FLIRTs: engaging the industry

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 17

When Abellio was bidding for the East Anglia franchise in 2015, it was clear that passengers and stakeholders wanted new trains. Now, nearly one year into its new franchise and following a recent external consultation over their design, Mike Kean, Greater Anglia’s deputy managing director, explains what the new Stadler trains will bring to the franchise.

Transformation is our watchword, and we are working hard to fulfil our promise to introduce two completely new fleets of trains as part of a £1.4bn investment. We are replacing every single train in our current fleet with 1,043 brand new carriages made up of 665 Bombardier Aventra carriages built in Derby and 378 FLIRT carriages from Swiss manufacturer, Stadler. Not only are we replacing all our current trains, we are actually increasing the overall size of our fleet by about 10%, allowing us to run longer and more frequent services.

These new trains will begin to appear on the network from mid-2018 for testing, and passengers will start using them by spring 2019. 

The FLIRT train is already used in other European countries. Its name actually stands for ‘Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train’ – but it’s clearly easier to say FLIRT. Our 378 carriages will comprise: 

  • 10 electric 12-car intercity trains
  • 10 electric 12-car trains to serve Stansted Airport (Stansted Express)
  • 38 bi-mode trains (24 x four-car sets and 14 x three-car sets) 

The electric intercity trains will run on the Great Eastern Main Line serving Norwich, Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Manningtree, Colchester, Chelmsford, Stratford and Liverpool Street. They will also operate Stansted Express services.  

The FLIRT bi-mode trains will serve Marks Tey to Sudbury; Norwich to Sheringham, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Cambridge; and Ipswich to Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Cambridge and Peterborough. The bi-mode trains also enable us to restore direct services from Lowestoft to London for the first time since 2010. 

FlirtUK EA Integration Ipswich sttation 4k sRGB edit

Key features of the FLIRT are: 

  • Standard Class accommodation with ‘2x2’ seating on intercity routes, first class carriages with ‘2x1’ seating
  • All carriages air-conditioned and with high-capacity broadband and plug sockets throughout
  • An on-board ‘bistro’ serving a range of food and drinks on intercity services
  • Six cycle spaces on intercity and regional bi-mode trains, and up to 18 spaces on Stansted Express services
  • Intercity and Stansted Express trains will have five toilets: four standard and one accessible, while regional bi-mode trains will have one standard and one accessible toilet
  • Improved accessibility due to the FLIRT’s ‘low floor’ design making more stations ‘step free’
  • More seats for more people: >750 passengers on intercity/airport trains, and around 170/230 seats on three- and four-carriage bi-mode trains respectively 

There’s a lot to do to put the new trains into service, and we want to get it right. This is why we have proactively sought the views of our customers, colleagues and stakeholders about the new trains. 

We published the initial designs of both fleets of trains online, which has attracted more than 1,000 comments and suggestions. 

A large life-sized ‘mock-up’ of the new Stadler train, shipped from Switzerland to our depot in Norwich, has been seen by the region’s media and more than 60 stakeholders from groups such as Greater Anglia’s customer panels, local authorities, rail user groups, chambers of commerce, local enterprise partnerships, community rail partnerships and cycling groups. 

Our own Stakeholder Board and Cycle Forum have visited the site and we’ve hosted visits from rail passenger bodies, such as Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, plus disability groups and the DfT. Local police and emergency services have been consulted about the designs and we also invited selected groups of our employees to view it. For the designs of the seats, we’ve consulted leading ergonomic experts. 

Visitors like the FLIRT’s seating layout, plug points and USB ports, large windows, the ‘bistro’ areas, the easier access onto and through the train, new customer information systems and the separate dedicated areas for wheelchair users and bicycles. They have also raised constructive suggestions about some aspects of the seating, signage and labelling and marking out of the cycle area.  

We are pleased that this extensive consultation process has resulted in so much useful feedback, which is informing and shaping the final designs that are now with our new fleet teams. We’re now engaged in similar consultations for the 665 Bombardier Aventra carriages, and we will be reporting back on how we’ve responded to comments and feedback on both fleets in due course. 

Of course, both fleets of trains will need to be maintained and stabled, so we’re investing £120m in building a new depot at Brantham in south Suffolk and improving and extending our existing depots at Norwich Crown Point and Ilford. We’re also developing new sites for stabling all the new rolling stock and lengthening station platforms to cope with longer trains. 

In short, we are really looking forward to transforming train services in East Anglia, giving our customers faster journeys on many routes, more seats and, we hope, a more reliable service – making their lives a little easier.

For more information



Not A Parody, Honest   11/09/2017 at 11:46

I am so happy that there is a lot of information for me to copy and paste into every response I give on this website about Greater Anglia services now for the new rolling stocks from Stadler regardless of its relevance to the subject of the article. Such as the FLIRT bi-mode trains to serve Marks Tey to Sudbury; Norwich to Sheringham, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Cambridge; and Ipswich to Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Cambridge and Peterborough. Also bi-mode rolling stocks also to restore direct services from Lowestoft to London for the first time since 2010. Meaning (insert class of unit here) to be cascaded to Virgin East Coast, East Midlands Trains or GWR (or whatever other TOC I read about most recently). Then finish with lots of links for the rolling stocks

Not A Cynic, Barely   11/09/2017 at 14:26

Whilst awaiting with baited breath the upcoming History of Rolling Stock with accompanying updates on their potential future homes elsewhere (as referred to by Not a Parody, Honest), may I also ask why only 10 x Inter City sets are being provided for the London-Norwich services when that is the requirement just to fulfil the current service. Plus there is the requirement for spares, maintenance cover etc etc. Bit tight isn't it?

Barry   11/09/2017 at 14:34

Good point(s) raised by the above, but in particularly the issue of numbers of replacement Units for GEML? The Article states that GA are increasing the number of trains yet are plainly reducing the main-line provision - unless they intend to support from the Stansted Express Pool, which are to a different interior design? Also, the number of toilets in being drastically reduced. This has already started on the MkIII fleet and the results are obvious when you see the queues, particularly approaching London! Perhaps "someone" could suggest a stock cascade process that could alleviate the problem???? (UK only)

Andrew Gwilt   11/09/2017 at 15:33

Not sure about one door on both sides of the Stadler Flirt trains as it may not help with overcrowding and it will only make things far more worse for passengers to board and alight the trains at the station where there is a lot of shoving and shunting during rush hour. Don't like the idea of it.

Lutz   11/09/2017 at 21:16

I hope the new operator will not run into difficulties should the cost of financing these new fleets increase substantially.

Andrew JG   12/09/2017 at 16:20

Much prefer the Bombardier Aventra Class 720's. Bombardier have manufactured the best rolling stocks for the UK's railways. So far they built state-of-the-art trains such as the Turbostars (Chiltern Railway Clubman), Voyagers (including Super Voyagers), Meridians, Electrostars (aswell London Overground Capitalstars), London Underground 2009 Stock and S-Stocks (S7 and S8) and now they are continuing to manufacture the Aventras aswell completing manufacturing the Electrostars for Great Western Railway.

Def Not A Parody (Much)   13/09/2017 at 01:49

Let me also wibble on about more items in the article and then use another profile name to parrot on about how great certain trains are, how the manufacturer is so great and where they might end up (yeah right) Waffle, wibble, cut and paste, rant at others when i get called out on my platform end nonsense.

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