station would be for London-Clacton services to use one platform and Sudbury-Colchester Town services to use the other, with the trains timed to give an easy interchange, by passengers walking across to the other train.


  • It certainly wouldn’t be possible with a slow curve between the Great Eastern Main Line and Colchester Town station.
  • The interchange at Colchester Town would be step-free.
  • Passengers from Sudbury to London would probably change at Colchester Town, as changing at Marks Tey and Colchester, would involve crossing the lines.
  • Passengers from London to Sudbury could change at either Marks Tey or Colchester Town, depending on how the mood took them.
  • Passengers between Sudbury and the coast would have a single step-free change at Colchester Town.

It should also be remembered that I believe that the time between Colchester and London in an Aventra will be the same as a Flirt, if they stopped at the same places. If the Aventras were slower, they would slow the London-Norwich expresses and make it impossible for all of services to be Norwich in Ninety trains.

This means there will be something like five fast trains every hour between Colchester and London.

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28. Thorpe-le-Soken Station To The Coast

When I looked at the Sunshine Coast Line a month ago, I noticed that Thorpe-le-Soken station was a rather run-down affair, where the Walton-on-the-Naze branch left the Sunshine Coast Line to Clacton.

Other information on the web has said, that reinstating the disused platform at Thorpe-le-Soken station would enable extra services to Walton-on-the-Naze.

It appears to me, that the Walton-on-the-Naze branch has suffered over the years in a similar way to the Crouch Valley Line, with reduction to single track and electrification, that was the least that could be got away with. Both lines were designed for a very poor service as the Treasury felt that there was no future in the railways.

I feel that the future of the five mile long Walton-on-the-Naze branch could be something like the following.

  • Create a track layout with appropriate passing loops, crossovers and sidings to cater for as many as 4 tph between Walton and Thorpe-le-Soken.
  • Rip out the electrification, except at the Thorpe-le-Soken end.
  • Run the service using Aventras equipped with an IPEMU-capability.

As the current trains travel between Thorpe-le-Soken and Walton in just twelve minutes, one train, which charged the onboard energy storage at the Thorpe-le-Soken end of the branch, would provide a 2 tph service.

Two trains would create a 4 tph service, which would be true turn-up-and-go and would degrade to a 2 tph service, if a train failed or suffered one of East Anglia’s numerous level crossing accidents.

In addition to enabling a better service to Walton-on-the-Naze, if the Aventras using the Sunshine Coast Line could have other effects, if they were IPEMU-capable and fitted with onboard energy storage.

  • They would enable regenerative braking from Colchester, which would save energy.
  • Any new train stabling on the line could be without electrification.
  • The electrification could probably be simplified, to save costs and hopefully improve reliability.

Any improvement program for the line would probably add a new station at Clacton mNorth to serve the Clacton factory Outlet. This Google Map shows the area around the Clacton Factory Outlet.

Clacton Factory Outlet And A Proposed North Station

Clacton Factory Outlet And A Proposed North Station

I can see a glowing future for the Sunshine Coast Line.

The railway runs down the Eastern side of the map, with Clacton Station to the South.

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29. Manningtree And The Mayflower Line

The Mayflower Line is a short branch line that serves Harwich from Manningtree.

  • The line is mainly double track, although the last section is effectively single track.
  • The line is electrified.
  • There are five stations.
  • The line was the test track for the Class 379 BEMU trial, which was a public demonstation of Bombardier’s IPEMU technology.
  • The line joins the Great Eastern Main Line in a triangular junction.

The basic service is a 1 tph shuttle between Manningtree and Harwich Town, with extra direct services to and from London in the Peak.

I think there is a clue, as to what service could be run on this line from how the BEMU trial was conducted.

The test train used to travel from Manningtree to Harwich Town using power from the overhead electrification, charging the batteries as it travelled along the line. It then returned to Manningtree using the stored power.

So could we see the following upgrade to the branch and its services?

  • The second track is reinstated, to make a complete double-track railway.
  • Trains would then work the line in the same way as they did in the January 2015 demonstration.
  • Two Aventras with an IPEMU-capability would provide a 2 tph service.
  • Shuttle services would meet the fast London trains.
  • Existing services would still be able to run, as the electrification will not need to be changed.

Interestingly, if you go to Manningtree station today, you will see that lifts are being installed in the current subway. These will allow passengers to have step-free access, if they want to do the following.

  • Catch a train to the North after entering the station on foot.
  • Travel between Harwich and the North.
  • Travel between the South and Harwich.

Note that the subway is close to the bay platform, used by Harwich services.

So would Harwich lose its direct services to London in return for an improved two tph service to Manningtree?

If this happens, then there are a few less trains that need to be fitted into the schedule between London and Manningtree. Tthis will help release paths on the Great Eastern Main Line for Norwich in Ninety services.

There also seems to be other proposals for the Manningtree area.

  • Platform 4 at Manningtree station could be reconfigured to increase capacity.
  • A new maintenance facility will be created at Manningtree.

As the station will be getting more fast services to London, Colchester, Ipswich and Peterborough, Manningtree and the Mayflower Line could be getting a large improvement.

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30. Manningtree Maintenance Facilitity

This is proposed as part of an £120million investment in improved depots and maintenance facilities.

There is also currently a sizeable depot at Clacton-on-Sea station.

Will the Clacton depot be downsized, when the new maintenance facility is built at Manningtree?

  • Land could be released for development.
  • Stabling sidings could be built at both Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.

I suspect that both fleets of new trains will need less overnight maintenance and will be easier and quicker to get ready for service in the morning.

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31. Felixstowe

As I partly grew up in Felixstowe, I remember the truly awful Felixstowe Branch Line between the town and Ipswich from the 1960s.

These statements would have described the line equally well in the 1960s as they do now.

  • The line is just under twenty kilometres long, with a passing loop at Derby Road.
  • The line is not electrified.
  • The line is worked by scrapyard-ready diesel trains, with an inadequate interior.
  • The train service runs between Felixstowe and Ipswich is roughly hourly.
  • The line serves five basic stations, with few facilities.

There have been some changes.

  • The track and signalling are probably better.
  • Felixstowe station is now Grade 2 Listed.
  • Felixstowe station has been downgraded into a small shopping centre and the camping coach has been removed.
  • There are now numerous freight trains between Felixstowe and all parts of the UK.
  • The Ipswich Chord has been added, so that freight trains can use the Felixstowe Branch more efficiently and cause less disruption to the crack expresses on the Great Eastern main Line, when they join and leave the branch.

There are now a few capacity problems on the line, something that would have been unthinkable in the 1960s.

There have also been a couple of changes to freight trains, that I have noticed since the Ipswich Chord and the new North Terminal at Felixstowe Port opened in the last few years.

  • Freight trains seem to have become longer on the Great Eastern Main Line towards London, although not necessarily more numerous.
  • Several times, I’ve seen double-headed freight trains, including this train, where a Class 90 electric locomotive, was giving a Class 66 diesel locomotive a hand.
  • Ipswich yard between Ipswich station and East Suffolk Junction, where freight locomotives were often changed or moved from one end of the train to the other, is generally less busy.
  • When waiting for a London train on Ipswich station, less freight trains seem to pass through the platform.

The first two are obviously  to increase the capacity, without paying for more expensive train paths to London.

The last two are probably because more freight trains are going via Peterborough.

An article in the September 2016 Edition of Modern Railways entitled Freight Study Seeks To Boost Struggling Sector, also indicates the following about freight trains and also freight on the Felixstowe branch.

  • Locomotive traction power will be enhanced. A Class 90 electric locomotive has fifty percent more power than a Class 66 diesel locomotive.
  • A network-wide capability for 775 metre long trains will be introduced.
  • The Felixstowe branch could be electrified, as a priority.
  • Further doubling of the Felixstowe branch will be undertaken.

The first two seem to fit my observations and very much go together.

Running longer freight trains will increase the capacity without using any more train psths. But you will need more powerful locomotives, especially if you want to run them at higher speeds.

I do think that some changes to Ipswich and the Felixstowe Branch are possibly being made, to help move all this freight.

  • Freightliner’s locomotive depot behind Ipswich station is rumoured to be being moved to Felixstowe Port.
  • There will be more double-tracking of the Felixstowe branch, so that two of these up to forty wagon trains can pass easier on the branch.
  • I also think that there could be some reorganisation of Ipswich yard, so that motive power on trains can be changed or augmented efficiently.

The question has to be asked, if we will see the Felixstowe Branch and the lines to the Port electrified, so that passenger and freight services can be run using more environmentally-friendly trains.


  • Electrification wouldn’t be difficult to design.
  • Electrification would probably mean closures during installation.
  • Remember that time, tide and container ships wait for no man.
  • Network Rail seem to have the capacity to make a hash of any electrification scheme.
  • Most freight trains are hauled by Class 66 or Class 70 diesel locomotives, which would need to be replaced, with new expensive electric locomotives.
  • Do you really want to introduce 25 KVAC overhead electrification into a port, where cranes are everywhere?
  • Abellio has ordered modern passenger trains, that could work the passenger service with or without electrification.

I think it is extremely unlikely that the Felixstowe Branch will be electrified, unless perhaps it was a condition of further expansion of the Port, or it was needed to get 775 metre long freight trains out of the port and on to the wider network.

One other factor is the new generation of electro-diesel locomotives, the first of which the Class 88 locomotive, has started to be delivered to the UK.

These and others like them, will increasingly be used on services to and from Felixstowe Port, where a substantial part of the route is electrified.

Electro-diesel locomotives would also not need a locomotive change at Ipswich Yard, so there would probably be a reduction in the number of locomotives stoating about around Ipswich station.

The space released at Ipswich Yard and Ipswich station would enable the platforms for the East Suffolk Line and Felixstowe Branch to be lengthened and upgraded, perhaps even with their own track to sneak to and from East Suffolk Junction, where they join their respective branches.

This Google Map shows the current arrangement at Ipswich station.

Bay Platforms At Ipswich Station

Bay Platforms At Ipswich Station

Note the two-car train in the current platform 1.

Ipswich Yard is in the North-West corner of the map with the current Freightliner depot in the South-East corner.

Plans discussed on the web seem to envisage a new platform 0 for Felixstowe Branch trains to the North of platform 1.

Both platforms would be sufficiently long for any future purposes, which probably means eight-cars, especially as this would probably allow the platforms to be used for other services or for operational flexibility, if plans don’t work out as intended.


  • Improving these platforms would have benefit for Norwich in Ninety, as it would mean that at times of congestion at Ipswich station, the long platform 2 could always be reserved for fast Colchester and London trains.
  • Lowestoft trains going direct to London would use platform 2.

Trains from London to Lowestoft would call in platform 3, along with the Norwich and Peterborough trains coming from the South.

As the Felixstowe Branch will not be completely electrified if ever, just as with the Gainsborough Line, Abellio have a choice of trains they could use on the Felixstowe Branch.

  • A three- or four-car bi-mode Flirt.
  • A five-car Aventra with an IPEMU-capability.


  • As with, it seems most of the other East Anglian branch lines, I suspect that one train could run a 1 tph service, but two trains would allow 2 tph.
  • It would be a large increase in capacity.
  • Will new stations be added to the line?
  • Will there be further expansion of the Port of Felixstowe?

The question also has to be asked, if the existing lines in Felixstowe will be used to extend the service to the former Felixstowe Beach station and the massive Port of Felixstowe.

This Google Map shows the Port of Felixstowe and the railway lines connecting it to the Felixstowe Branch.

Port Of Felixstowe And Railway Lines In Felixstowe

Port Of Felixstowe And Railway Lines In Felixstowe

Trimley station is at the top of the map, with a line running East-West to Felixstowe station.

One rail line leads down to the North Terminal at the Port from just to the East of Trimley station, whilst the other rail line branches away from the line to Felixstowe station and after passing the site of Felixstowe Beach station goes to the South Terminal of the Port.

It is possible for trains to go through the Port, but there are currently numerous level crossings.

Freight is certainly going to have a lot of effects on passenger services on the Felixstowe branch.

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32. The East Suffolk Line

I covered the East Suffolk Line earlier, when I discussed London-Ipswich-Lowestoft Services.

In that section I said this about the line.

But the most important characteristic, is that every time the line is improved, more passengers come out of the woodwork.

For this reason alone, I think we’ll see quite a bit of improvement in the next few years.

  • The trains on the line will be replaced with an appropriate formation of bi-mode Flirts.
  • The trains will initially run between Ipswich and Lowestoft, as they do now, but I believe that they will soon continue to Yarmouth and possibly Norwich, by reversing at Lowestoft, Reedham and Yarmouth stations. It’s just an efficient use of roiling stock.
  • Four direct trains, which probably means two each way every day, between Lowestoft and London are already promised.
  • With 3 tph between London and Norwich, it should be possible for all Ipswich-Lowestoft services to have a convenient interchae to and from London.
  • The  chord at Reedham  will be reinstated to allow direct services been Lowestoft and Yarmouth.

As I said earlier, The Reedham chord could be very significant, as it would open up a unique scenic rail route for locals and visitors between Ipswich and Norwich, passing along the Suffolk Heritage Coast and through the Norfolk Broads via Woodbridge, Beccles, Lowestoft and Yarmouth.

Using current timings, he service would take three hours to travel between the two county towns and with six trains, it would be an hourly service calling at all the stations on route.

But I believe that this core service or something like it, will only be the start.

A proper longer terminal platform will be provided in Ipswich station.I discussed this under Ipswich.

As the trains are bi-mode could we see some electrification from the Ipswich end to improve the line?


  • The closely-related Felixstowe branch will probably be at least partially electrified.
  • The next generation of catenary will be less visually intrusive.
  • Electric trains can be very much quieter.
  • Electrification linked to existing schemes is more affordable, as expensive transformers \are not needed.

I think it is a possibility, if it were to be linked with restoration of the double-track between Melton and Saxmundham.

Improving the line to Halesworth, might also make it easier to reopen the Aldeburgh Branch Line, if another nuclear power station is built at Sizewell.

Obviously, Network Rail and Abellio will work hard to find ways to improve the line speed.

One development, that could affect the line is the rebuilding of Lowestoft station. This is said in Wikipedia.

Waveney District Council had previously indicated in April 2010 that the station should be relocated 40m to the west and 80m to the south in order to “strike the optimum balance between commercial viability, technical feasibility and acceptability in the eyes of key stakeholders and landowners”. Relocation would “release a significant parcel of land for redevelopment in Peto Square between Denmark Road and Commercial Road”, although it was said that “existing historic station buildings should be retained and integrated into any new development.” Network Rail has objected to this policy on the basis that this would reduce the patronage of the station as was the case with Cromer, Felixstowe and Sheringham and would incur substantial financial cost. Although the policy did not appear in the final version of the area action plan for Lake Lothing and the Outer Harbour Area, the document did nevertheless raise concerns as it purported to reduce the number of platforms at the station to two plus a siding for excursion trains.

This Google Map shows the location of the station in Lowestoft.



The station is towards the Eastern side of the map close to the swing bridge.

I think that there could be a very good solution, which results in quality modern development along the waterfront with a new station behind the development.

I think it has to be born in mind that if East Suffolk Line services are extended to Yarmouth, that services in the station will be very different.

  • 1 tph running from Ipswich to Yarmouth will call at the station.
  • 1 tph running from Yarmouth to Ipswich will call at the station.
  • 1 tph running to and from Norwich will call at the station.

There would also need to be provision for occasional excursion trains.

But this will be more trains than now and if the Yarmouth service continues to Norwich, then Lowestoft will get two services to Norwich every hour and a regular hourly service to Ipswich.

What sort of service pattern would we see at Lowestoft?

Suppose, something like the following can be arranged.

  • Yarmouth to Lowestoft takes thirty-three minutes via the Reedham Chord..
  • Trains leave Yarmouth and Ipswich on the hour.
  • Trains arrive at Yarmouth and Ipswich perhaps five minutes before the hour, to allow for the train to be prepared for departure.

This could give the following pattern of train movements at Lowestoft.

  • The Norwich service arrives from Norwich.
  • The Northbound train arrives at about twenty-two or so minutes past the hour, does its business and leaves for Yarmouth. This would give enough time for the train to be turned round at Yarmouth to depart on the hour.
  • The Southbound train arrives at thirty-three  minutes past the hour, does its business and leaves for Ipswich.
  • The Norwich service goes back to Norwich, after any interchange passengers are loaded.

Effectively the East Suffolk Line and the Wherry Lines have become a combined service, where  any two stations have a direct connection or there is just a simple change at Lowestoft, where you perhaps wait a maximum of about fifteen minutes, often in a warm train.

I have no idea, if Abellio plan to do this, but given the connectivity given by the Reedham Chord and the two-hour timing of the trains between Ipswich and Yarmouth, there may be scope to run a very efficient service using fewer trains.

In addition, if the Ipswich-Yarmouth trains continue to Norwich, this gives further advantages and possibilities.

  • Trains will have two hours to travel between Yarmouth and Norwich, prepare the train for the return journey and then return to Yarmouth.
  • , A degree of float and recovery time is added into the schedule at Norwich as Norwich-Yarmouth takes thirty-six minutes.
  • This would make precise time keeping a lot easier.
  • Northbound and Southbound trains will  both call at Yarmouth close to the hour and could effectively pass each other in the station, thus avoiding having to pass on the single-track section from Yarmouth to Brundall.
  • The time difference between the Northbound and Southbound trains at Lowestoft can probably be reduced to perhaps five minutes.
  • Passenger waiting time at Lowestoft will be reduced accordingly.

The problems of the small amount of double-track on the Wherry Lines will be overcome and a very efficient service pattern results.

There is also the fact, that once the Reedham Chord is built, two Class 170 trains could probably run a two-hourly Ipswich to Yarmouth via Lowestoft service.

It would be interesting to see what time a well-driven Class 170 train could do today! If they could do the journey in under two hours, could we see Ipswich-Yarmouth as one of the first parts of the new timetables to be started?

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33. Lines From Norwich

There are several lines radiating from Norwich station.


  • Only the GEML is electrified and it has a speed of upwards of 100 mph.
  • The Breckland Line is double-track with a speed of 75-90 mph.
  • The Bittern and Wherry Lines are a mixture of single- and double-track, with a speed of between 40 and 60 mph.

As to trains, I think that bi-mode Flirts will be used on services on the Bittern and Wherry Lines, as the distance is probably too long for an Aventra with an IPEMU-capability. Remember, that it is known that bi-mode Flirts will be working the Breckland Line between Norwich and Cambridge and twelve-car electric Flirts wil be working the expresses to Ipswich and London.

I think if the Reedham Chord is reinstated giving direct access between Yarmouth and Lowestoft, there will be a lot of scope to increase services and frequencies across Norfolk.

It is such a pity, that there is no railway between Norwich, Kings Lynn and Peterborough, as that was closed in the 1960s. As parts of the route are still visible a rail line could probably be created.

But would you want to spend millions of pounds putting a railway through rural Norfolk, when there probably are schemes that would give a better return? It would probably be far more affordable to make sure that Norwich-Peterborough was a fast route, with or without a change at Ely.

However, one scheme in the area, the Norfolk Orbital Railway, which would link Sheringham on the Bittern Line to Wymondham on the Breckland Line, seems to periodically appear, in a list of railways that enthusiasts might reopen.

A more likely scenario, is that Abellio take responsibility for the Norwich-Liverpool service currently run by East Midlands Trains, or they run their own direct service to Peterborough from Norwich.

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34. New Lines

The various railway groups and enthusiasts in East Anglia, will be pushing for their favourite schemes, but predominately those that get built in the next few years, will be ones, that Abellio and Network Rail need to provide a better standard of existing service.

Included in this group could be.

  • A new chord at Reedham to provide a direct route between Lowestoft and Yarmouth.
  • A passing loop on the Braintree Branch
  • A passing loop on the Gainsborough Line.
  • New platforms at Ipswich station.
  • A new platform at Thorpe-le-Soken station.

The only substantial capital project seems to be spending £120million on improving depots and creating a new maintenance facility at Manningtree.

So it looks like Abellio don’t have any published plans for incorporating new or existing lines into the network.

The one exception could be reopening the Bramley Line between March station and Wisbech.

However, if this scheme should come forward, they certainly will have modern trains capable of running a service on the line.

If you look at the railway map of East Anglia, there seems to be only a few lines that could be reopened, as most of the important ones, still have a service, even if can be very inadequate.

I think there are four possible lines that can be reopened.

Stour Valley Railway

Norfolk Orbital Railway

Aldeburgh Branch Line

Bramley Line

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35. Stour Valley Railway

The Stour Valley Railway used to connect Cambridge with Marks Tey.  It has now been cut back to a Sudbury to Marks Tey service, which for marketing purposes is called the Gainsborough Line.

However, the Gainsborough Line is down to run a new  Sudbury To Colchester Town Service, that could define the future of the whole route.

If the new service is successful and the new longer trains and/or the car parks at Sudbury are filled, I can see calls for extension of the line to Haverhill and ultimately Cambridge, will be more readily accepted by Suffolk County Council and Network Rail.


  • If the passing loop at Wakes Colne is built, this would allow an extended line to run 2 tph.
  • A half-hourly service would generate more traffic.
  • Much of the route of the old railway line appears to be unobstructed.

This Google Map shows how it runs through Sudbury.

The Stour Valley Railway Curves Round Sudbury

The Stour Valley Railway Curves Round Sudbury

Sudbury station is in the South East corner of the map and old railway goes along the bottom of the map and then up the Western side.

Could a new station with parking be built on the Western side of the town?

Having lived just North of Haverhill for over twenty years, I feel that the rebuilding of this railway would be a large benefit to the area.

  • Haverhill is one of the larger towns in East Anglia without a rail connection.
  • It would give an important connection to Cambridge.
  • The line would probably join the West Anglia Main Line at the proposed Cambridge South station, which is close to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and could be the Eastern terminus of the East West Rail Link.

Modern design probably means a single track railway, with simple platforms could be built through an area like this, with minimal disruption and visual intrusion.

Reinstatement of the Stour Valley Railway, when linked to the new Peterborough to Colchester service, creates a Suffolk Orbital Railway, calling at all major towns in the South of the Cuonty, that would have good connections to London, Lowestoft, Norwich. Peterborough and Stansted Airport.

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36. Norfolk Orbital Railway

The Norfolk Orbital Railway is a plan to link Sheringham station on the Bittern Line with Wymondham station on the Breckland Line, using two heritage railways in the area; the North Norfolk Railway and the Mid-Norfolk Railway.

Trains would start and finish at Norwich completing the orbit with the Bittern and Breckland Lines.

At the Northern end of the route, the North Norfolk Railway connects to the Bittern Line through an occasional use level crossing, whereas at the Southern end, the Mid-Norfolk Railway connects directly to the Breckland Line.

Given the nature of heritage railway companies, I suspect that the two companies are working together to create the missing link in the middle, as this would give them around forty kilometres of railway. It can’t be in anything but in good condition, as Wikipedia reports it is used by train operating companies for driver training.

Pre-Referendum, I would have said there was no chance of this scheme being proceeded with, but post-Brexit, everything may have changed, especially as there are two heritage railways involved, quite a few tourism-related jobs in the area and funding for this type of scheme is now probably at the behest of local organisations.

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37. Aldeburgh Branch Line

The Aldeburgh Branch Line is still  intact, as far as Sizewell nuclear power station.

Past Sizewell, it would appear that the original route and track-bed is not obstructed and can be seen on the Google Maps all the way to Aldeburgh.

This Google Map shows the route, where it enters Aldeburgh.

The Aldeburgh End Of The Aldeburgh Branch Line

The Aldeburgh End Of The Aldeburgh Branch Line

The prominent road that runs diagonally across the map in a North-West/South-East direction is Saxmundham Road and it goes all the way to the sea.

Reaching to this road is the dark scar of the railway, which runs parallel to the coast. Aldeburgh station was somewhere, where the two features meet.

If Sizewell C is built, then I could envisage sets of circumstances, which meant that the line was reopened to passengers, at least as far as Leiston.

Providing a service on the line to Ipswich would not be a problem, once Ipswich station had been rebuilt with a new platform 0 and an extended platform 1, which I believe is necessary to provide better services to Lowestoft and Felixstowe.

But whether the service would generate sufficient traffic to be viable and profitable in the long term, would be very much open to doubt.

If we assume that the main East Suffolk Line has a one train tph service between Ipswich and Lowestoft, whether it is extended to Yarmouth or not, I wonder if an Ipswich to Aldeburgh Branch Line service could be used to double the frequency at the Southern end of the East Suffolk Line.

Ipswich to Saxmundham currently takes thirty seven minutes., so on a crude estimate, Ipswich to Aldeburgh could certainly be done within the hour.

I suspect that this would mean that it would not be difficult to run the Aldeburgh Branch Line trains on a one tph basis to fit in between the Ipswich-Lowestoft trains.

As at least one platform would need to be built somewhere on the single-track branch to reverse the trains, it could be built at Leiston, Thorpeness or Aldeburgh provided the track went that far.

So by reinstating the Aldeburgh Branch Line and giving it an hourly service from Ipswich would also give Saxmundham to Ipswich a 2 tph service.

This increase of frequency at the Southern end of the East Suffolk Line and the needs of any future nuclear power station at Sizewell, will be the only possible reasons that passenger services will resume on the Aldeburgh Branch Line.

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38. Bramley Line

The reopened Bramley Line would link Wisbech with March and further extend the network of improved  local services around Cambridge with its expansion and development needs and its soon-to-be-two and possibly three stations.

I think that the possibility exists that the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Line between March and Sleaford might be reinstated to give freight trains to and from Felixstowe, direct access to the GNGE to get to Doncaster, avoiding Peterborough and the East Coast Main Line South of Yorkshire.

If you look at Google Maps, then the old rail line is clearly visible for most of the way between March and Sleaford. However, Whitemoor Prison has been build over the route.

If this Southern part of the GNGE were to be reinstated, could we see passenger services between Cambridge and Lincoln?

I think we would, as the engine of growth that is Cambridge, would then be directly connected by train to all the cities and larger towns of East Anglia and Lincolnshire.

I should say, that just as London dominates the South East, I believe that Cambridge with all its skills, ambition and success will dominate the East of England.

Lincoln to Cambridge could be about ninety minutes using a fully developed GNGE, as opposed to two hours now.

But even if the GNGE is not fully developed, a link between Cambridge and Wisbech will be worthwhile.

  • It would create employment in Wisbech.
  • It would give commuting opportunities for Cambridge.
  • It would also add an extra connecting train every hour between Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely stations.

Incidentally, reopening of the Bramley Line would give Cambridge and Ely, four routes to the North.

  • Thetford and Norwich
  • Kings Lynn
  • Peterborough
  • Wisbech

So will we see the Cambridge-Kings Lynn service transferred to Abellio to tidy things up and make station management easier?

But that is all about train company politics.

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39. Summarising Abellio’s Franchise

The last few sections will summarise, what I see and feel about the future of the new East Anglian Franchise.

Some will obviously be my speculation, but most will be based on these well-publicised facts.

  • Abellio are renewing the whole train fleet with new Bombardier Aventras and Stadler Flirts.
  • Cambridge is growing fast and is an engine of growth across the whole area of the franchise.
  • What electrification there is, is often elderly and I doubt all of it can handle regenerative braking.
  • The frequencies and quality of services on many lines is not what is expected these days.
  • A large number of freight trains to and from Felixstowe pass through the are of the franchise.
  • Some of the rural and coastal areas served by the franchise need economic development, probably linked to tourism, employment and commuting.
  • The East Suffolk Line has shown that better services attract more passengers.

Some articles are useful in decoding the entrails.

  1. Faster trains to Ipswich as part of new franchise
  2. Biggest overhaul of rail service unveiled but more infrastructure still needed

The remaining sections are.

Abellio’s Train Philosophy

Abellio’s Main Line Philosophy

Abellio’s Branch Line Philosophy

Freight Affects


More On Regenerative Braking



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40. Abellio’s Train Philosophy

This article in the East Anglian Daily Times, is entitled Faster trains to Ipswich as part of new franchise.

It is one of the first articles, which puts some details into Abellio’s plan for the future of East Anglia’s trains.

This is said.

Rail journeys between Ipswich and London will take, on average, 64 minutes from the introduction of the new timetable in 2019 once new “Stadler Flirt” InterCity trains are introduced on trains to the capital. At present the average journey time is 73 minutes.

That is more than the stated aim of the Great Eastern rail campaign to have services running to Ipswich in 60 minutes – but Abellio Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles said the last four minutes could only be shaved off journey times once Network Rail has carried out improvement work to the line.

He said: “The new trains will have improved acceleration and deceleration, and will have automatic doors which will do much to improve turn-arounds at stations.

So I can draw the following conclusions about Abellio’s main line philosophy.

  • All London-Ipswich trains will be sixty minutes with the new trains, after Network Rail finish their work.
  • That would include London-Norwich and London-Lowestoft trains between Ipswich and London.
  • London-Lowestoft trains will probably be around two hours thirty minutes depending on the times between Ipswich and Lowestoft.
  • As I said earlier, you can’t give Suffolk an improvement and not give the same to Norfolk, so all London-Norwich trains will be ninety minutes.
  • it looks like a lot of the speed improvement is purely down to the trains.

I said earlier in Performance Considerations, that Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty could only be done, if the following conditions were met.

  1. The trains run at 110 mph and possibly up to 125 mph, everywhere they can and especially North of Stowmarket.
  2. All trains on the Great Eastern Main Line are capable of a high speed, so they don’t slow the Norwich/Ipswich expresses.
  3. Trains use every trick in the book to do rapid stops at stations.

Condition 3 has been stated, but there is still no news on the speeds of all the new trains.

However the September 2016 issue of Modern Railways indicates this about the twelve-car EMU Flirts.

  • The trains will be 100 mph articulated units with a rating of 3.6MW.
  • A 110/125 mpg capability was proposed with an eye on the Norwich in Ninety requirement but declined.
  • The trains will be built from six articulated pairs to meet praiseworthiness requirements.
  • Four bogies will be motored, at various points on the train, distributing the traction and the regenerative braking forces.

I suspect that as power is distributed and the train’s power is similar to a Class 90 locomotive, that these trains will have a 100-0-100 mph time that is far superior to the current trains.

So Jamie Burles’s statement that improved acceleration and braking, and automatic doors will cut dwell times in stations is very much to be believed.

I suspect that Abellio have calculated that, if all trains can cruise at 100 mph on the main line, that, provided the stopping of both the Avantras and the Flirts is comparable, fast and reliable, that Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty for all trains is possible.

One great advantage of 100 mph trains is that the current Class 90 locomotive/Mark 3 coach sets are 100 mph units, so I suspect that 100 mph Flirts could be introduced between London and Norwich, without a great deal of infrastructure work.

It could be asked, why if both trains have similar 100 mph cruising speeds and must have comparable station stopping performance, why one unified fleet has not been ordered.

Nothing has been said, but I suspect that it could be a combination of several reasons.

  • Neither company has the capacity to build all the trains.
  • Bombardier don’t have a bi-mode Aventra.
  • Abellio want to have a wide variety of train lengths and interiors geared to the various routes.
  • A four-car Aventra might be too big for some of the routes that will be run by three-car Flirts.

I suspect though, that the decision was taken on commercial decisions based on train purchase price, achievable delivery dates and operating costs.

I also think that the required train interiors  on the various routes may have been significant in going for a solution involving two types of trains.


  • London-Norwich, London-Cambridge, London-Clacton and possibly London-Southend could need a Inter-City commuting interior with lots of tables.
  • Colchester-Peterborough and Stansted-Norwich could need an Inter-City interior with tables.
  • Non-electrified lines North of Cambridge and Ipswich, might need a leisure interior with lots of bicycle space.
  • London-Stansted might need an airport interior, with space for lots of luggage.
  • London-Chelmsford, London-Bishops Stortford and London-Hertford East might need a high-capacity commuting interior.

Obviously, Abellio have all the traffic data and have chosen appropriately.

As I suspect that the length amd capacity of all the trains can be changed, Abellio probably has the luxury of adjusting train lengths to suit traffic.

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41. Abellio’s Main Line Philosophy

I’ll look at the Great Eastern Main Line first.

In Abellio’s Train Philosophy, I wrote, that I suspect two fleets of 100 mph trains with identical station stopping profiles would enable Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty.

As an example suppose you have a Norwich-London Flirt calling at Colchester, Chelmsford and Shenfield, which is being followed by a Clacton-London Aventra calling at Colchester, Witham and Shenfield. Say the Clacton service arrives at Colchester ten minutes after the Norwich service, they will still be ten minutes apart in London, despite a different stopping pattern.

So by adjusting the stopping pattern, North of Shenfield, a continuous stream of 100 mph trains can be delivered to merge with the Southend service for the dash into London.

In London To Shenfield, I postulated that after all the trains are delivered, this will be the pattern of trains at Shenfield.

  • 4 tph from London to Southend Victoria.
  • 3 tph from London to Colchester Town and/or Clacton
  • 3 tph from London to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Some may stop.
  • 1 tph from London to Beaulieu.


  1. With the exception of the extra train to Southend, this is still the same number of trains as now.
  2. All trains except one from Southend go straight to London.
  3. All of the shorter distance trains and possibly some of the Norwich trains will stop at Shenfield.

Because all trains will have an optimised 100-0-100 mph performance, I wonder if the three Colchester Town/Clacton trains will stop at most stations between Shenfield and Colchester. After all, passengers might prefer to take the faster train and change at Colchester, if they didn’t like the stopping.

If the slow trains stopped everywhere and were timed to stop at Shenfield, Chelmsford and Colchester, just a few minutes before or after the expresses, passengers between say Norwich and Kelvedon would have a change, where they waited a few minutes on the same platform at Colchester.

The great thing about this strategy is that one set of 100 mph trains consisting of a Class 90 locomotive and a rake of Mark 3 coaches, is replaced by a mix of 100 mph EMUs with a superior ability to stop to put down and pick up passengers.

  • Tests could be possible with the current trains.
  • There would probably be a much smaller set of improvements to the track, platform and signalling, than would be required by trains with a faster line-speed.
  • As Flirts are delivered, the two types of train can run a joint service. You’d probably deliberately slow the Flirts at some stops.

The current trains might even be able to do four Norwich in Ninety and two Ipswich In |Sixty trips a day from the start of the new franchise.

From my analysis and the reports in the EADT and Modern Railways, I can deduce this about Abellio’s philosophy on the Great Eastern Main Line.

  • Three 100 mph trains per hour with a large increase in capacity will connect London and Norwich via Colchester and Ipswich.
  • If all trains between London and Norwich take ninety minutes and all trains between London and Ipswich take sixty minutes, then most if not all destinations on the GEML would have a much-improved standard journey time.
  • Other services will be reorganised so they don’t interfere with the fast trains.
  • Better connections will be provided from branch lines to the stations, where the expresses call.

Using current train timings on the line, I think we’ll see times like this.

  • London-Chelmsford – 20 minutes
  • London-Colchester – 40 minutes
  • London-Manningtree – 50 minutes
  • London-Stowmarket – 70 minutes
  • London-Diss – 80 minutes.

Colchester in Forty is a key one, as it would give.

  • London-Clacton direct in sixty-six minutes, with stops at Thorpe-le-Soken and Wivenhoe.
  • London-Sudbury in sixty minutes, with a change at Colchester.

Abellio’s statement of all trains to Ipswich in sixty and current train timings, probably mean that a whole swathe of towns from Sudbury to Harwich, Walton-on-the-Naze and Clacton-on-Sea will have an hour’s journey to London.

In addition.

  • The area around Ipswich defined by Bury St. Edmunds, Saxmundham and Felixstowe will all be within ninety minutes of London.
  • Norwich In Ninety probably means London-Yarmouth in two hours.
  • London-Cromer could probably be reduced to two hours and fifteen minutes

Have Abellio been economical with the good news?

There are other questions, that need to be answered.

  • The bi-mode Flirts will have to be able to hold their own on the electrified vGEML, so will not be slow, when running as EMUs. But what will be their speed, when running under diesel power?
  • What will be the timing of bi-mode Flirts between Norwich and Cambridge and Stansted Airport?
  • Would the bi-mode Flirts enable the West Anglia Main Line and the Breckland Line to be a second fast route to Norwich?
  • Could bi-mode Flirts do London-Norwich via Cambridge in two hours?
  • What difference to London-Cambridge timings would four-tracking from Broxbourne to Tottenham Hale make?

The answers to these questions will determine if Abellio and Network Rail develop a full West Anglia route to Norwich.


  • No extra electrification is needed.
  • The double-track Breckland Line is not exactly crowded,, with a line-speed of up to 90 mph.
  • ,The Breckland Line has recently been upgraded with new track and signalling.
  • Wymondham, Attleborough and Thetford would get a decent rail service to and from London.
  • When the East-West Rail Link opens to the proposed Cambridge South station, the Breckland Line will be the preferred extension to Norwich.
  • The electric and bi-mode Flirts will soon be running the whole route.
  • Norwich-London will probably involve a same-or cross-platform interchange at Cambridge.
  • It would link to Crossrail 2 in the future.
  • Future four-tracking between Broxbourne and Tottenham Hale could speed the route by several minutes.
  • If my estimates are correct, it’s only thirty minutes slower to London, than the Great Eastern Main Line.

I feel that Abellio and Network Rail will develop this line between Ely and Norwich, by doing the following.

  • Increasing line speed.
  • Improving the stations and providing car parking.
  • Increasing the frequency of trains.
  • Improve the connection at Ely to Peterborough-Ipswich-Colchester trains.

I also think at some point in the Abellio franchise, we’ll see trains timetabled between London and Norwich via Cambridge.


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42. Abellio’s Branch Line Philosophy

I have not talked to Abellio, but their branch line philosophy appears to be simple.

They have possibly ordered three different types of trains, that can run the short branch lines.

  • A three-car bi-mode Stadler Flirt, that could work all branch lines, whether electrified or not.
  • A five-car Aventra electric multiple unit, that could work electrified branches.
  • A five-car Aventra electric multiple unit, that has an IPEMU-capability that uses onboard energy storage to work non or partially electrified lines.

I believe that Abellio are making a statement by the number of trains they are ordering and it leads me to believe that they are aiming to improve services on all the branch lines.

This is not to be nice to passengers of for other altruistic reasons, but so that they can bring passengers to their higher-capacity main lines, where there are at least three or four fast trains per hour to and from London.

It’s all about making money and the best way to make money with a railway is to fill the trains.

So I think we’ll see increased services on the branch, with many branches running at least two tph.

  • Southminster can do 2 tph.
  • Braintree can do 2 tph.
  • Gainsborough can do 2 tph, if the trains pass on the main line.
  • Harwich can do 2 tph.
  • Felixstowe can do 2 tph will more double track.
  • East Suffolk line can do a clock-face hourly service with two extra trains.
  • Bittern Line can do 2 tph.
  • Norwich-Yarmouth can do 2 tph.
  • Norwich-Lowestoft can do 2 tph.

Some lines will have to be run by bi-mode Flirts, as they have no electrification and they are too long for Aventras with an IPEMU-capability.

These lines include.

  • The Bittern Line between Norwich and Sheringham.
  • The Wherry Lines from Norwich to Lowestoft and Yarmouth.
  • The East Suffolk Line.

But to complicate matters, there is the problem of the track and the electrification, which has been neglected for decades, on many of the lines all over East Anglia.

  • To my untutored eye, a lot of the electrification does not look to be of the best quality.
  • Is it up to handling the reverse currents for the regenerative braking of the electric and bi-mode trains?

As an example of the thinking, take the Braintree Branch Line.

To increase the service to 2 tph, there needs to be a passing loop at Creeting.

As the line is electrified, this passing loop would have to be electrified as well, for electric trains to continue using the branch.

The current electrification may not be good enough and may lack the ability to handle regenerative braking, so perhaps the cheapest way to provide 2 tph on the branch is to simplify or even remove the electrification and use either the bi-mode Flirts or Aventras with an IPEMU-capabilitry.

Trains could either shuttle along the branch or travel to and from London or some other suitable terminal.

  • Passengers wouldn’t care as they’d get new trains with a capacity appropriate to the time of day and where they wanted to travel.
  • Abellio wouldn’t mind, as they could run either type of train.
  • Abellio would run an appropriate train for the timetable and the design and operational status of the line.
  • Network Rail would love it, as all they would add to the branch is two sets of points and a length of plain track and they might even be able to take the electrification down.
  • Network Rail would have less to maintain.
  • If the service was reduced to a shuttle, there would be no need for trains to cross the main lines in a flat junction.

Everybody would win.

Consider how the branch could be upgraded to a 2 tph shuttle to Witham.

  1. The branch is run as a shuttle using a single bi-mode Flirt or a Class 170 train.
  2. The signalling is updated to allow two trains on the branch.
  3. The passing loop is built alongside the branch and connected to the branch line  over an appropriate closure.
  4. The line is tested using two bi-mode Flirts or Class 170 trains.
  5. If felt unnecessary, the overhead electrification could be removed.

Once the line was fully working Abellio could decide the most appropriate timetable for the line and the trains to work the service.

I feel that this holistic approach involving close cooperation between Abellio and Network Rail will be used to upgrade the branches.

I wonder if it is possible to make an estimate as to the number of three-car bi-mode Flirts, Abellio will need to run the branch lines, of the fourteen they have on order.

These are my estimates

  • Gainsborough Line – 2 trains
  • East Suffolk Line – 2 trains
  • Bittern Line – 2 trains
  • Wherry Lines – 3 routes – 6 trains

Which gives a total of 12 trains, if similar patterns as now are adjusted to give two tph or 1 tph on the East Suffolk Line and Wherry Lines.

If the Gainsborough Line can be worked by Aventras and the East Suffolk Line is extended to Yarmouth, the estimates become.

  • East Suffolk Line – 4 trains
  • Bittern Line – 2 trains
  • Wherry Lines – 6 trains

Which gives a total of 12 trains.

I’m obviously not totally sure of some of these figures, but it does look like that running 1 tph between Ipswich and Yarmouth via Lowestoft uses four trains, as does running two trains per hour between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

But extending to Yarmouth does have these advantages.

  • Lowestoft and Yarmouth get a  1 tph direct service.
  • All stations get 1 tph to a clock-face timetable.
  • The trains pass on the Beccles Loop, which is a must for a 1 tph timetable.

Extending to Norwich gives the need for these trains.

  • East Suffolk Line – 6 trains
  • Bittern Line – 2 trains
  • Wherry Lines – 4 trains

Which gives a total of 12 trains, but probably running in a more efficient manner.

As I said in East Suffolk Line, I don’t think that anything more frequent that an hourly service between Ipswich and Yarmouth is possible without extensive modification to the tracks with passing places and double tracking.

It also looks like Abellio have ordered a few extra trains. Are these to develop new services or for the inevitable losses on level crossings?

The other ideas, I have detailed in this post, would probably need the following extra numbers of trains.

  • Bramley Line – 2 trains
  • Norfolk Orbital Railway – Could probably be run using the existing Bittern Line trains.
  • Stour Valley Line – 2 trains
  • Aldeburgh Branch Line – 2 trains.

That must account for nearly all of the smaller three-car Flirts, so I suspect that all the other branches from Felixstowe Southwards will be run by Aventras, with or without an IPEMU-capability.

  • Felixstowe Branch – Aventra IPEMU charging at Ipswich  – 40 km. per trip using onboard energy.
  • Mayflower Line – Aventra IPEMU with one track fully-electrified and the other only partly – 20 km. per trip using onboard energy.
  • Gainsborough Line  – Aventra IPEMU charging between Marks Tey and Colchester Town – 40 km. per trip using onboard energy.
  • Walton-on-the-Naze Branch – Aventra IPEMU charging at Thorpe-le-Soken and towards London – 10 km. per trip using onboard energy.
  • Braintree Branch – Aventra IPEMU charging at Witham or on the main line to and from Liverpool Street – 10 km. per trip using onboard energy.
  • Crouch Valley Line – Aventra IPEMU with one track fully-electrified – 50 km. per trip using onboard energy.


  • In the table per trip means out and back from where the electrification finishes.
  • Each line has its own solution.
  • None of these lines have challenging routes, with high-speed running, steep gradients and lots of stations.
  • None of these lines is very long with the Felixstowe Branch and the Gainsborough Line being the longest and requiring unsupported running of forty kilometres.
  • I don’t think that Abellio will be trying anything too ambitious with their Aventras with an IPEMU-capability.

It will be fascinating to see how the franchise develops.

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43. Freight Affects

Freight will have various affects on all the trains;passenger and freight, around East Anglia.

From this article in the September 2016 Edition of Modern Railways entitled Freight Study Seeks To Boost Struggling Sector, these effects can be extracted.

  • Freight trains will get faster and longer and these massive trains can only be handled by more powerful locomotives. This will mean that freight trains won’t steal any more valuable paths and won’t slow the passenger trains quite as much.
  • There will be more electric locomotives pulling the freight trains.
  • New technology electro-diesel locomotives like the Class 88 locomotive will start to appear, using electic power, where it exists and diesel elsewhere.
  • The Felixstowe branch will be changed with more double track and possible electrification.
  • Signalling will be improved between Ipswich and Ely to allow more trains to use the route.
  • There will be some doubling of the track between Ely ans Soham.
  • There is a possibility of some extra strategic chords between Newmarket and Ely.
  • A diversionary route for freight on the East Coast Main Line via Cambridge.

I also think there is a chance that an alternative freight route will be developed between March and Spalding, so that freight trains from Felixstowe to the rest of the country will have a choice of routes.

The trains could use the soon-to-be-electrified Gospel Oak to Barking Line and then pick up the diversionary route up the Lea Valley Lines  at various places between Stratford and Tottenham Hale.

The route would probably be developed, as the West Anglia Main is four-tracked for Crossrail 2.

The great advantage is that at its Southern end it connect easily to the new port at London Gateway.

At the Northern end, it could either connect to the East Coast Main Line or the Great Norrthern and Great Eastern Joint Line at Spalding.

All of these improved freight routes will create more opportunities for passenger trains.

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44. Electrification

Electrification is expensive and can be difficult to install, as things have a bad habit of going wrong.

Abellio’s new train fleet fits the current electrification, provided these these conditions are met.

  • The electrification is updated to a modern standard, to improve reliability.
  • The Great Eastern Main and West Anglia Main Line can deal with the reverse current of regenerative braking.

Regenerative braking on branch lines handled by Aventras can either be by updating the electrificatyion to accept it or by using onboard storage on the trains. In More On Regenerative Braking, I discuss this further.

But will we see more electrification on lines in East Anglia?

From this article in the September 2016 Edition of Modern Railways entitled Freight Study Seeks To Boost Struggling Sector, these points can be extracted.

  • The Felixstowe branch will be electrified.
  • A long term aspiration is to electrify the whole route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton via Bury St. Edmunds, Ely and Peterborough.

I think that will probably be it, as other unelectrified routes, do not have significant freight traffic.

Passenger trains with  bi-mode power or  onboard storage will hsndle passenger services without needing to add to the wires.

There could be a couple of exceptions.

  • When the Felixstowe branch is electrified, I wouldn’t be surprised to add electrification to the Southern end of the East Suffolk Line to improve services to Ipswich and London.
  • If Sizewell C is built, then this could add pressure for a reopening of the Aldeburgh Branch Line, which might get electrified.
  • When Ipswich to Ely is electrified, it might be sensible to electrify the single-track branch between Kennett and Cambridge.
  • If the West Anglia Main Line is updated as a diversion for freight and extended to Spalding, will it be electrified beyond March?

In the future, trains will improve.

Onboard energy storage will achieve longer ranges.

Bi-mode trains will get more efficient and quieter.

There will also be a merging of the technologies, so the ultimate East Anglian train will have the following chacteristics.

  • Pantograph for running on 25 KVAC main lines.
  • Automatic pantograph deployment.
  • A relatively small diesel engine for running on non-electrified lines.
  • Onboard energy storage for handling regenerative braking and short movements.
  • An intelligent control system to choose where to get the electricity to power the train.

It will be the true hybrid train and I wouldn’t be surprised if the following is true.

  • Stadler are looking at how they can put onboard energy storage into a Flirt.
  • Bombardier are looking at a plug-and-play power trailer car for an Aventra.

The real winners will be the public, who will get electric services everywhere and Network Rail, who will just carry on maintaining.

The following lines and routes, may never be electrified.

  • The Breckland Line between Ely and Norwich
  • The East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Lowestoft and on to Yarmouth.
  • The Wherry Lines.
  • The Bittern Line
  • The Gainsborough Line.

The savings will be larger than you might think, as electrification of some of these lines would invoke the ire of the Heritage and Countryside Talibans.

Lawyers would love to step in to solve the problems and can be very expensive.

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45. More On Regenerative Braking

In Regenerative Braking, I said this.

As there is a saving of around fifteen percent or even more in electricity, if regenerative braking is fitted, I suspect that all trains will have it fitted and all lines will have overhead wiring and equipment capable of accepting the return current.

After going through the whole East Anglian Network, I am convinced that this franchise is doing it a bit differently.

On the two main lines; the Great Eastern and the West Anglia, I feel that regenerative braking will be implemented in the traditional manner using electrical systems and transformers that can accept the braking current back through the overhead wires.

This is used on the West Coast Main Line with the Class 390 trains and is becoming the standard way to do things on rail lines all over the world.

These are the trains that in a few years time, that will be running on the Great Eastern Main Line.

  • Stadler Flirts, both electric and bi-mode.
  • Bombardier Aventras
  • Class 66 diesel locomotives.
  • Class 90 electric locomotives.
  • Class 88 electro-diesel locomotives.

The cuckoos in the nest, are the Class 66 and Class 90 locomotives, which don’t have regenerative braking, but the modern Class 88 electro-diesel locomotive does.

Of the others, the Flirts and modern electric freight locomotives will need the catenary to be set up for regenerative braking.

So I think we can expect pressure from environmentalists, Network Rail and the Government for freight operators to acquire some modern electric or electro-diesel freight locomotives.

The Great Eastern Main Line will certainly be a modern high-speed main line and possibly one of the most electrically-efficient, when the freight locomotives are replaced with modern units, just like the passenger trains.

An overhead electrification system, that can work with regenerative braking would be essential for an electrical-efficient main line.

The Aventras and any modern Electrostar or Class 360 train, would also run efficiently on such a Great Eastern Main Line.

In London – Stansted Airport – Cambridge Services, I indicated that the West Anglia Main Line between London and Cambridge, will be upgraded to four-tracks.


  • Proposals exist to do this in connection with Crossrail 2 and to create better access to Stansted Airport.
  • Creation of a two fast and two slow track railway must allow higher speeds for fast trains on the line.
  • The Flirt electric and bi-mode multiple units to run a faster service on this line have already been ordered.
  • Four-tracking would increase capacity between London, Stansted Airport and Cambridge.
  • Currently sharing tracks with stopping trains prevents creation of a real Stansted or Cambridge Express.
  • The four-tracking must be done before Crossrail 2 is built.
  • The electrification on the current line looks tired and probably can’t work with regenerative braking.

I think that four-tracking the West Anglia Main Line could be London and the South East’s next big rail project.

There will be four types of trains on this line, after Crossrail 2 opens.

  • Abellio’s electric Stadler Flirts
  • Abellio’s Bombardier Aventras
  • London Overground’s Class 710 trains, which are four-car Aventras.
  • Crossrail 2’s modern trains, which could be the same as Crossrail’s Aventras.

With possibly the odd freight train, hauled by the inevitable Class 66 locomotive.

But an article in the September 2016 Edition of Modern Railways entitled Freight Study Seeks To Boost Struggling Sector, also indicates that the West Anglia Main Line will be upgraded to take freight trains up the Lea Valley between London and Peterborough via Cambridge. I believe in the past the line used to be a busy freight route.

I also think, if this route is developed for freight, then that could lead to developing a freight route between March And Splading to connect to the GNGE for Doncaster. I wrote about this in Bramley Line.

All the electric multiple units  will all be capable of using regenerative braking, but is the overhead electrification ready for it?

So it looks like there could be some lines, which might not be capable of handling the return currents of regenerative braking.

  • The West Anglia Main Line, before four-tracking.
  • The Shenfield to Southend Line
  • The Crouch Valley Line
  • The Sunshine Coast Line.
  • The Hertford East Branch

In addition there will be these lines of the London Overground and Transport for London.

  • The Chingford Branch Line
  • The Enfield Town Branch
  • The Southbury Loop Line
  • Romford to Upminster Line
  • Crossrail and Crossrail 2

Which are closely related and often connect to Abellio’s routes.

All these lines, will be served by a high-proportion of Aventras.

So the question has to be asked, if Abellio and London Overground will fit all their Aventras with onboard energy storage to handle the energy generated by regenerative braking.

If you think that I’m speculating, then I suggest you read this article  in the Railway Gazette from 2007, entitled Wayside and on-board storage can capture more regenerated energy.

Back To Contents

46. Why So Many Bi-Mode Flirts?

According the entry for Abellio Greater Anglia and other sources, Abellio are ordering the following bi-mode Flirts, for their Future Fleet.

  • 14 x three-car
  • 24 x four-car

Currently, the franchise has the following diesel trains.

That is a 46% increase in the number of trains and a 145% increase in the number of carriages.

As the three-cars seem to be about the right number for the branch lines, with perhaps a couple of the very much needed attrition spares, what are Abellio going to do with twenty-four four-car trains?

These could be estimates for the number of trains to provide the service

  • London-Ipswich-Lowestoft-Yarmouth – 2 additional trains for direct London services.
  • Norwich-Stansted – 4 trains
  • Ipswich-Cambridge – 2 trains
  • Peterborough-Colchester – 4 trains

Which all adds up to twelve trains.

So are perhaps Abellio  going to run eight-car trains on all their longer routes?

This may be wrong, but it is one explanation and some of the routes are very crowded at times.

Abellio have done their sums and know the answers to the following and other questions.

  • Where do East Anglian passengers travel?
  • Does increasing train size, attract more passengers?
  • What is the effect of doubling frequency of a service?
  • How much will it cost to get all platforms to accept eight-car trains?
  • Where are their trains congested?

They also have applied a lot of Dutch risk avoidance, in that Bombardier could have built all the new trains, but they probably wouldn’t have the capacity and would have to design a suitable train for the unelectrified routes. So the split order with a lot of bi-modes meant the all-new-train objective could be met.

There is another factor involved, which is highlighted in this article in the Railway Gazette, which is entitled Stadler Rail switches its focus from east to west.

The article describes how the company will be concentrating on the UK and the USA, rather than Russia and the Middle East. In the last couple of years, Stadler have got involved in three substantial orders for the UK.

  • The new trains for the Glasgow subway.
  • The Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives, with the purchase of Vossloh-Espana.
  • These Flirt trains for Abellio.

As the Swiss company Furrer + Frey, is also heavily involved in the UK’s rail electrification, the Swiss railway industry is certainly on a roll.

So I would expect that Abellio and their leasing company got a very good price, as obviously, the Flirt is a proven train, that is well suited to the UK’s ageing rail infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see how the Abellio timetable changes, with all of this Flirting.

The only certainty, is that it is a massive increase in capacity away from the electrified routes in East Anglia.

Back To Contents

47. Long Distance Routes

When I first saw the number of four-car bi-mode Flirts, one of my first thought was that Abellio would be taking over the long distance routes to the North and West.

Currently, there are two long distance routes linking East Anglia to the North and West.

  • Norwich to Liverpool run by East Midlands Trains.
  • Birmingham tro Stansted Airport run by Cross-Country.

Possibly by the end of the franchise, these routes will be joined by the third to Oxford using the East West Rail Link.

Flirts would be ideal for these routes.

On the other hand, running services to Birmingham, Liverpool and Oxford would mean the company had to set up a support base at the end of each route.

So perhaps a better scheme would be to ensure that good services  connect East Anglia to the following.

  • Peterborough for services to the East Midlands, North and Scotland.
  • Cambridge South for the East West Rail Link and its connections to the West, Wales and the West Midlands.

The one link that is currently missing is a direct service between Norwich and Peterborough.

As other companies develop hubs around the fringes of East Anglia, I think that we might see extra services creeping across the franchise boundaries to the mutual benefit of both train companies.

If you think East Anglian railways are bad, you ought to look at Lincolnshire. The East Coast Main Line may run through the the west of the county, but towns in the East including the important city of Lincoln are worse served by passenger trains than Southminster is now!

I could see the next East Midlands franchise making a big thing about improving services in Lincolnshire, with perhaps making Lincoln an important rail hub.

The new franchise might also make better use of the recently upgraded Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Line to create an alternative Peterborough to Doncaster service via Spalding, Sleaford and Lincoln. Flirts running this line on a two tph basis could be a big winner with passengers and would certainly improve services between Lincoln and London.

But could Abellio and Network Rail join the party?


  • The Joint Line used to link Spalding and March.
  • A lot of freight trains run between Felixstowe and Doncaster on their way to the North and Scotland.
  • Signs are that the Bramley Line will be reopened to passenger traffic, as I indicated in New Lines.

Reopening the Southern end of the Joint Line, would enable Flirts to run a service between Doncaster, Lincoln, Ely, Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

The East West Rail Link obviously with its connection to Oxford and Reading, solves the problems of getting between East Anglia and Wales and the West, without going through London.

But it will also connect to Bedford for the Midland Main Line and Milton Keynes for the West Coast Main Line.


I don’t think we’ll see Abellio running many long distance services, but they will improve connectivity to the hubs of Peterborough, Ely, Cambridge South and possibly Lincoln.



August 10, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

More On The Class 88

The Class 88 locomotives will be arriving soon in the UK.

I have found this article on the inCumbria web site, which gives more details of their introduction by the Cumbrian-based company; DRS.

This is a quote from Stadler, who manufacture the Class 88 locomotive.

“As our first dual locomotive, new functionalities of control software have been validated as dynamic mode changing between electrical operation to diesel operation (and vice versa) and fine tuning of automatic speed control.

So it would appear that a Class 88 from Felixstowe could use diesel power on the branch and then once on the Great Eastern Main Line, switch to electric power without stopping.

It is certainly a locomotive for the UK, with its multitude of lines without electrification.

I do wonder, if we’re going to see Class 88s working passenger trains in East Anglia. After all two of their sister Class 68 locomotives and a rake of coaches are currently providing cover for a Class 170 train, damaged in a level crossing accident.

Years ago, when the London Norwich expresses were steam and diesel hauled, some of the services were extended to Great Yarmouth. But that line was not electrified.

There also used to be direct expresses to Norwich via the West Anglia Main Line and the Breckland Line, which is a route that is only electrified to Ely.

The Class 88 locomotive is a 160 kph locomotive with regenerative braking, whereas the current Class 90 locomotives working the Norwich trains, are a less powerful 180 kph locomotive without regenerative braking.

The rakes of coaches on the Norwich route will have to be scrapped or updated to meet the new regulations, but as Chiltern Railways have shown, the classic Mark 3 coaches have more lives than the most streetwise of cats.

So could we see, just a few moths into the new franchise, Class 88s being used in East Anglia to provide new services.

If nothing else, the appearance of an appropriately liveried brand-new Class 88 on a London-Norwich service on Day 1 of the new franchise, would be an important statement of intent.

As the new TransPennine franchise is going to use new rakes of Mark 5 coaches pulled by Class 68 locomotives, as I wrote about in TransPennine Express Buys Spanish Trains, I wonder if instead of buying new electric multiple units for London to Norwich, that the new franchise will use Class 88 locomotives and Mark 5 coaches.


August 6, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment