CRAMMED carriages. Standing room only.

Finally, this description of train travel is set to change.

That is the promise being made by train operator Greater Anglia as it unveils its £1.4 billion investment on new trains.

Hot on the heels of its announcement of the Stadler Flirt, the rail giant is ready for phase two - the electric Aventra train - which will level the playing field between first class and standard.

With the new trains, capacity during peak times will increase by 55 per cent.

A typical ten-carriage train will provide 1,150 seats.

Some 665 new carriages will be built by Bombardier, in Derby, and come into service from December 2019.

Mike Kean, who is the deputy managing director of Greater Anglia, is confident they will transform journeys for everyone.

“The Bombardier trains really form the backbone of the franchise. It provides the main commuting stock and carries the most amount of people on our franchise,” he said.

“The real heart of our franchise was providing enough capacity for the full nine years and also to maximise the efficiency of that operation.

“The railway is constrained, we have certain platform length and train length, but we’re really trying to push that to the maximum to make sure our customers have a better opportunity of getting a seat.

“And they’re absolutely as modern as you can get.”

Halstead Gazette:

Accessible toilets will feature on every train

The 22 ten-carriage (Class 720/1s) and 89 five-carriage trains (Class 720/5s) will run between London Liverpool Street and Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Ipswich.

They will serve key commuter towns including Chelmsford, Witham, Braintree, Colchester, Clacton and Harwich, and the line to Southend Victoria.

Each train will offer four cycle spaces, an accessible toilet, or two, wheelchair spaces, plug sockets and USB ports near each pair of seats which are cantilevered, meaning no nuisance bar underneath, for increased legroom.

Doors separating carriages will be a thing of the past alongside non-connectivity as free, fast broadband will be fitted on each train.

Halstead Gazette:

Bombardier staff in Derby test the seats

Mr Kean said: “Less people standing on the trains is the real hope. We did a lot of research before starting the franchise and now about what people really value.

“What you’ll find running to places like Colchester is people really value that seat, even if it’s the third seat between two people.

“We’re maintaining this fleet out of Ilford and have employed Bombardier as our partners to maintain them.

“As you’ll see from the mock-up, we haven’t skimped on the interior and on the cleaning side, we’ve been pushing hard over the past couple of years to maintain that high level of cleanliness.”

Halstead Gazette:

The 3x2 formation will be seen across the entire fleet

A sum of £900 million is being spent specifically on the Bombardier trains with a further 58 trains being built by Stadler, in Switzerland, for Greater Anglia’s intercity, Stansted Express and regional services.

However, promises have being made the cost will not be inherited by the more than 29,000 Essex commuters using the Great Eastern line and just over 17,000 using the Southend line every day.

He said: “For every pound people pay, 97 per cent goes back into the railway.

“What we’re doing here in the model is we’ve actually look at these trains and the amount of people that are going to use them.

“That drives revenue and then that gets returned to Government in a bigger premium payment.

“The way the rail industry works, it’s a regulated model. We actually don’t control the peak fares so it shouldn’t have an impact at all.”

Halstead Gazette:


Does Greater Anglia have a 20-year-plus plan to accommodate the extra volume of commuters from Colchester to London based on the draft Local Plan metrics?
"In our bid we have to provide enough seats right until the end of our franchise in 2025 so that’s our plan through this train and our other fleet. What I hope people experience when they first see these trains is loads of seats which will slowly fill up as we get towards the end of the franchise. The growth of Essex has been absolutely central to our planning."

Does Greater Anglia have a plan to modernise Colchester Station?
"We’re definitely looking to make some improvements to Colchester. There’s no masterplan to modernise it, but we’ve done a lot of work on our stations over the past two years and we’ll continue."

Why are we the most expensive line?
"I don’t think it is. It might feel that way and I can really empathise, but we’re focused on it. And as I said, the industry itself puts 97 per cent of what people pay right back into the industry."