Rail Industry Focus

01.11.14

Abellio gearing up for Mark 3 fleet upgrade

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Oct/Nov 2014

Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs at Abellio Greater Anglia, discusses the latest development in refreshing the operator’s Mark 3 fleet. David Stevenson reports.

As part of Abellio Greater Anglia's bid to secure its short franchise extension until October 2016 earlier this year, the operator pledged to improve and upgrade services on its routes.

Within this agreement, the company earmarked £9.4m for a major refurbishment of the carriages operating on the Great Eastern Main Line (between Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Chelmsford and London) with new seat covers, better lighting, upgraded toilets, a re-paint and plug sockets for passengers travelling with mobiles, laptops and tablets.

A key milestone in the refurbishment programme for the intercity Mark 3 carriages was recently reached with the signing of a contract with Vossloh Kiepe UK (Transys Projects Ltd until its acquisition in 2012) to carry out the major upgrade.

The significant refresh will see all of the train operator’s Mark 3 fleet enhanced, with improvements throughout for both First Class and Standard carriages.

Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs at Abellio Greater Anglia, told RTM: “The quality of the service on the route is extremely important. With it being eight years now since the completion of the last refresh for the trains, now is a key opportunity to give them a refurbishment.

“It was something that we worked extremely hard to secure as part of our short franchise extension to October 2016 in an environment where, clearly, there isn’t much money about.”

Crown Point Depot

The work will be undertaken at a specially prepared facility in Abellio Greater Anglia's Crown Point Depot in Norwich and the first refurbished carriages are due to enter service in Q1 next year, with the full programme completed by the end of October 2016.

Vossloh Kiepe UK was picked based on the cost, quality and deliverability of its bid, which Denby described as “very high-quality”. It will do the work onsite at the Crown Point Depot, keeping as many vehicles in service as possible and cutting the risks of delays if it were to transport them to external sites.

“As there is a heavy maintenance programme going on already, that sort of availability issue is of major importance to us,” Denby added.

An area at the back of the depot on one of the lines – next to the car park – is being prepared to create a facility so that Vossloh can refurbish the vehicles.

However, the refurbishment is only a medium-term solution to improving trains in the region because it is expected that by 2020 new trains will have to be introduced to comply with disability discrimination laws.

Denby said: “These refurbished trains will be the backbone of the intercity service on this route until the end of the decade, so it was imperative we secured a significant refresh for them over the next few years. This will give passengers a nicer travelling environment but also to give them some enhancements.”

Roll-out

The last of the 111 carriages to be upgraded is due to arrive back in service to coincide with the end of the current rail franchise. A further eight carriages are to be converted from First Class kitchen vehicles to standard class seating – increasing the number of seats available on most trains.

This should provide 1,600 more standard seats on weekday inter-city services by October 2016.

In addition, 12 Class 321s used on commuter services from Essex and South Suffolk will get accessibility improvements, ahead of further rolling stock improvements under the next Greater Anglia franchise.

Abellio Greater Anglia will also work with Eversholt to evaluate options for starting the refurbishment of a small number of Class 321s before the end of the direct award period in October 2016. There are also plans to fit controlled emission toilets (CET) to all intercity carriages and the start of a programme to fit CET to Class 321 trains.

Denby told us: “There are some aspects of the programme that still may vary, especially with regards to the second half and how many trains we roll out at certain points.

“Initially the programme starts with one vehicle being done at a time, and for the first two or three we will take a little longer on those. We’re looking to have the first one or two vehicles roll out during Q1 2015 – then speed up from then on. We’ll then be looking to have the first full set out in Q2 2015. And then we’ll try to have one vehicle per week come out and then move up to two vehicles per week. The programme sees all 111 vehicles – there is a separate programme for the catering vehicles that are having different modifications – all operational by the end of the franchise.”

Abellio Greater Anglia’s extension is expected to deliver a £20m improvement programme for passengers over a 27 month period. This includes rolling out the refreshed rolling stock, more local services on the network, and twice as many weekday off-peak services between Stansted Airport and Cambridge. The operator is also upgrading Bishops Stortford, Cambridge and Chelmsford stations.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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