I went to football at Ipswich today.
The match was a bit mediocre, but the result was the right one and Grant Ward scored a delightful goal.
Usually, after a three o’oclock kick-off, I try to get the fast 17:09 train back to Liverpool Street, where it is scheduled to arrive at 18:19 after two stops at Manningtree and Colchester. I can’t ever remember this train ever being later than more than a couple of minutes.
Today, instead of the usual rake of Mark 3 coaches pulled by a Class 90 locomotive, the train was a Class 321 electric multiple unit. I suspect the change of train was due to engineering works on the line North of Ipswich and the fact that London-Norwich services were being run as two separate services; London-Ipswich and Ipswich-Norwich.
From Colchester, which was left on time, after a stop of perhaps three minutes, the train ran non-stop to London, probably at about an average speed of 100 mph or nearly so.
I didn’t notice any slackening of speed at Shenfield, and after just 59 minutes, the train was passing through Stratford.
We eventually stopped outside Liverpool Street to wait for a platform at 64 minutes and finally stopped in platform 10 at Liverpool Street station at 67 minutes, three minutes ahead of schedule.
This article in the East Anglian Daily Times, is entitled Faster trains to Ipswich as part of new franchise.
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.
So it looks like Abellio aren’t that far from 64 minutes with a nearly thirty-year-old British Rail designed and built Class 321 train.
- Judging by the smooth ride all the way, I suspect that most of the track and overhead wires is now to a good standard.
- Perhaps a minute or so can be saved in each of the two stops, by the better acceleration, braking and door systems of the new Stadler Flirts.
- Better signalling and control of trains at Liverpool Street would surely save a couple of minutes.
Having seen a full station at Ipswich, when I arrived for the match, I suspect that work needs to be done at that station, to create more capacity for Cambridge, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Peterborough trains, so that London-Norwich services are not slowed by full platforms at Ipswich.
But overall, I’m led to the conclusion, that Jamie Burles statement is substantially correct.
I suspect that once all of the trains on the line are 100 mph trains, with a fast 100-0-100 mph profile for stops, that we’ll be approaching that 64 minute average for trains between Ipswich and London.
I suspect for the magic 60 minutes to be obtained consistently by all trains, that the following will have to be done.
- Enough extra platform space is created at Ipswich so that London-Norwich and London-Lowestoft services have exclusive use of the current platforms 2 and 3.
- All electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line needs to be of a high standard and capable of handling regenerative braking.
- Crossrail needs to be fully integrated with longer distance East Anglian Services.
- The Southend to Shenfield Line needs to be updated, so it can reliably present and accept trains to fit the schedule at Shenfield
- All trains are either Stadler Flirts or ombardier Aventras, with perhaps a few 100 mph trains awaiting replacement.
- Liverpool Street station has enough platforms for the longer trains.
I suspect too, that Network Rail will have to do some smaller work, like lengthening some platforms, adjusting the signalling and adding a crossover.
With some work North of Ipswich, I suspect that Norwich in Ninety will be implemented at the same time as Ipswich in Sixty.
This article in the Derby Telegraph is entitled Derby workers on tenterhooks over contract worth BILLIONS. (Note the newspaper’s capitals!)
It states that the new East Anglian Franchise could be announced tomorrow, as it is supposed to be settled in June, and that the order for new trains is between Bombardier and Siemens.
I can’t believe that given the current Euro-turmoil in the country, that Siemens will be given this order.
I think that we can assume that based on London Overgroun’s contract for Class 710 trains, where this is said.
In July 2015 TfL announced that it had placed a £260m order for 45 4-car Bombardier Aventra EMUs
That a new four-car Aventra train will cost around £6million. I would suspect that Siemens Desiro City would probably be around the same price.
So for a billion pounds, you would get around a hundred and thirty trains.
As I said in Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?, one twelve-car Class 387 train, could fulfil the franchise requirement of two fast trains a day on the Great Eastern Main Line in both directions. It might even be possible to deliver it, early in 2017, now that it appears production of Class 387 trains might be able to continue.
The Derby Telegragh article talks about Aventra trains, but unlike Class 387 trains, these would not be available until probably 2019, at the earliest.
But Aventras for the flagship London-Ipswich-Norwich route could be delivered with all or part of this specification.
- Up to twelve-cars.
- Walk-through capability. Thameslink’s Bedford to Brighton serrvice will be like this, so why not?
- A specially-design business- and commuter-friendly interior.
- 125 mph capability to give all services Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty.
- A buffet car could be provided.
- An IPEMU capability, so a direct Yarmouth service could be introduced.
Some might mourn the passing of the much-loved and well-used Mark 3 coaches, but the Great Eastern Main Line would have one of the best commuting trains in Europe.
I estimate that six sets would be needed to provide two trains per hour in 90 minutes between Norwich and London.
Currently, they have sixteen sets with eight coaches.
If the trains had an IPEMU-capability, which is possible, but of course hasn’t been announced, these trains could also work Norwich to London via the Breckland Line and the West Anglia Main Line, serving Thetford, Ely, the new Cambridge North, Cambridge and Tottenham Hale. Currently, this route would take just under three hours with a change at Cambridge. What time a 125 mph electric train could manage, is pure speculation, but a time of two and a half is probably possible, with some track improvements on the route.
So could we see the current hourly, Norwich to Cambridge service on this route, serving Cambridge North and extended to London? It would give advantages to passengers, the operator and Network Rail.
- The improved connectivity between Cambridge and Norwich would spread the benefits of the Fenland Powerhouse to Norwich and Norfolk.
- Norfolk would get a third direct route to the capital, after the Great Eastern Main Line and the Fen Line.
- Norwich services would have a same platform interchange to Thameslink at one or possibly both Cambridge stations.
- One of the Northern bay platforms at Cambridge would be used more efficiently, as most Norwich services would be through trains.
- The trains could be identical or very similar to those serving the Great Eastern Main Line.
- The route would be available as a diversionary route between Norwich and London, should the |Great Eastern Main Line be closed.
- There would be no major electrification needed.
To provide an hourly service, I think that three trains will be needed.
The Great Eastern Main Line to Ipswich and the western route to Ely, have platforms long enough for twelve-car trains. North from Ipswich, they can certainly take ten-car trains, as that is the effective length of the current stock.
So will the stock be eight- or twelve-car trains? It could be either, with perhaps some platform lengthening on the western route.
The minimum number of trains would be six for the Great Eastern Main Line and three for the western route. It would probably be prudent to call it ten trains.
I think adding in a bit extra for 125 mph and IPEMU-capabilities and a custom interior, that prices could be of the order of.
- £20million for an eight-car train or £200million for ten.
- £30million for a twelve-car train or £300million for ten.
That’s not billions!
Shorter units of perhaps four-car or eight-car formations with an IPEMU-capability, could run the following routes.
- Ipswich to Cambridge
- Ipswich to Ely and Peterborough.
- Ipswich to Lowestoft, if some form of charging could be provided at Lowestoft.
Four trains of eight-cars for these Ipswich-based routes, would be another £80million.
Still not billions!
This leads me to the conclusion, that a large number of other electric trains in the franchise will be replaced.
- I believe for Norwich in Ninety, all trains north of Colchester need to have a 110 mph-capability or better.
- Some trains are very tired, dated and lack capacity.
- Some could have an IPEMU-capability for working the branch lines that don’t have electrification.
In the present franchise there are the following trains working the Great Eastern Main Line and the West Anglia Main Line
All are of four cars.
If all except the nearly-new Class 379 trains, were replaced with Aventras, that would cost about £950million including the IPEMUs for the branch lines.
I think that if they can develop a sensible way of charging trains at Lowestoft, Sherringham and Yarmouth, this would give the following advantages.
- Every train would be a new or nearly-new electric multiple unit.
- Some trains would have an IPEMU capability to handle lines without electrification.
- Every train would be able to use regenerative braking to save energy.
- There would be a large increase in capacity.
- Most services would be faster and not just Norwich and Ipswich to London.
- New trains into Southend to compete with c2c.
- Trains would be available to serve the new Cambridge North station.
- A possible London to Lowestoft service could be run.
- .Services between Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough could be increased.
- March to Wisbech could be added to the network.
- Diversionary routes from Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough to London have been created.
- No new electrification of a substantial nature.
- Some quality diesel trains would be released to other operators.
As I indicated earlier, if it was decided to fulfil the requirements of Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty, early in the franchise, this could be done with some Class 387 trains.
If this happens, it will be a substantial improvement on the current service.
East Anglia will have been totally-electrified for passenger services, with all the electrification being done in a new, modern factory in Derby.
I don’t know what will happen, but unless something like this does, I can’t see how Bombardier will get the order for billions of pounds of new trains, as reported in the Derby Telegraph.
Engineering is the science of the possible!
In Are More Class 387 Trains On The Way?, I postulated that Bombardier may have the capability to build more Class 387 trains, and that they could be used on services between Liverpool Street, Ipswich and Norwich.
There are several problems and possible problems with the current trains.
- The Class 90s are approaching thirty years old.
- The Class 90s have had maintenance issues in the past.
- The Class 90s don’t have regenerative braking.
- The sewage discharge from the toilets in the Mark 3 coaches, doesn’t meet the latest regulations.
- The doors on the Mark 3 coaches, don’t meet the latest regulations or the expectation of passengers.
- The doors must lengthen stops at stations. I wonder what is the difference between these trains and say a Class 390 train!
- Entrance and exit from the Mark 3 coaches is not step-free.
- Ride in the Mark 3 coaches is good, but the quality of the seating and number of tables in standard class, leaves a lot to be desired.
- Wi-fi is not to the standard passengers expect these days.
- Effectively you get eight coaches of passengers in a train the length of ten cars, that is running on a line with 12-car platforms.
- The trains can’t serve Great Yarmouth.
Refurbishment is being applied to the train sets, but will that be good enough?
Updating the line’s, sixteen rakes of eight carriages would be a totally different matter to Chiltern’s creation of their superb sets of six carriages.
- Would fixing the doors and the toilets on a hundred and thirty carriages be economic?
- Is there the capacity to do the rebuild?
- Fifteen trains are probably needed to run the service, so how long would it take to upgrade sixteen trains one after the other?
- New carriages from the only source I know; CAF would mean waiting a few years.
In addition, this is said under proposed developments of the Great Eastern Main Line in Wikipedia.
In November 2013 an upgrade of the GEML to enable London-Norwich express services to achieve an improved journey time of 90 minutes was announced, this indicated that a raised line speed of 110 mph would be required and the replacement of the existing Mark 3 rolling stock with new inter-city rolling stock.
So it looks like Norwich in Ninrty isn’t on with the current trains. Could this be the reason, why the specification for the new franchise specifies just two fast trains per day in each direction?
The East Anglian Express
The starting point for this would be three Gatwick Express-style Class 387 trains working as a 12-car unit.
- Twelve cars would be able to run on the line’s long platforms.
- The Gatwick-style interior, without the extra luggage capacity, would be a good starting point for what is needed.
- It would certainly be able to maintain 110 mph for large parts of the route from London to Norwich.
- An IPEMU version would be available.
- Delivery could be as early as 2018.
What would be the issues raised by replacing the current trains with twelve-car Class 387 trains?
Capacity is a problem on the services between London and Norwich.
It is a problem, despite passengers being squeezed in tightly.
At present the current trains have eight carriages, but Class 387 trains on Gatwick Express regularly run with twelve carriages.
I think that we can assume that, twelve-car electric multiple units are possible from London to Norwich, perhaps after some platform lengthening.
I can’t find any reliable figures on the Internet as to capacity, so I’ll have to resort to riding on the trains and counting seats.
Certainly, the Class 387 trains have more tables.
I don’t know if the acceleration of the Class 387 trains or the current trains is better.
But the Class 387 train has a power of 2,250 HP or 750 HP per carriage, whereas the current train has an installed power of just 1,250 HP or 156 HP per carriage.
I know it’s a bit of a comparison between apples and oranges, but it would appear that the Class 387 train has more power per carriage and might accelerate faster.
It may surprise some people, but if you want a train to run fast over a route with stops, you need efficient and high quality braking systems. The Class 387 train has the latest regenerative braking, whereas the current train has technology from thirty years ago.
As the Class 360 trains, that share the line to Ipswich have regenerative braking, I suspect that some parts of the line is built to accept returned energy, but is all of it?
With Class 387 trains, there is always the option to make them IPEMUs, so that braking energy is stored on the train and used to give extra acceleration on pulling away from the station.
Obviously, the faster the line speed, the quicker the journey time. At present it is 100 mph and the current trains are 110 mph capable as are the Class 387 trains.
So it looks like a bigger increase in performance can come by giving as much of the track as possible a 110 mph line speed.
Remember too, that between Haughley Junction and Norwich, the only significant feature of the line is the stop at Diss, so I would suspect it would almost be 110 mph all the way. As you’re looking for savings of thirty minutes or so between London and Norwich, I wonder if this section of line could be even faster.
Several factors determine the speed of calling at a station in a train.
- How fast the train can brake from line speed and stop in the station.
- How long it takes the passengers to get off and on the train.
- Good design of the train-platform interface, with wide doors, large lobbies and just a step across all helping.
- How fast the train can accelerate back up to line speed.
- Well-trained staff.
There are obviously other factors like waiting for other trains to connect or clear signals, but these will effect all trains.
Because of their better design, faster acceleration and regenerative braking, I think that the Class 387 trains will save something at every stop over the current trains.
I also think we’ll see stops reduced to an absolute minimum on the fastest trains, which might only stop at Ipswich and Colchester.
Interaction With Stopping Trains
I will make an assumption that London to Norwich trains will never run more frequently than four trains per hour. As it is currently two trains per hour, I think that is a reasonable assumption.
From Liverpool Street to Shenfield, there will be occasional trains stopping at perhaps, Stratford, Ilford and Romford, but with a fifteen minute window between fast expresses, I suspect everything could be fitted in, especially as local trains and passengers will use the frequent Crossrail.
Shenfield to Colchester is the difficult bit, as there are trains to Colchester Town, Clacton, Frinton and Walton to accommodate on the double-track main line.
North of Colchester it gets easier, with the only section with serious levels of traffic being the stretch between Ipswich and Haughley Junction, where freight trains to and from Felixstowe run along the double-track main line.
One way of easing the problem would be to make as many trains as possible on the line capable of running at line speed. The thirteen-year-old Class 360 trains are only capable of 100 mph.
Perhaps the expensive part of Norwich in Ninety is replacing the Class 360 trains with more Class 387 trains or some other 110 mph train?
The Digital Railway
Network Rail’s Digital Railway must surely help in running trains at up to 110 mph on some of the busier parts of the line.
Crossrail is going to have effects on the Great Eastern Main Line.
- Crossrail will mean that between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, a lot fewer trains will stop on the fast lines.
- Would it be possible to have 110 mph running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield?
- Journeys like Diss to Goodmayes and Ipswich to Ilford should be quicker and easier.
- If Norwich services stop at Shenfield and/or Stratford, how many passengers will transfer to Crossrail?
But we will have to wait until Crossrail opens to see how it changes travel patterns.
Stopping At Shenfield
One consequence of swifter stops is that an extra stop at Shenfield might be possible. This would connect to Crossrail, Southend and Southend Airport.
If you stop at Shenfield, there might be less need to stop at Stratford.
But passenger statistics will decide what is best.
The current service has a buffet car. The Henry Blofelds of this world like to enjoy their train travel, so something better than a trolley service must be provided.
But that is a design issue, not one to do with the actual trains!
If the trains were fixed twelve-car formations, First Class might be in cars 1-3, with a buffet/shop in car 4. Car 1 would be the London end of the train.
There are several services in East Anglia, that could benefit from the intreoduction of new modern electric trains of at least four-cars.
- London to Norwich via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.
- London to Great Yarmouth via Norwich.
- Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough
All routes are electrified and would be possible with a Class 387 train with an IPEMU capability.
Delivery And Introduction Into Service
If we assume that the two Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty are to start as soon as possible, then it will be a challenging condition to meet.
Suppose, that delivery of just one twelve-car train is possible at an early date, how could it be used?
Currently, the first three trains out of Norwich leave at 05:00, 05:30 and 06:00 taking a few minutes under two hours to Liverpool Street.
Let’s suppose that after running into London in ninety minutes non-stop or with just a stop at Ipswich, it arrives back in Norwich perhaps three hours and twenty minutes later.
The train that left at 05:00 could now form the 08:30 to London and do the trip in ninety minutes, provided it could thread its way through the traffic between Colchester and Shenfield.
Obviously, the 05:30 and 06:00 trains could form the 09:00 and 09:30 trains to London respectively.
But Norwich has got two ninety minute high-capacity East Anglian Express services to London with the delivery of just one 12-car train.
Obviously, in the evening the reverse would happen.
In fact, they might get more than two Norwich in Ninety services, as I doubt the train would sit around all day in a siding. If the pattern of a Norwich in Ninety service every three and a half hours through the day, there would be at least five services possible.
Two new trains would mean that say all on the hour departures from Norwich were Norwich in Ninety, with the existing stock performing as now on the half hour.
As only one train is needed to meet the franchise requirement, are there alternative trains that could be used? The train would need.
- 110 mph or greater top speed.
- Preferably electric power, as diesel-powered would be a backward step.
- At least eight carriages.
- A quality interior.
I don’t think a second-hand train would be good enough, as East Anglia has had enough of hand-me-downs!
The only suitable train, that the new East Anglian Franchise could obtain, would be a twelve-car Class 379 train, which is a close relation of the Class 387 train.
- The Class 379 trains are in service with Abellio Greater Anglia on Stanstead Express and Cambridge services.
- They are only a 100 mph train, but probably could be uprated to 110 mph.
But that would ask the question of what would fill in on the West Anglia Main Line.
The Final Solution
I feel that by using every trick in the book, that a suitable train can be found, that could do Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty at least twice a day.
I suspect it would only need one train to meet the franchise requirement.
But two trains a day from Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty will not satisfy the passengers for long.
Given that all the 100 mph Class 360 and Class 321 trains on the line, slow everything down, I can see these trains being updated or replaced with 110 mph units.
In addition to the services I mentioned under Extra Services, there are several lines that could benefit from trains fitted with IPEMU technology.
Could we be seeing a large order for Aventra trains or something similar soon after the franchise is awarded. Some trains would need a 125 mph capability for Norwich services and some would have an IPEMU capability for the lines without electrification.
I have come to the conclusion that Class 387 trains can probably do Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty from London.
I think though to achieve this, the following must happen.
- Line speed is raised to 110 mph in all places possible.
- Bottlenecks like the Trowse Bridge are minimised.
- Stops will be cut to an absolute minimum on the fastest trains.
- The Class 360 and Class 321 trains must also be replaced with 110 mph trains.
- The Digital Railway will play its part.
I do think though that to get all London to Norwich trains to ninety minutes, that it might need a faster train with a speed of 125 mph on the line north of Haughley Junction, which would be upgraded for perhaps 120 mph.
But I don’t know how much good engineers can squeeze out of the current 100 mph line on the long straights North of Haughley.
Tuesday night football at Ipswich, and probably Colchester, is a difficult and overly expensive journey, when you have to trouble out for a kick-off at 19:45 using the crowded trains of the rush hour, which charge you more for your pleasure.
Normally if I want to go to Ipswich on a Saturday, it costs me £26.25 for an Off Peak Return from Liverpool Street with a Senior Railcard. But last night, on a Tuesday it would have cost me £50.65.
But Crossrail has come into play with the takeover of the Shenfield Metro by TfL Rail, which means I can use my Freedom Pass to Shenfield for nothing. Younger people, using Oyster or contactless cards have seen a reduction in cost, which some publicity claims is 40%.
So last night, as I had to stop off at Forest Gate on the way, I took TfL Rail to Shenfield in the rush hour.
I then exited the station, had a coffee in one of several nice independent cafes around the station and then re-entered after buying a return ticket from Shenfield to Ipswich, which got me to the ground at a convenient time for the match.
It was all very civilised and for most of the way, I had a seat and was able to sit comfortably and read the paper, as most of the other passengers had departed by Witham.
And for this I paid the princely sum of £16.75, which is approximately a third of the regular price. Here’s the proof.
I shall be going this way again, especially as I have friends in Shenfield, with whom I could share a drink.
This is a substantial benefit to anybody living in London with a Freedom Pass, who needs to go to anywhere in the South Eastern portion of East Anglia.
You’ve always been able to buy tickets from the Zone 6 Boundary, but the trouble with that is Harold Wood, which isn’t as well connected as Shenfield. You also have difficulty buying these tickets on-line and usually have to go to a booking office.
If you don’t have a Freedom Pass, using contactless cards to Shenfield on TfL Rail and then using an onward ticket from Shenfield may well be cheaper for the whole journey.
Of course, if you bought your onward ticket from Shenfield before you travelled, all you would do is get off one train at Shenfield and get on another to your ultimate destination.
The only drawback is that the journey via Shenfield is slower.
Currently, Ipswich is about 70 minutes from Liverpool Street, but when the Norwich in Ninety improvements are completed, I think we could see this time reduced to 60 minutes or even less. New trains with sliding doors would help too!
Shenfield is 43 minutes from Liverpool Street at the moment, but Crossrail will reduce this by a couple of minutes. Ipswich is probably an hour past Shenfield, but Norwich in Ninety must reduce this.
The biggest change could come when Crossrail opens and there is a new East Anglian rail franchise. If I was bidding for the new franchise, I would stop a proportion of the fast London-Colchester-Ipswich-Norwich trains at Stratford, Romford or Shenfield to interface with Crossrail, so that the journeys for passengers were optimised to get as many on board as possible., to maximise my company’s profits and hopefully my bonus.
Norwich in Ninety plus Crossrail can only mean that house prices in East Anglia will continue to rise.
The big addition for me is Shenfield, as although I don’t go there often, I could use it as the station to get my train for football at Ipswich.
I would have to change trains twice, but I could still arrive on the same 13:43 train into Ipswich.
But by using TfL Rail to Shenfield and then Abellio Greater Anglia from there, my Saturday Off-Peak Return, drops from £26.25 to £16.75, which is a saving of £9.50.
Similar savings even occur for a Tuesday evening match, as the cheapest fare drops from £28.70 to £19.35. It would also appear that you just buy an Off Peak Return, which is a saving in aggravation.
I’m only working on the current timetable, but I suspect that a new Anglia franchisee in a couple of years time, might stop all of the Ipswich and Norwich trains at Shenfield for Crossrail. It will probably be quicker to go from Liverpool Street, but there will be a lot of possibilities for saving money.
I also suspect that, when Crossrail opens, then Reading, like Heathrow and Shenfield, will appear on the Freedom Pass map, so instead of going to Paddington, will I join trains to Wales and the West Country at Reading.
The biggest effect on the economy of the spreading of the Freedom Pass, will be that more and more retirees will move into the capital, thus fuelling the rise in house prices.
So perhaps the best way to spend that pension pot is to buy a place in London.
There has been a lot of anger from Ipswich Town about the lack of communication from Abellio Greater Anglia over weekend closures of the Great Eastern Main Line. This report on the BBC gives full details.
I took the 12:03 train out of Liverpool Street for Billericay. I had checked on the Internet and knew that this train gave me an arrival in Ipswich around two. But there had been a decided lack of information at Liverpool Street.
1. The staff seemed to have not been well-briefed.
2. Where were the informational posters, saying something like This way for all Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich passengers?
The consequences was that there was a lot of confusion and an elderly couple travelling to Colchester with me didn’t know whether they should get out at Shenfield or Billericay. I wonder how many passengers missed the stop at Billericay and ended up at Southend!
One thing to which I’m right to object, is that I was paying the same £25.60 for a Senior Standard Class single, that I would pay on Monday for a similar ticket on a faster train all the way to Ipswich in just over an hour. Compare this with the price of £35.45, that I typically pay for a Senior First Class Return.
Abellio Greater Anglia also provided a Class 321 train without a toilet. Or at least I couldn’t find one. Many passengers would have expected a proper train with facilities and a rather tired Class 321 wasn’t good enough.
At Billericay, the system was much better organised and I even found a toilet. But then the town is in Essex and the county knows how to live on scraps and hand-me-downs.
I can’t complain about the coach that was provided either, except that it took what seemed to be an age to get to Ipswich.
There wasn’t much chaos at Ipswich, and I was able to enter the station to get a much-needed cup of hot chocolate.
The journey had taken two hours as against a normal direct journey of just over an hour. And of course for no reduction in price.
Coming home, I decided that it was better to go the long way round via Cambridge, where I could get a snack and then a train to Tottenham Hale. At least I got a First Class seat all the way, as I had the unused return half of a ticket for the last time I went to Ipswich, when I got a lift back home.
But the train was a rather overcrowded Class 170 train, although I did have a comfortable seat in First. But judging by the number of passengers on the 17:20 train after a match with Ipswich riding high in the Championship, a three car train is not big enough.
I just missed the connecting Tottenham Hale train, so I had to wait in the cold. But I did have time for a pit-stop and to purchase a snack in the Marks and Spencer in the station.
Normally, I get home about seven, but I didn’t get home until nine.
A couple of seasons ago, my getting to Portman Road for the football was made very difficult, as virtually every match was difficult because of works on the line and it meant getting on a bus for most of the day.
So now Network Rail is sorting out the ballast on the track and from the 31st of January until the 22nd of March there will be no direct trains between London, Ipswich and Norwich at weekends.
A typical journey will now take nearly two hours, as opposed to the just over one it normally does. As that is twice, I really must get a lift up and back from somewhere.
Luckily it would appear to only be three matches; Wigan (31st Jan), Reading (21st Feb) and Brentford (7th Mar), as most in the period seem to be on Tuesday evening or we’re away at easier places to get to like Rotherham or Middlesbrough.
Tuesday night matches seem to be OK at the moment. Although, if we have extra time and penalties in the FA Cup replay on Wednesday, getting home might be tricky. As I write this there is a lot of anger on the forums complaining about no late trains after the match to Cambridge, Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
For the Norwich match on the first of March, which thankfully has a 14:05 start, it looks more feasible to go via Kings Cross and change at Cambridge.
Obviously, the ballast cleaning has to be done, but Abellio Greater Anglia could have used this disruption to fans getting to and from matches as a vehicle to show how well they can deal with adversity, instead of getting the old tired solutions out of the box.
For example, Abellio Greater Anglia have several rakes of Mark 3 coaches that run the services up the East Anglian Main Line. Could they not use a diesel locomotive to on match days run a football special either via or from Cambridge? Properly done, it might retrieve their battered reputation and encourage more people to travel by train.
But they can’t even get their information right. This was a poster at Liverpool Street on Saturday the 10th.
That is unless it’s me who’s got the wrong dates. At least they said the first of January was New Year’s Day. Although, it was a Thursday not a Wednesday.
It would be interesting to know how Norwich fans are coping during this period, as I think quite a few are dependent on using the long-distance trains to get to both home and away matches. Surely, during this interruption, they should seriously think about running direct diesel-hauled services from London to Norwich via Cambridge for all passengers. Does granny visiting Norwich really want to spend hours on a coach, when she booked a comfortable train? Especially, if it’s crammed full with angry football fans worried about missing the match or getting their onward connection in London.
Yet again, Abellio Greater Anglia have shown all the conservatism and arrogance of their Dutch masters, who managed the Fyra fiasco and introduced one of Europe’s worst ticketing systems to piss off foreign visitors.
I’m using football stadia as an example, but it could equally be any other important building, like a hospital or a museum, or any number of sporting venues.
The problem was brilliantly illustrated yesterday at Bournemouth, where I walked the obvious route to Dean Court, that I’d used twice before. But after seeing Bournemouth fans at Pokesdown station turning the other way, I thought there must be a better route. Stewards gave me directions to one, that was the other two sides of a quadrilateral, that was five minutes shorter.
A few signs are all that are needed, with perhaps a few metres of asphalt to make the walking easier.
At Ipswich, you come out of the station and you can see the ground. But there are also maps everywhere for the lost, although for visiting fans there isn’t any indication of where they should go. In this map, away fans go to the bottom right corner of the ground, which is the area of the ground you get to first as you walk up Portman Road.
Since this map was produced, the biggest improvement has been putting the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge across the river. This provides an important walking route between the south western parts of the town and the centre and the football ground.
Note that in this map, the station is indicated by the red arrow symbol, as they are in all the other maps.
There are a few groups in the Premier League and Championship that have their own stops or are less than fifteen minutes from a rail, tube, tram or metro stop.
Arsenal – This has three stations at Arsenal, Finsbury Park and Highbury and Islington.
Aston Villa – The stations are Aston and Witton
Chelsea – Take your pick from Fulham Broadway, Imperial Wharf and West Brompton
Crystal Palace – Norwood Junction is five minutes away.
Hull City – There is a walking route from Hull station.
Manchester City – Take the Metrolink to Etihad Campus.
So could the walking routes to other grounds in the top two divisions, particularly from the nearest rail station, be improved?
The walking route from Bordesley station isn’t very long or difficult, as this map shows.
But it’s just downright dangerous, as there is no pedestrian route around Bordesley Circus. I wrote about it in this post; A Pedestrian Crossing From Hell.
I have heard from Birmingham City Council, who say that something is being done.
If you look at the map, you’ll see the Camp Hill Line passing at the side of the ground. If Birmingham City are ever successful and need to rebuild the ground, if feasible planning permission should include a station at the new stadium.
It is a long term aspiration of Birmingham City Council to open this line to passenger traffic. The way the tide is turning in favour of rail, I wouldn’t bet against this happening.
I usually go to the ground by Blackburn, as I usually change trains for the area in Manchester, so that I can get a meal if I need one.
To get between the station and the ground, I normally use a bus, which isn’t as easy as it could be, as the information is rudimentary.
Mill Hill is nearer to the ground and walk-able, as this map shows.
But I think there are two problems with using Mill Hill.
To return to the station would be a walk up the hill.
But the main reason, I would not go to Mill Hill, is that I can’t get a direct train to that station from Manchester. As you have to change trains in Blackburn, I might. just as well get out there and catch a bus.
All this might change when the local lines around Cardiff are electrified, as they seem to be improving stations.
I did get lost though, so I think a few more signposts would help, as would another light-controlled crossing on Derwent Parade.
I wasn’t sorry when Leicester City got promoted, as the walk to get to the stadium is not a short one.
I think it would be helped with some better signs. I generally take the road opposite the station and aim for Welford Road, I pass the rugby ground and you can see the King Power stadium.
This map shows Nottingham station and the two Nottingham football grounds; Meadow Lane and the City Ground.
I have walked between the station and the City Ground probably a dozen times and it’s flat and not a route that has many opportunities to get lost. But as the map shows, you walk alongside a waterway and surely access to this would make the walk more pleasant. It would also help if some improvements could be implemented at both ends of the route.
One thing that I’ve never had explained to me, is why are there no plans to serve the two football grounds and the cricket ground using the Nottingham tram.
The distance isn’t great but it doesn’t appear to be signposted at all. Note that there is a canal and Wigan Pier, that could be on the route,so it could bring visitors to an area that the council is developing, into the Wigan Pier Quarter.
I know where things are in Ipswich very well, but I have no idea about the buses you get for a particular place.
Earlier in the day, a guy had asked me where he could catch a bus to the hospital. I said I didn’t know, so I pointed him in the direction of the bus station.
Whilst I was waiting for a friend to turn up for supper, I found myself on the main Tower Ramparts bus station. So I looked at this list of buses.
The hospital isn’t mentioned. There was also no-one to ask.
But then I was just walking to the football ground and then afterwards to the train. So I wasn’t bothered.
It is hidden away in the Docks and is quite difficult to find. I remember the first time I found it with my mother, after we’d come in on the bus, to look at Ipswich. We’d been looking for the town centre and had walked the wrong way from the bus station. I think we went back soon afterwards and took a bus home.