The Anonymous Widower

Greater Anglia Trains Hit 10-year High For Punctuality

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on North Norfolk News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Greater Anglia has recorded its best figures for punctuality in a decade, latest figures have revealed.

More than nine out of every ten trains ran on time in November, helping the company achieve its best punctuality result for 10 years and second-best of the past 20 years.

That is very good, with punctuality figures very close to a hundred percent.

What the article doesn’t mention, is that Greater Anglia’s trains in Norfolk and Suffolk are now typically step-free, with those in wheelchairs to be able to roll in without a ramp.

How much has this feature contributed to the outstanding punctuality?

December 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Equipmake Opens New Electric Bus Factory In Snetterton

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Expert electrification company, Equipmake, has opened a brand-new factory in Snetterton, Norfolk, which will design and manufacture its fully-integrated electric bus chassis for an increasingly international customer base.

This paragraph sums up their marketing philosophy for their bus chassis.

Equipmake’s innovative electric bus chassis allows any bus coachbuilder to become a full electric bus manufacturer almost overnight. Such is the demand from bus makers wishing to go zero emissions that Equipmake has forged partnerships with companies in Brazil, Argentina and India and grown its UK staff from 15 employees to 52 in a little over two years.

Equipmake certainly seem to be doing something right.

  • They make their own electric motors.
  • They claim to make the world’s most power dense electric motors.

Perhaps, it’s all down to good design?

This paragraph from the press release gives more details of the bus chassis.

Thanks to efficient management of its onboard heating and cooling system, the bus – a 12m single deck model capable of carrying 70 passengers – will have enough electric range for one day’s running without the need for charging. To charge the vehicle, the operator simply needs access to a standard three-phase supply, which will fully charge it in around five hours.

That seems impressive to me!

 

May 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Aerial Pictures Show New Trains Housed In Mid-Norfolk

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Eastern Daily Press.

Greater Anglia has a storage problem for all the new trains being delivered from Stadler in Switzerland.

So the train operating company has done a deal with the Mid Norfolk Railway to store the trains in the depths of deepest Norfolk.

Wikipedia gives more details in a section, entitled Storage Of Main Line Stock.

Working with Abellio Greater Anglia, the Mid-Norfolk Railway have developed a rolling stock storage facility close to their Kimberley Park station. The £3 million sidings have been funded by Abellio Greater Anglia to allow them to store their Class 745 and 755 fleets until they are ready to be in service.

It has also been reported that the site, will be used to store the replaced trains, whilst they await new operators or the scrapyard.

This picture clipped from the Eastern Daily Press article, shows the trains.

Reading the Wikipedia entry for the Mid Norfolk Railway, which is obviously a well-maintained standard gauge heritage railway, it gets used for various rail-related training and other purposes, so as the multi-million pound deal shows, I’m pretty certain there is a lot of co-operation between all parties in Norfolk, including Greater Anglia, Network Rail, Balfour Beatty and the Emergency Services.

Will The Class 755 Trains Return With Passengers?

The following should be noted.

  • Rail tours and charters use the branch and visit Dereham, several times a year.
  • An InterCity 125 has even used the line.
  • Dereham is a town of 19,000 people.
  • Norfolk is a county, that welcomes lots of tourists.
  • Wymondham station will soon have a direct hourly service to and from Stansted Airport.

Given the co-operation between Greater Anglia and the Mid-Norfolk Railway over the train storage, where a long term conveniently-located facility is of benefit to both parties, will we see occasional visits of Class 755 trains to Dereham?

There must be long-term possibilities.

  • Weekend steam trains between Dereham and Norwich, similar to the Shakespeare Express, that runs between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stratford stations.
  • A limited commuter service between Dereham and Norwich.

The Mid-Norfolk Railway’s long term ambition to extend their route past Dereham to reopened stations at County School and Fakenham, would surely increase the viability of these services.

 

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

New Greater Anglia Trains To Be Stored At Heritage Line

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Rail Magazine.

  • Greater Anglia are paying the Mid-Norfolk Railway, three million pounds to store the new trains.
  • The heritage railway will create new sidings and some double track.
  • It looks a good deal and both parties are quoted as being pleased with the deal.

I wonder, if this could be the start of something a lot bigger.

Norfolk County Council and other interests would like to create the Norfolk Orbital Railway to run National Rail services in a circular route starting and finishing at Norwich station and going via Cromer, Sheringham, Dereham and Wymondham stations.

It strikes me that the works proposed by the Mid-Norfolk Railway will improve the route to Dereham.

Dereham and Wymondham are towns with populations of just under nineteen thousand and fourteen thousand respectively and large numbers of residents of the area, commute to Norwich.

  • It could be that a direct service to Norwich might work!
  • Greater Anglia certainly have enough trains for a service of a few trains per day.
  • The infrastructure will be there by Spring 2019.

Given the closeness to Crown Point Depot, could Greater Anglia use the line for testing trains and training drivers?

There is also the problem of Trowse swing bridge, which is one of the biggest bottlenecks on the UK rail network.

Rebuilding is talked about, but it would probably mean services from the South into Norwich station would have to be stopped.

  • Trowse station lies just to the South of the bridge.
  • It was last used in 1986 as a te,temporary terminus during electrification.
  • According to Wikipedia, it could be reactivated.

Would sidings on the Mid-Norfolk Railway be useful for stabling trains, if the bridge was closed for rebuilding?

 

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of Railways In East Anglia

There are several major drivers of growth in the usage of the railways in East Anglia, which for the purpose of this analysis is the four eastern counties of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Freight

The Port of Felixstowe and to a certain extent those of Harwich, Great Yarmouth and London Gateway are going to add considerably to the number of trains trundling around the railways of East Anglia. The interim destinations of these trains for onward journeys to the rest of the country will be London and Peterborough, using either the Great Eastern Main Line, the Ipswich to Ely Line or the London, Tilbury and Southend Line.

The LTS is mentioned as it is being connected to the London Gateway Port by a rail link and not all traffic will be directed through London.

Tourism

East Anglia has always earned a lot of income from a wide variety of tourism, from birdwatching to food and real ale and sailing to horse racing.

Many of the tourism hot-spots for East Anglia like Norwich and Cambridge already have a good rail service, although much of it is London-centric. Other places like Newmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Great Yarmouth have the rail links, but don’t have frequent trains, but there are tourism hot-spots that are difficult to get to by public transport.

High Technology

Driven by Cambridge, high technology will be a big driver of growth in the area, but how will it effect the railways?

It already has.in that a station is being built at Cambridge Science Park, although I didn’t see any sign of construction, as I passed through yesterday. But the station is scheduled to open in 2016.

Just as with tourism everywhere, the high-technology sector in Cambridge, will generate increased passenger traffic. Just as London uses every place it can find in the South East of England as a dormitory, Cambridge will draw in workers from all the nearby towns.

But the high-technology itself will spill out from Cambridge into the surrounding towns, further increasing demand for rail services in places like Norwich, Peterborough, Newmarket and Bury St. Edmunds and possibly even unfashionable towns like Haverhill and Ipswich.

Thameslink

When Thameslink opens to Cambridge in 2018, it will be a massive feeder of passengers into the western side of East Anglia. The provisional timetable shows four semi-fast 12-car Class 700 trains to Cambridge every hour, as opposed to the two 8-car Class 365 trains at present. This will go a long way to reversing the dominant commuter flow from into London to out of London.

Incidentally, no plans have been published about what happens to the Kings Cross-Cambridge-Kings Lynn service using Class 365 trains after Thameslink opens.

If it is assumed that the current trains still go into Kings Cross, then that would mean about a quadrupling of the number of seats between Kings Cross/St. Pancras and Cambridge in each hour. If they don’t it’ll be a tripling of seats.

I know the line is crowded, but this does seem a hell of a lot of seats.

Crossrail

You might say that an east-west cross-London link won’t have any effect on East Anglia! But it will! And in ways we just don’t expect!

A fellow Ipswich supporter drives up to every home match from near Tonbridge over the Dartford Crossing and up the A12. He has stated that after Crossrail, he’ll drive to Abbey Wood and get the train to Liverpool Street for a fast train to Ipswich. I suspect Crossrail with its direct access to Liverpool Street, Heathrow and Reading will alter the travel habits of many travellers, going to and from East Anglia.

Improved Electrification

To my untrained eye, the overhead electrification being erected in the Liverpool-Preston-Manchester triangle is going up a lot faster and more robustly, than we would have expected a few years ago.

We’re just getting much better at it!

Remember too, that one of the major costs f railway electrification is getting the power to the track. Where electrification is tacked on to an existing system, it is a lot easier and more affordable.

Improved Signalling

Over the next decade signalling will move into the cabs of trains. It is a massive hidden project being undertaken by Network Rail, as is described here. This first two paragraphs say it all.

This tried and tested system will replace traditional railway signals with a computer display inside every train cab, reducing the costs of maintaining the railway, improving performance and enhancing safety.

It will offer a host of benefits to the railway and the application of its cab signalling component, the European Train Control System, ETCS, will spell the end for traditional signalling.

Who’s to say what difference this will make.

If it does nothing else, improved signalling will help slot all those freight trains between the passenger trains.

No More New Diesel Trains

I think it is very unlikely any new diesel trains will be built, although refurbished ones might come available, as lines are electrified.

Are any actually on order at the moment for any line in the UK? There are some Class 66, Class 68 and Class 88 diesel locomotives, but I can’t think of any diesel multiple units in the pipeline.

On the other hand, Thameslink, Crossrail and the London Overground will release a lot of electric multiple units, that will be very good candidates for a full refurbishment.

So what do I think will happen to railways in East Anglia in the near future?

Service Expectations

There are five major stations in East Anglia; Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough. The service frequency between Ipswich and Norwich is one train every half hour, so it is probably a reasonable expectation that this is the frequency between any pair of stations

Outlying stations such as Felixstowe, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft generally get an approximately hourly service from the nearest main town, so this should be maintained.

If we insist on half hour service frequency between Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich, then this means that important stations like Bury St. Edmunds, Diss, Newmarket, Stowmarket and Thetford would get a half hour service frequency too.

This would mean that journeys like I did once from Newmarket to Great Yarmouth changing at Stowmarket and Norwich would be a lot easier.

Norwich in Ninety?

I’ve talked about this before here, and so has the BBC.

With the completion of the Bacon Factory Curve, one of the first projects to achieve the Norwich in Ninety goal has been completed. It will be interesting to see if London to Norwich on-time statistics improve, just as I feel they have on the Felixstowe branch.

I’ve just found this Network Rail press release, about improving the track at Colchester, which is work that is going on now. Will be see a lot more of these smaller engineering-led projects over the next few years to achieve Norwich in Ninety?

I think the answer is yes!

Network Rail’s Great Eastern Main Line engineers have lived off table scraps for years. But now that there is a political will to get something done, the fag packets and used envelopes will be retrieved from the bin and over pints of real ale in country pubs, they will be turned into viable projects.

My only question on Norwich in Ninety is that it is a typical project title chosen to ring well in the press.  I wonder what is the minimum time, that has been revealed by the envelopes.

It certainly won’t be ninety!

You do have to wonder if there is anything more to come from the nearly forty-year-old Class 90 locomotives that push and pull the trains to and from Norwich. The engineers have won awards for the most improved trains, so there can’t be much improvement left. Hopefully any chances in the deterioration of the engines has been minimised.

I certainly look forward to my first sub sixty minute run to Ipswich.

Electrification Of Ipswich To Ely

I would assume, as this line all the way to Peterborough and eventually to Nuneaton has been recently cleared to take the larger freight containers that the line also has sufficient clearance to allow overhead lines to be erected.

So as the number of freight trains on this route is large, this line must be a prime candidate for electrification all the way to Nuneaton. Especially, as it crosses numerous electrifed lines, which would mean getting the power to the line won’t be too difficult.

I also found this article on Railfuture. They say this about creating an East-West electric spine.

Similarly to the already planned Freight Spine from Southampton, one from East to West would also be strategically beneficial. This would involve electrification of the whole line from Felixstowe to Birmingham, already being upgraded to take more freight trains by, for example, the new chord at Nuneaton. Broken down, Felixstowe to Ipswich would also facilitate through electric haulage for freight trains to/through London. Ipswich to Peterborough would gain access to the East Coast Mainline. Peterborough to Leicester (Syston) would do the same in respect of the Midland Main Line. Leicester (Wigston) to Nuneaton for the West Coast Mainline, and Nuneaton to Birmingham for all its freight terminals. A most useful bi-product would be for the Cross Country passenger service from Birmingham to Stansted Airport to convert to electric trains. 

That all seems very sensible. Note the bi-product of releasing some much needed diesel multiple units, which would probably be replaced by larger electric units.

Electrification Of The Felixstowe Branch

As Railfuture said in the extract I used above, if you electrify to Nuneaton, you might as well electrify the Felixstowe branch, as that would virtually make the line electric freight only.

Electrification Of Ipswich To Cambridge

If the main Ipswich to Ely line is electrified, it may seem logical to also electrify the single track Cambridge branch of the line. But this may not be that easy, as there is a tunnel under Warren Hill at Newmarket and the line loading guage of the line hasn’t been updated.

But obviously, if the whole Ipswich to Ely and Cambridge system, it would make it easier to increase passenger capacity due to the easier availability of electric multiple units.

Electrification Of Ely To Norwich

There are no freight reasons to electrify the Breckland Line, but it is effectively fill-in electrification between two electrified lines, which should make it easier.

It is not cleared to a big loading gauge except around Ely, but many of the bridges are new, so I would suspect there wouldn’t be that much expensive bridgework to make the line suitable for electrification.

Unfortunately, the long distance service from Norwich to Liverpool couldn’t be converted to an electric traction, as it will still use non-electrified lines in the Sheffield area, but Nottingham trains could go electric if Nottingham to Grantham was electrified.

Consequences Of Electrification Of Ely To Peterborough

If Ely to Peterborough is electrified and the passenger trains were to run say every thirty minutes, then there would be less need for the diesel trains from Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham, to travel to Ipswich or Norwich, as there would just be a simple change to or from an electric train at Peterborough.

Electric services such as Cambridge to Peterborough via Ely could also be as traffic dictated, rather than infrequent as they are now! Peterborough to Cambridge services are important, as many in Cambridge feel that Peterborough could be a high-technology satellite to Cambridge. There have been proposals to extend the Cambridge Guided Busway to Peterborough, but I suspect a rail link might be preferable to passengers. The current rail service takes fifty minutes and runs once an hour, which isn’t good enough for a lot of people.

Would a frequent service between Cambridge and Peterborough, also improve employment prospects in the area?

Electrification Of The Great Yarmouth Branch

When I first moved back to near Ipswich in the 1970s, the London to Norwich trains went on to Great Yarmouth. Even in the 1980s, I can remember taking a direct train to Great Yarmouth from London to see a horse run at the racecourse there.  But now, there are no direct services, except in the summer.

If the line was electrified, it would surely make it easier to more services to the town and possibly direct services to London.

Perhaps if the Breckland Line was electrified and running at the oreferred half-hour service, then every other train could be extended to Great Yarmouth. Or perhaps all of them?

The possibilities are endless.

One benefit of an electrified railway is that it might breathe new life into the outer harbour, which seems to suffer from white elephant syndrome.

Further Electrification

I don’t think any of the other branches would be worth electrifying.

Last year the electried Braintree branch carried about 800,000 passengers, whereas the Sudbury branch carried about 328,000. Felixstowe incidentally carried about 210,000, but whether that branch gets electrified depends on the freight traffic.

New Stations

East Anglia is already getting one new station at Cambridge Science Park, with another proposed for Great Blakenham, if the SnOasis gets built.

A couple of new stations have been added in East Anglia in recent years and I suspect that in the next few years several could open, especially where new housing or other developments are concerned.

New And Reopened Lines

As I said in the post about the North Norfolk Railway, most schemes for new lines have connotations with pie and sky.

Although, there will be conversion of some lines from single to double track and there could be the odd curve to allow trains to go a better route.

The only line which has been mentioned seriously for reopening, is a freight line between Spalding and March. I can’t find much detail, but I suspect it would allow freight trains from Felixstowe to the North to bypass Peterborough and join up with the GNGE, which I talked about here.

Conclusion

After reading this again in the cold light of day, the key is to electrify the main lines and this gives frequent at least half-hourly services between the major towns and cities.

Isn’t this what Essex has got into Liverpool Street? So we’re only continuing what was started after the Second World War and applying to the rest of East Anglia. If we can have a half hour service between Norwich and Ipswich, surely everyone is entitled to at least that.

 

 

 

June 22, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The North Norfolk Railway

The North Norfolk Railway runs from Sheringham to Holt and is connected by a short stretch of line to the Bittern Line at Sheringham.

As the pictures show, they were showing off their Stanier Class 5 named George Stephenson.

One of the most interesting developments in rail in this area is the proposal for the Norfolk Orbital Railway, which would extend the route of the North Norfolk Railway onwards from Holt to the Ely to Norwich Line at Wymondham.

I do think sometimes, that if Doctor Beeching had seen the society we have today, he would have come to some different conclusions on the lines to be closed down. Sometimes though, as with the Varsity Line and the lines around Kings Lynn, he was for keeping lines open, but British Rail managers and politicians thought otherwise.

I have no view about whether the Norfolk Orbital Railway should be built, as I’m not privy to the true economics of the reinstatement. The railway does have a web site.

On the other hand if it was built my ranging around Norfolk and Suffolk could have been completed by going from Sheringham to Wymnondham, to get a train to Cambridge for return to London.

If we assume that the big drivers of the East Anglian economy in the next decades are going to be high technology and tourism, the pendulum must be swinging towards building the Norfolk Orbital Railway.

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Sheringham

I spent an hour or so in Sheringham, but sadly I didn’t find anywhere suitable for lunch.

I was too late for lunch and too early for supper, so I just had half a pint of Aspall’s cyder and walked back up the hill to get the train back. I could have got plenty of unhealthy food and judging by the size of many of the visitors, there was an answer to “Who ate all the pies?”

It was a lovely day as the pictures show, but quite a few cafes and restaurants were closed.

It is also a town, crying out for the main street to be pedestrianised, as the traffic and the pavements crowded with the obese made walking up and down to the beach a real obstacle course.

June 21, 2014 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Ranging Around Suffolk And Norfolk

I took the 09:30 Mark 3 express out of Liverpool Street station to Ipswich, buying a Day Ranger ticket for East Anglia north of Ipswich and Cambridge on the way from the conductor on the train for £11.40.

I hadn’t really decided on a route, but I started by taking the single coach Class 153 to Felixstowe and back.

The service between Ipswich and Felixstowe is now nearly twenty trains each way in the day and it seems to be more reliable since the Bacon Factory Curve has opened, which means that the service doesn’t have to thread its way through freight movements in Ipswich yard. Hopefully incidents like the one I suffered here, will happen less often.

When I lived in the town in the early 1960s, there were just a handful of services each way. It did wonders for a teenager’s social life when you didn’t have a car. The train I took wasn’t full, but it was pretty busy, with lots of families and tourists with buggies and bikes.

I wonder how long it will be, before the Felixstowe branch will be generating enough traffic for a two-car train? As it is, because of the length of the line, where a journey takes just twenty-five minutes or so, it means that an hourly service can be achieved with just one train.

There have been calls to reopen Felixstowe Beach station, but this simple schedule would be broken and two trains and some clever train operating would be required. So I’d be surprised, if it ever opened. It would probably be a lot cheaper to fund a bus, that met the train and distributed and collected the passengers all over Felixstowe.

The only way it will open, is if they electrify the line and the Port of Felixstowe encourages staff to come to work by train to a rebuilt Felixstowe Beach/Port station. But again, a bus from Felixstowe station would probably be better and more affordable.

Unfortunately, from Felixstowe I had to return to Ipswich to get the train to Lowestoft, as there is no easy train connection at Westerfield any more between the Lowestoft and Felixstowe branches .

At Ipswich, I was treated to a passing through of one of Mark 3 expresses in Greater Anglia’s new livery. These coaches just refuse to go quietly.

On the trip to Lowestoft, I used the new disabled toilet, that as I reported had been recently installed in the Class 156. The most remarkable thing about using the toilet was that I didn’t realise it was the new design. It was different and slightly more compact, but you didn’t have to think about how you used the door or the flush. But then that is the test of good design. If your target users don’t immediately know how to use something, then it is a bad design.

At Lowestoft I walked across the platforms to take another Class 156 on the Wherry Line to Norwich, where I stayed on the train to take the Bittern Line to Sheringham, where I intended to have lunch.

I did make a mistake in that my train back from Sheringham to Norwich, didn’t connect with a direct Cambridge train, as many do.  So I had to go to Ely on a Nottingham service, before buying a ticket from there to London on First Capital Connect. My Ranger ticket covered the journey to Ely and I spent another £12.50 to get home.

Greater Anglia’s scheduling of the trains I took was excellent, as I didn’t wait more than a few minutes at either change of train or service. Looking at the timetables, it would appear that some journeys like say Beccles to Sheringham use these quick changes to minimise journey times. With a few more trains, it might even be possible to tie all these services together on an hourly basis. After all, if you knew that if you turned up at Lowestoft, Ipswich or Norwich and that in a few minutes your next train would be leaving, it would be a great incentive to travel by train.

Judging by the people, I saw on these busy trains, Greater Anglia will find that their services around Norfolk and Suffolk will see an increasing patronage.

 

 

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | 8 Comments

I Bet This Story Is Raising A Few Laughs In Suffolk

This story from BBC Norfolk, about how a fire station it Downham Market in Norfolk is probably raising a few laughs in Suffolk. Here’s the first part.

A Norfolk fire station gutted in a blaze that destroyed a fire engine was not fitted with sprinklers or alarms.

Norfolk’s deputy chief fire officer Roy Harold accepted the service should have followed its own advice.

It’s probably a warning to us all, to check our fire alarms and smoke detectors.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

John Edrich

John Edrich was in his time a difficult opening batsman to get out and if there was a fight on the pitch, he would do his best to win it. Wikipedia says of him.

He earned a reputation as a dogged and fearless batsman, and his figures show that he was amongst the best players of his generation.

Now he has a bigger fight on his hands; a rare form of leukaemia called Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia. He seems to have got some respite from the cancer using injections of mistletoe.  It’s reported here in the Mirror.

I’m not belittling the mistletoe effect, but to my unmedical mind, it could just be that Edrich, is just applying his dogged and stubborn attitude to enjoying himself and staying alive. After all, he was born and brought up in Norfolk and all East Anglians have a stubborn determination, unmatched by most of the country.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Health, News | , | Leave a comment