Abellio have won the franchise to operate the railway between Norwich, Ipswich and Liverpool Street (and most of the trains in East Anglia) for the next nine years. One of the conditions of the newfranchise is that they replace their entire fleet of trains by March 2021, almost 1,000 new passenger coaches across the region.
This caused me to wonder how many trains they need to run the Liverpool Street - Norwich service. Currently there are 15 class 90 locomotives, each hauling ten coaches and a DVT (driver cab trailer - at the opposite end of the train to the engine). On a typical weekday eleven are ‘in service', one is undergoing routine maintenance at Crown Point, Norwich and three resting, all to run a twice hourly service into the capital. Thus the next question is how many new train sets have they ordered to replace the existing ones?
Over the entire franchise the answer is 170 sets consisting of 1,043 vehicles. On the Great Eastern Main Line however it is a mere ten train sets, each with 12 coaches, not enough to run three trains per hour to the capital as the contract requires. The likely scenario is that regional trains will fill the timetable gaps, as happens at present, so check the timetable before booking. The new train sets will be Stadler electric FLIRTs (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train) built in Switzerland.
The bulk of the rest will be Stadler bi-mode (electric under wires / diesel elsewhere) units, 24 four car trains and 14 three car trains to replace those currently being used Ipswich - Felixstowe, Ipswich - Lowestoft, Ipswich - Peterborough and on similar routes out of Norwich and Cambridge. Note here that the shortest trains will be 3 car, replacing the single car units currently used, for example, on the Felixstowe line.
In addition there will be 89 new five-car trains (445 vehicles) and 22 ten car trains (220 vehicles) for use across the region, all to be built in Derby by Bombardier. This contract alone is said to be worth £900 million.
Thus there will be an investment of £1.4 billion on rolling stock, £60 million improving stations, £120 million on maintenance facilities and a £3.7 billion contribution to the Treasury for the privilege of running a railway; ‘tis no wonder train fares are rising.