A key milestone in the refurbishment programme for Abellio Greater Anglia's intercity MkIII carriages has been reached with the signing of a contract with Vossloh Kiepe UK to carry out the major upgrade. The significant refresh will see all of the train operator's Mark III fleet enhanced, with the following improvements throughout for both First Class and Standard carriages:
- Plug points;
- New LED lighting;
- New carpets;
- New tables;
- New seat covers;
- Upgraded environmentally-friendly controlled emission toilets, including new floors and new taps;
- Re-painting of the carriage interior saloon and vestibule panels, walls and ceilings.
The work will be undertaken at a specially prepared facility at Abellio Greater Anglia's Crown Point Depot in Norwich and the first refurbished carriages are due to enter service in the first quarter of next year, with the full programme completed by the end of the train operator's current short franchise in October 2016.
|Already repainted but soon to be refurbished too. A MkIII coach sits at norwich with an East Midlands class 158|
I have mixed feelings about this. GA do not say if newer locomotives will be brought in to replace the increasingly unreliable Class 90's which seem to be failing on a wholly unacceptable basis. Passengers don't just want comfort they want reliability before comfort, and a fleet of new class 379's that are proving to be most reliable might well have been the better option. Only First Class passengers were worried about losing Intercity status, as it would have meant a downgrading of 1st Class facilities. But the main downside of retaining Intercity status on the shortest Intercity route there is is this. Had the route lost its Intercity status the Network South East area would have been extended, certainly to Ipswich, maybe further north. That would have been of great benefit to passengers regarding fares, and the availability of tickets such as the Network Card being able to be used north of Manningtree.
However these coaches are long overdue a refit. It is good to see power sockets will be fitted, new loos, lighting, flooring and seat covers. Just a shame that the exterior doors will remain the big, cumbersome manual things they currently are, making disabled access difficult. New electric doors and redesigned vestibules would have helped boarding and alighting, and reduced the amount of time the train needs at stations, thus improving punctuality and journey times.
But it is good to see the work is being done at Norwich, which should create a few jobs in the region, although those enthusiasts cureently enjoying the regular empty stock moves to Wolverton for repainting will be disappointed that these will cease! It is also positive that despite having a short franchise GA are taking this step to improve the Mk III coaches and I look forward to sampling the newly refurbished coaches when they start rolling out next year.