Greater Anglia - A

Greater Anglia - A
Greater Anglia (legal name Abellio East Anglia Limited) is a train operating company in Great Britain owned as a joint venture by Transport UK Group and Mitsui & Co. It operates the East Anglia franchise, providing the commuter and intercity services from its Central London terminus at London Liverpool Street to Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire as well as many regional services throughout the East of England.
Abellio began operating the franchise, then known as the Greater Anglia franchise, in February 2012. Initially, it traded under the same name until it rebranded as Abellio Greater Anglia in December 2013. Shortly after taking over operations, the company initiated a series of projects to improve service levels, including the procurement of new trains and the launch of the 'Norwich in 90' programme to reduce travel times between several major locations on its network. In May 2015, Greater Anglia's stopping metro services were transferred to London Overground and the precursor to Crossrail, TfL Rail.
The franchise was re-tendered as the East Anglia franchise, and awarded to Abellio in August 2016. The company resumed trading as Greater Anglia on 16 October 2016 when the new franchise commenced. In January 2017, Abellio announced that subject to gaining Department for Transport approval, it had agreed to sell a 40% stake in the business to Mitsui. Since the completion of the sale in March 2017, Greater Anglia has incorporated several Japanese planning tools and practices. Trade unions have objected to some of the changes made by the company, leading to industrial action in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the dispute.
Greater Anglia History
Greater Anglia Background
In December 2003, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the Greater Anglia franchise to National Express, which began operations on 1 April 2004, initially under the brand-name One. The franchise was to run until March 2011, with provision for a three-year extension if performance targets were met.
In November 2009, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that National Express would not be granted the three-year extension even though it had met the performance criteria, because National Express East Coast had defaulted on the InterCity East Coast franchise.
Following a change of government as a result of the 2010 general election, the DfT announced in June 2010 that all refranchising would be put on hold while a process review was conducted. As a result, National Express East Anglia was granted an initial extension until October 2011, followed by another until February 2012.
In March 2011, the DfT announced that Abellio, Go-Ahead, and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the franchise. In October 2011, the new franchise was awarded to Abellio; accordingly, the services previously operated by National Express East Anglia were transferred to Greater Anglia on 5 February 2012.
The Greater Anglia franchise was originally to run until July 2014; the reason for awarding a short franchise at a time when the government was speaking of its desire for longer franchises was to allow the government to digest the recommendations of the McNulty Rail Value for Money study before letting a long-term franchise. In March 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the franchise would again be extended until 15 October 2016. Greater Anglia was rebranded as Abellio Greater Anglia in December 2013.
Greater Anglia Changes
Prior to Greater Anglia, the last period of substantial investment in the region had been nearly 30 years earlier, specifically the electrification of the line north of Ipswich. At the commencement of the franchise, railway commentator Philip Haigh observed that the region's services had changed little since the BR days, and that change was overdue.
During the negotiations for the award of the franchise, Greater Anglia pledged to undertake numerous investments that would improve the various services and facilities offered. On 4 November 2014, the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce released its investment analysis report, which included a detailed breakdown of several proposed investments in the region's rail network.
One major initiative that was commenced by Greater Anglia shortly after it took over operations was the 'Norwich in 90' campaign, aimed at introducing faster journey times, such as between London and Colchester within 40 minutes, London and Ipswich in 60 minutes, and London and Norwich in 90 minutes. Several organisations, including Norfolk County Council, had been calling for such a scheme to be undertaken since as early as 2009.
Abellio had acknowledged such calls in 2012, but could not justify making very substantial investments during the initial franchise period due to the short timescale involved. The creation of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce in 2013 was seen as a major step towards this. In 2015, Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP and co-chairman of the taskforce, noted that the scheme was as much a political effort as it was an engineering one.
By the 2010s, the region's rail infrastructure was relatively worn-out and prone to unreliability. Modernisation efforts would therefore focus not only on improving absolute speeds but on reducing failure rates as well.
This work is being undertaken as a multiagency effort, involving not only infrastructure changes carried out by Network Rail and various civil engineering companies, but also the procurement of new rolling stock and other efforts. It was recognised early on that, for the intercity services to be meaningfully speeded up, slower regional trains could not feasibly be overtaken or avoided on the mostly twin-track line, so that services overall would need to be accelerated.
There has also been an aspiration to increase the number of trains between Norwich and London to three per hour, although capacity constraints such as the single-track section in the vicinity of the Trowse Swing Bridge would need to be overcome to facilitate this.
Some services have been transferred from Greater Anglia's management to other rail operators. On 31 May 2015, the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford services, as well as the Romford to Upminster service, were transferred to London Overground Rail Operations. On the same day, the Liverpool Street to Shenfield stopping services were also transferred to the TfL Rail concession managed by MTR.
In June 2015, an Abellio (60%) / Stagecoach (40%) joint venture, FirstGroup and National Express were shortlisted to bid for the franchise. In December 2015, it was announced that Stagecoach had pulled out of the joint bid with Abellio, and that Abellio would continue the bid alone.
In August 2016, it was announced that Abellio had successfully retained the franchise until 2025. One commitment of the new franchise period is the purchase of 1,043 new carriages, 660 from Bombardier Transportation's Derby Litchurch Lane Works with the remainder being built by Stadler Rail. In January 2017, Abellio announced that, subject to gaining DfT approval, it had agreed to sell a 40% stake in the business to Mitsui.
The sale was completed in March 2017. Reportedly, Greater Anglia has incorporated numerous planning and operational practices of the Japanese railways, such as the use of digital twin simulation software for analysing performance and developing its timetables, since the acquisition.
  • In 2021, following the COVID-19 emergency measures, Greater Anglia was given a direct award contract, replacing its franchise agreement, expiring on 20 September 2026.
  • In February 2023, Transport UK Group concluded a management buyout of Abellio's United Kingdom business, which included its share in Greater Anglia.
Greater Anglia Industrial Action
In August 2017, amidst a background of ongoing rail strikes on a national level, Greater Anglia conductors voted in favour of going on strike in a dispute over planned ticket office closures and the planned introduction of more widespread driver-only operation on the Greater Anglia network.
On numerous occasions since October 2017, industrial action has been taken by portions of the company's employees, and the principal matter of dispute has seen no effective resolution. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has accused Greater Anglia of conducting alleged strike-breaking tactics and claimed that its use of stand-in conductors led to passengers' safety being jeopardised.
The dispute between Greater Anglia and the RMT continued into 2018, with further strikes threatened during the summer that affected around 40 percent of the operator's services.
On 19 July 2018, the RMT announced members had voted 9 to 1 to accept a deal that would keep guards on trains, and halted the expansion of driver only operation.
Greater Anglia is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes, which are the first national rail strikes in the UK for three decades. Its workers are amongst those who are participating in industrial action due to a dispute over pay and working conditions.
Greater Anglia Franchise Commitments
Greater Anglia Franchise (2012–2016)
A number of improvements were planned during the first franchise period (2012–2016) which included:
  • Improved station and ticket facilities and better information for passengers.
  • A text messaging service to keep passengers informed of any disruptions;
  • Extending Oyster card pay-as-you-go capabilities between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield / Hertford East.
  • Mobile-phone and print-at-home ticketing facilities.
  • 600 extra car park spaces at stations.
  • Additional bicycle storage facilities.
  • New automatic ticket barriers at Brentwood (no automatic ticket barrier was installed by Abellio Greater Anglia and management of the station later passed to TfL Rail).
East Anglia Franchise (2016–2025)
The following improvements have been planned as part of the Abellio bid for the East Anglia franchise (2016–2025):
  • Replacement of the entire current fleet, with 1,043 new vehicles by September 2020 to run on the Regional, Intercity, Dutchflyer, Stansted Express, West Anglia and Great Eastern routes.
  • Extensive refurbishment of some of the existing vehicles, prior to replacement.
  • Raise Public Performance Measure scores to at least 92.9%.
  • Two weekday trains operating between Norwich and Ipswich to London with a journey time of 90 min and 60 min respectively.
  • Free Wi-Fi on trains and stations.
  • £60 million investment for station upgrades, with a focus on Broxbourne, Cambridge, Cheshunt, Harlow Town and Southend Victoria stations.
  • Introduction of digital information screens on all stations, with improvements in car and cycle parking (1,800 and 4,000 extra spaces respectively) along with upgrades to ticket offices and vending machines;
  • New ticketing programmes, with offers for infrequent travellers and part-time workers.
  • Introduction of an automatic Delay Repay service for season and advance ticket holders;
  • £120 million of investment into depots with a new maintenance facility at Manningtree.
  • Hiring of twenty trainees per year and creation of at least thirty apprenticeships by 2019.
  • Extension of the Gainsborough Line from Marks Tey to Colchester Town.
  • Reintroduction of four direct Lowestoft to London services on the East Suffolk Line.
  • Improving the frequency of the Ipswich to Ely Line services to Peterborough from every two hours to hourly with some additional services extending to Colchester.
  • Improving the frequency of the Ipswich to Cambridge Line and East Suffolk Line services from every two hours to hourly respectively on Sundays.
Greater Anglia Overview
Greater Anglia Franchise(s): Greater Anglia
5 February 2012 – 15 October 2016
East Anglia
16 October 2016 – 20 September 2026
Greater Anglia Main Region(s): Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk & Suffolk
Greater Anglia Other Region(s): London & Hertfordshire
Greater Anglia Fleet Size:
133 Class 720 Aventra units (103 in service)
20 Class 745 FLIRT units
38 Class 755 FLIRT units
Greater Anglia Stations Called At: 150
Greater Anglia Stations Operated: 134
Greater Anglia Parent Company: Transport UK Group (60%)
Mitsui & Co (40%)
Greater Anglia Reporting Mark: LE
Greater Anglia Predecessor: National Express East Anglia
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