by Phil Marsh

Norwich in 90 - Future Anglia rail franchise consultation launched by Government

Published: 17th December 2014

Train derails leaving Liverpool Street – then rerails itself!

The Department for Transport (DfT) is asking for YOUR views on the future shape of rail services in East Anglia. They have published a consultation document outlining options for the mixture of train services in the Great Anglia franchise. Perhaps the main aspiration is to reduce the running time for a few headline services to 90 minutes, with the same calling points, between London Liverpool Street and Norwich, a distance of 115 miles.

The fastest trip is currently 102 minutes using 100mph electric locomotive hauled trains on 35 year old British Rail built Mark 3 carriages, generally reckoned to be the best design in the modern era. To reduce the travel time to 90 minutes, several things need to happen such as raising the line speed to 110mph and creating more capacity building passing loops as well as slightly recalibrating track formations. A new loop is proposed north of Chelmsford as an essential art of the scheme.

Trains in East Anglia are operated by Abellio under the guise of the Greater Anglia franchise which is due to expire in October 2016 when the new-look East Anglia franchise will commence. The DfT will base the service specification on responses to their consultative document so this really is rail users’ chance to influence what rail services should look like in the next franchise. The views of respondents will inform a franchise specification which will be issued to bidders in summer 2015.

East Anglian rail services have not altered much in decades as the system is largely self-contained but this is a chance to change train services to reflect societal changes and businesses’ needs.

Franchise operators Abellio Greater Anglia has welcomed the commitment made by the government to back the key recommendations of the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) Taskforce report. Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has asked Network Rail to further develop linespeed improvements and pledged that the Taskforce's recommendations would be supported though the next franchising process.

He also made it clear that the government backed the report's analysis that the key elements in upgrading this major regional rail route were better infrastructure and state-of-the-art rolling stock. This of course could be 110mph electric trains which are not as comfortable as the existing carriages.

They said:

The Managing Director for Abellio Greater Anglia, Jamie Burles said: "We are delighted that the government is backing the recommendations of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce, in which we are key participants.

We have played a proactive role in the development of both the business case supporting this major route upgrade and the creation of a broad-based stakeholder and customer alliance to effectively advocate and champion this substantial boost for East Anglia's rail network - and all the communities and economies served by the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML). “We can now look forward to real enhancements to services on the GEML over the next decade."

How to respond to the proposals

All comments on the Anglia Route Study Draft for Consultation should be emailed to: by 3 February 2015 when the consultation ends.

London-Norwich train derails and then rerails itself!

On 23 January 2013, the 10am Greater Anglia service from London Liverpool Street to Norwich derailed 260 metres from Liverpool Street after leaving from Platform 13. The train had nine carriages and was being propelled by a locomotive, the normal method of operation. But what was most definitely not normal was that 17 wheelsets derailed on a tight curve and astonishingly, the train carried on and rerailed itself within 40 metres!

The driver was unaware of any problem until the senior conductor informed him that that passengers had reported what is known as ‘a rough ride’. The signaller advised him that the signalling system had identified a problem at a set of points used by the train when leaving Liverpool Street.

As is normal, the driver stopped and examined his train at Shenfield, but saw nothing unusual and it was not apparent that there had been a derailment until the train was examined by a specialist inspector on arrival at Norwich. At the same time, a signal maintenance team found track damage close to Liverpool Street station.

The derailment took place on the curve because the track fixings had deteriorated and given that non-standard trackwork there was used should have meant that Network Rail should have instigated a special inspection regime here.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) investigated the accident and discovered that no special inspection measures were in place despite the increased risk of a derailment at the location because the maintenance management staff did not have the knowledge necessary to appreciate the need for, and to undertake, this activity.

RAIB also found that the lack of knowledge had not been appreciated by more senior staff and Network Rail procedures for establishing a track inspection and maintenance regime for non-standard track did not require the regime to be independently checked.

RAIB recommended that Network Rail should provide assurance that suitable inspection regimes are established, recorded and validated for non-standard track assets. Another recommendation was intended to ensure assessment of management staff’s safety critical track related competencies to ensure they have the necessary experience and knowledge to perform that role.

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