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East Midlands Trains passengers raise concern about ‘rickety’ rolling stock

Passengers have revealed that their main area of concern ahead of the new East Midlands franchise being awarded is that of the age and quality of the rolling stock, new research has shown.

The East Midlands Trains (EMT) passenger research, conducted by Transport Focus, highlighted that whilst customers appreciate the punctual and reliable service, the dated appearance of the trains and the design of their interiors leads many to describe the operator’s brand overall as “basic” – even rather “shabby”.

“They notice a stark contrast between EMT and more modern trains run by Virgin Trains and London Midland, which share some stations on the network,” the report read.

“This sentiment applies right across the network, even on the London route, although it is far more pronounced on local routes. Trains are described as noisy and ‘rickety’, compounded by the jointed track on some more rural parts of the network, producing a rather rough ride compared to the main line.”

In July, when the DfT opened its consultation for the East Midlands franchise, the transport secretary stated that the next operator will be required to “deliver modern, fast and efficient trains”.

“This includes a brand-new fleet of bi-mode intercity trains from 2022, delivering more seats and comfort for long-distance passengers,” explained Chris Grayling.

He also discretely revealed that electrification plans for the area were to be scrapped due to the provision of bi-mode trains, as journeys could be improved “without the need for wires and masts on the whole route”.

Passengers’ main priorities for the next franchise, which is due to start running from August 2019, include more seats to handle overcrowding at peak times, additional evening and Sunday services, and modern trains. This includes free on-board wi-fi, power sockets and improvements to catering services.

Despite criticisms, the research found that the current franchise largely meets the basic needs of passengers, providing a reliable service that represents value for money on local journeys compared to the cost of other transport modes.

Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, said: “EMT passengers have a dependable service that delivers the basics well.

“Passengers have seen what other train companies provide, which has raised their expectations. They want more modern trains, with free wi-fi and power sockets as standard, and improvements to catering and toilet facilities on the train.”

The watchdog added that latest study shows passengers rate staff on the network highly, finding them friendly and helpful at the station and on the train. But there are issues around the dated feel of trains, with basic facilities and the inconsistent quality of stations across the network.

The Transport Focus research comes at an important time after the DfT announced the shortlist for the franchise earlier this year, revealing that First Trenitalia East Midlands Rail, Stagecoach East Midlands Trains and Arriva Rail East would all compete for the contract.

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Jimbo   06/09/2017 at 17:13

It is not mentioned in the article, but surely it is the class 222 Meridians, as pictured at the top of the article, which are the subject of the complaint. These were built between 2003 and 2005, so I am sure large parts of the country would love to have stock only 12 years old. EMT also run class 153 and 156, dating from the late 80's so presumably these are more likely to be what is being talked about. Shame the article doesn't make it clear and the class 222 was used as the picture.

Chris   06/09/2017 at 19:35

I actually prefer the class 43 to the class 222 as they are quieter, more spacious, and the seats are more comfortable.

David   06/09/2017 at 20:37

The bi-modes thing is total b*llocks btw. I work for Network Rail and they were never intended to be an answer to anything. Chris Grayling is a complete slimeball.

J, Leicester   07/09/2017 at 11:33

I'm skeptical and would assume this is with reference to regional stock for the most part. Anecdotally speaking, I can back up other readers in saying that passengers find the HSTs more comfortable than the cramped, smelly and noisy Meridians. Having 8 coaches rather than (quite often) as few as 4 for the same route helps, of course. A passenger cares far more about getting a seat and the train being on time than its age. But take a trip off the mainline and creaking sprinters are the order of the day - even the 158s are rough around the edges. They should be the priority for replacement, but it's abundantly clear that the franchise consultation cares little for their upgrade. Careful what you wish for with aspiring to Virgin's offering too - Pendolinos are out of the question thanks to the Grayling axe, and the last thing the MML needs is cascaded Voyagers replacing the HSTs from 2020 - I think I'd be tempted to travel to London Euston via Nuneaton rather than be certain of a trip on one of those things - I find a 350 a more comfortable, quiet and enjoyable ride than a Meridian, and Voyagers are even worse than them. Done it before, and the extra 30 minutes of journey time is fine for me, because I know I'll get a seat and have a more relaxing journey. Unless they were referring to East Coast and their own offering, which ironically for diesel routes would be similarly aged HSTs?

Mitchell Hurd   07/09/2017 at 17:03

No trains are perfect. I've only been on 2 East Midlands Trains - a 1-coach Class 153 from Derby to Stoke-on-Trent and a 7-coach Class 222 from Leicester to Derby. The '153' was on the 13:42 on the 06/03/17 and the '222' was on the 11/03/17. Both were brilliant trains apart from the slight squeaky fan belt noise in the 153. Given the size of rail usage in Manchester, I'd usuggest replacing 158's with larger, newer 222's.

J, Leicester   08/09/2017 at 13:30

Mitchell, I can assure you that the enjoyment of a ride on a Meridian is hard to gauge from the (usually quite lightly-loaded) hop from Leicester to Derby. The trip down to London in any notable level of crowding is appalling, due to the cramped conditions the bodyshell causes. Luggage storage is very poor and 3 or 4 suitcases is normally enough to completely fill a carriage's luggage racks, meaning any other large ones end up blocking the gangway. The legroom on the table seats, too, is shocking - unless you get a kick out of playing footsie with random strangers, of course. Often, if it's not taken, your best option is to just take the flip-down seat in the vestibule and be done with it - it's a quieter ride without being crammed against other fellow sardines - providing you don't mind the smell of excrement, given that Bombardier didn't manage to fix the "Voyager Whiff" before the Meridians were produced and little has been done to alleviate it. Oh, and make sure to get the right side of the carriage if you don't want to be getting up to let people on and off every 10 minutes... Best of all, try riding one for upwards of an hour, and you'll experience the joy of their "ergonomic" seats, which for want of a better word consists of a plastic ball fused into the centre of the arse-groove which, if you happen to be a man, leaves you decidedly less fertile and speaking like Joe Pasquale by the end of the journey! I honestly think I'd rather sit on a 153 with a squeaky fan belt for 2 hours than feel my swimmers slowly die over the course of an hour on a 222! They're just generally awful trains for anything more than a short hop, and the only things that give me a smidgen of comfort in riding them are knowing that A) there's always a chance I might get a HST instead and B) they're somehow, inexplicably still a step up from Voyagers! Long story short, I'm slightly dreading the thought of the HSTs being replaced with cascaded Voyagers and will probably start either taking a hop to Nuneaton or driving down to Stanmore Park & Ride if I want to visit London if it happens. God forbid the day that a Meridian is seen as the "good" train to turn up on an EM Franchise service!

Mark Hare   08/09/2017 at 17:11

So the passengers have noticed 'a stark contrast between EMT and more modern trains run by Virgin Trains'.... really? They must be talking about the Voyagers then, universally loathed and certainly not an improvement on anything that EMT run, including any variant of the 'Sprinter' units. And quite what the passengers expect EMT to do about jointed track is anyone's guess...

Andrew Gwilt   09/09/2017 at 01:36

The Class 222 Meridians DEMU's are quite nice trains. Which I've been on few of them. Very quick, very reliable, so quiet and the seats as comfortable. Why can't EMT keep the Class 222's but to replace the Class 43 HST's with new rolling stocks.

Andrew JG   10/09/2017 at 13:08

This goes to East Midlands Trains. Please don't get rid of the Class 222's Meridians DEMU's. They could be used on London St. Pancras-Lincoln via Nottingham service and London St. Pancras-Corby service. Or transfer the Class 222's Meridians to operate on Norwich-Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street services to cascade the Class 158/159's to operate on Peterborough-Lincoln and Nottingham-Skegness services. If you are planning to order new Bi-Mode trains in the new future EMT. Please don't get rid of the Class 222's.

Captain Reality   10/09/2017 at 15:07

Like the vast majority, with the exception of Andrew Gwilt and his endless theories on stock relocations, I find the Meridians a terrible excuse for so-called main line stock. Noisy, vibrating and a rough ride, only thing worse is a Voyager. Yes, they would certainly help capacity issues if switched to secondary routes such as Liverpool-Norwich, but can't see that happening. Please YES, please DO get rid of them from mainline. 40 year old HST's put them to shame.

AJG89   11/09/2017 at 03:31

Wouldn't mind if Class 222's were to operate on Norwich-Liverpool Lime St service. Plus they could operate as 4-Car and 5-Car on that route whilst 5-Car and 7-Car Class 222's would operate on London St. Pancras-Corby service. Could happen.

PP   20/09/2017 at 14:37

The thing that quite shocked me about the 222s on a couple of recent trips was how shabby they're looking inside, which is really unacceptable given that they're (a) not very old anyway and (b) have been refurbished since they were introduced. I was in first class and was amazed to see seat fabric loose, torn and threadbare, and windows completely misted up.

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