Wednesday 8th January 2020
Abellio run Greater Anglia committed to introducing a completely new train fleet of 1,043 carriages across its network in its successful nine year franchise bid which began in 2016. First of these into service came Stadler built FLIRT Class 755 bi-mode trains introduced on the Wherry Lines last July.
These were well received back in the summer but the shine has come off in recent weeks as interface problems with track circuits and software led to precautionary withdrawals and service disruption. Thankfully these issues now seem to have been resolved.
Today saw the first of a fleet of twenty sister Class 745 electric trains also built by Stadler enter service for the very first time between Norwich and London Liverpool Street on the Great Eastern main line. I took a ride on 745007 to see how it performs.
I’m told it’s the first time brand new trains have been introduced on this line for over sixty years, since way back in 1958; otherwise it’s been hand-me-downs from elsewhere over the years. So today’s been quite a historic day for the GEML.
As with any new train these days you sense a loss of familiarity, character and comfort as you step on board but modernity brings benefits and like the Class 755s now widely in use across Greater Anglia’s regional network these new Class 745s are impressive trains to travel on.
The trains comprise twelve coaches with ten laid out as standard class including a buffet counter between these (which hadn’t yet opened when I passed through although the two trolleys were primed and ready) …
… and the two first class coaches (which are situated at the ‘London end’ of the train – coaches A and B).
The coaches themselves are each slightly shorter in length than the Mark 3s they’re replacing so the overall length of the 12 coach train is not that much longer than a previous 9 coach Class 90 loco hauled train as can be seen below side by side in Norwich this morning.
However, seating capacity has been significantly increased although inside doesn’t appear cramped in any way and the seats are at the acceptable end of modern day train seat standards even in standard class.
The Stadlers are becoming renowned for their quirky features and these Class 745s are no exception.
There’s a middle section of the train (between Coaches F and G) where the electrical ‘Gubbins’ are housed and in a similar way to the diesel Class 755s you can pass through this area along a narrow central ‘train passageway’.
I’m told these twelve coach trains have been designed as two six coach trains joined together but with no cabs in the middle. So for maintenance the train can be split into two at this point but obviously will never run in service like that.
Another quirk are the raised seats and sloping floors which offer different height aspects through the train. You have to be wary not to trip or lose your balance if you forget when climbing down from one of these seats.
The slopes in the gangway as you walk through the train are fairly gentle to negotiate and are highlighted by the darker carpet colour.
The very welcome innovative feature of having a small boarding ‘ramp’ by each door to aid accessibility (as on the 755s) has also been repeated.
The two first class coaches have a quirky layout – they have five distinct areas including a small doored compartment at one end behind the cab …
…. followed by a traditional layout in the rest of Coach A ….
….. then two raised areas with single seats and tables either side of the gangway at the coach ends of A and B ….
…. then a section with a toilet ….
… and an extra wide ‘first class’ type toilet too ….
…. then another more traditionally laid out area leading towards the buffet.
The seats are nothing exceptional but a definite improvement on what we’re now offered on Class 800/802s IETs/Azumas on GWR/LNER.
These are perfectly acceptable for the maximum journey time between Norwich and London of around 110 minutes.
Space between the seats is generous but there’s no reclining function and the headrest seemed a little hard. The arm rests are movable – not like on the old style fixed arrangement.
The old style seats were also quite quirky with their pitch and fixed arm rests – the new ones compare quite favourably.
There’s an accessible area …
… an area for bicycles/buggies….
… but no usb/plug sockets in the latter area with standard seats having one traditional plug and one usb per pair underneath.
Luggage provision was evident but not particularly generous. No lockable compartments as in the Class 800/802s IET/Azumas.
The one shortcoming with these new trains seems to be the poor toilet provision. Aside from the one in First Class Coach B there’s an accessible toilet (in Coach C near the buffet) and only three other standard toilets in Coaches E, H and L).
That comes as quite a reduction from one per coach on the loco hauled stock being replaced (and not so long ago these had two toilets per coach). They’re quite small toilets too.
A small point I noticed and like are the very clear letters to denote each coach on either side of the doors – which like the 755s have just one set per coach – and another quirkiness – no ‘close door’ buttons on the inside.
Inside each coach are very clear roof mounted signs indicating coach and toilet occupancy but these are spread across two screens to show all twelve coaches and it’s a small point but rather inconsistent to denote these as Coa￼￼ches 1-6 and 7-12 rather than the letters used on the outside ie A-F and G-M.
There’s provision for the display of electronic seat reservations and at least in First Class very bright LED reading lights.
In fact the whole train is brightly lit and I reckon bodes well for a bright future on the Great Eastern main line. 745007 was unsurprsingly being much photographed this morning.
Ten of the twenty Class 745s now being delivered by Stadler to Greater Anglia will be configured as standard class throughout with additional luggage racks for use on the Stansted Express service, the other ten will be gradually rolled out on the Great Eastern main line.