Operator: Greater Anglia Headcode: 1P32 Route: LST – NRW Class: First Seat: — Date: Thursday 4th June 2020
So, June 2020, a very strange time in the UK due to Covid-19, and after 10 weeks of living in London, I was finally travelling home in the middle of lockdown. Obviously, this is going to be a slightly different ‘Train Review’ post to normal, but given it was my first time on one of Greater Anglia’s new intercity trains, I decided to still do a review of sorts. I won’t be including the usual rating due to the measures in place as part of the situation.
Liverpool Street is the third busiest station in the UK and in 2018-2019 handled 69.4 million passengers, however throughout lockdown had been eerily quiet with just a handful of passengers on the concourse any time I passed through. As part of their Covid-19 measures Greater Anglia have temporarily closed the first-class lounge at Liverpool Street and so I found a socially distant corner to lean against whilst waiting for the platform to be announced.
Another of the measures introduced by all of the UK train operating companies is the suspension of catering services, including the complementary offering to first class. Knowing I wouldn’t be getting even the biscuit and coffee that the Greater Anglia first-class service consists of, I headed to the only shop open at Liverpool Street, Boots, and grabbed myself a meal deal for the journey
Greater Anglia have two types of the class 745s, 745/0s that generally operate on the London – Norwich route and have first-class, and 745/1s that will be operating on the shorter Stansted Express services and therefore don’t have first-class on-board. As with the loco-hauled sets they have replaced, the first-class on the trains that have them can generally be found at the ‘London end’ of the train, meaning that it’s at the far end at Norwich and nearest to the ticket barriers in London.
Of the 12 carriages, two are designated first-class and are laid out in a 1-2 configuration with each seat having access to a table as well as dedicated USB and power sockets, allowing you to charge multiple devices. As well as the main tables, the seats at the end of the carriages, adjacent to the connecting corridor, have an additional mini table at the same level of the seat. I think these were added to ‘streamline’ the interior however they’re a nice touch and show some though went into the design.
Departing Liverpool Street at 1330 my service called at Stratford, Chelmsford, Colchester, Manningtree, Ipswich, Stowmarket and Diss before arriving into the Norfolk capital just under two hours later at 1524, five minutes ahead of schedule. Usually Greater Anglia operate a half hourly service between London and Norwich, however due to the amended timetables in place due to Covid-19 this has been reduced to hourly, with the faster of the two services being removed from the timetable.
The most noticeable difference with these trains, apart from the shiny new interior, is that they are much smoother and quicker at accelerating than the old loco-hauled trains they replace. We arrived at every station at least a couple of minutes early and were held until our departure time, however the fact we arrived five minutes early on the final 22-minute stretch shows how great these trains are.
Before we arrived into Norwich, I decided to walk towards the front of the train to have a look at Standard class and see how busy the rest of the train was. Standard is in the usual 2-2 configuration with a mix of ‘airline style’ and table seats. There are still both USB and standard power sockets available, however only one of each per pair of seats. At the end of coach C, between first and standard class, is the ‘bistro’ which would normally provide refreshments for purchase for standard class, however as this is currently closed as a Covid-19 precaution.
Arriving into Norwich, the scene was very different to 18 months previously when the platforms were filled with British built trains constructed in the late 80s and early 90s. Greater Anglia have now replaced all of their ‘regional’ trains with brand new Swiss built Stadler class 755s which are very similar to the class 745s. Stadler’s Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train (FLIRT) is a modular concept, allowing multiple units from 2 to 12 cars in length powered by Electric, Diesel, Bi-mode, Battery or Diesel-Battery to serve a wide range of routes and markets. Greater Anglia have a total of 38 755s and 24 745s, meaning the FLIRTs will make up over a third of their fleet once the full renewal is completed in 2022/2023.
All in all, the new class 745s are a marked improvement on the Great Eastern Mainline and as the first new brand-new trains for the region in over 50 years are needed. The better acceleration of the FLIRTs should allow an improvement in journey times, which given it can take nearly two hours to get from London to Norwich, will hopefully give the region a boost. Once we’re able to travel for leisure again, make sure to check out some of the towns and sights along the route, from the historic city of Colchester, the countryside along the branch lines and of course, the fabulous city of Norwich.