Monday 9 December 2019

Stadlers At A Virtual Standstill

I was hoping this post would be a retrospective look at the introduction of the new Stadler Class 755's onto the Ipswich - Cambridge and Lowestoft routes, including arguably the happiest passenger I've ever seen, However all is not well.

There is a crisis. In fact, if you will allow me to quote Blackadder; "This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you got a moment, it's a twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'"

It would appear that there is an issue with the new trains having an adverse effect on the track circuits (signals), and rather more worryingly, level crossing sensors. I understand there was a very near miss near Norwich where barriers thought the train had past and raised before it had, causing the train to miss a car by around a quarter of a second. Obviously safety has to take priority over everything else, so draconian speed restrictions have been put in place, along with, I'm told, prohibitions on Stadlers going on several routes until the cause of this has been identified and fixed.

As I type there are no trains running on the Ipswich - Felixstowe/Peterborough routes, a limited service on Ipswich - Cambridge, and there have also been suspensions on the Marks Tey - Sudbury branch. In addition to that there are no trains running Cromer - Sheringham, and less than 50% service on the rest of the route. There are numerous cancellations on Norwich - Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft routes, and all Norwich - Cambridge services are terminating at Ely. Slippery rails are causing issues on the East Suffolk Line. There has been no announcement as to when these measures will end.

Apart from replacement buses there seems to be no contingency whatsoever. You'd have thought the short set would have been rushed back, as it's hardly the height of the charter season, an emergency recall of the 153's, even the 170's yet to be refurbished by Transport for Wales - after all this IS an unforeseen and quite drastic development. But so far nothing, and that does not look good to the customer standing in the freezing cold waiting for, hopefully, a bus to turn up.

So I feel it would be inappropriate to wax lyrical about new introductions on routes that have had them taken away just as quickly! I may go out to see if there are any replacement buses around - I know Ensign have sent a couple to Norwich today - so watch this space for updates.


  1. The Sudbury to Marks Tey issue seems to be unrelated. As far as I know they are not using bi-modes on that line yet,. It only seems to have affect the first trains so seem to have been an issue of getting the unit out of Colchester

    The issue with the bi-modes on the other lines is of far greater concern. They appear to not know what the problem is so should they be using them at all. Even at 20mph could they safely stop should there be another crossing malfunction? I would say not

    The issue seems to be only related to the bi-modes with no problems occurring with other rolling stock. This seem to point to a problem with the bi-modes themselves. Why as well was this issue not picked up during the testing ?

    Even more concerning is the system is not failing safe

  2. Perhaps I'm just a pessimist (I am) but I don't see how the introduction of state-of-the art trains onto the neglected East Anglian network could be anything but messy. Perfect software that can cope with anything hasn't been invented. I'm not saying the infrastructure hasn't been improved but it's an ad hoc process. Frankly I don't see how, within our resources, it could have been anything but. The basic physical structure is Victorian. Testing can't replicate everything in real life (look at medicine as an example, if tech were that perfect none of us would get ill unexpectedly, ever.) East Anglia is not going to have a Crossrail, which anyway has enough problems of its own. So whether we try to turn the clock back, or not, then issues would have to be worked out in service, whether we like it or not. That's not to say there isn't some very bad luck involved; and may be some avoidable neglect, with hindsight, which is such a wonderful thing. That's the way of the world. The rest of us can't always assume "everything will always be OK" either, no more than our transport operators. I'm always wary of level crossings (and bridges for that matter) for that reason, no design or technology is perfect. The weather, not unusually for this time of year, is no friend either. The East Anglian weather is both unpredictable and inhospitable. A double whammy.

  3. ...and the situation could get worse as I am given to understand that all the 156s (the only non-stadler stock still available for country routes) are to transfer to East Midlands Railway during the next couple of weeks with the final pair due to transfer on 27 Dec!!

  4. Greater Anglia still have not a clue as to what the problem is.
    The Ipswich to Cambridge service has been pretty much restored by bringing back the old diesel sets but the rest of the services are still in chaos

  5. Greater Anglia have now announced that the delivery of trains for the mainline are to be delayed citing software problems presumably the same problem that has bought the bi-mode service to a standstill

    It is difficult to see how such a fundamental safety flaw was now discovered during the testing

  6. New Hardingham Routes to Replace First Bus 97 & 98

    An approximate 20 minute service will be run between Clacton & Walton as a service 98 and is a temporary timetable for the Winter

    Additional X76 services will run to partially replace the service 97 to Colchester

    The service 98 between Clacton and Colchester will be replaced by a new Service 74 running approximately approximately hourly to Colchester

    So the Colchester services look to be much reduced

  7. It's the oldest conundrum. Do you run a metro network (a la First or the old London Transport country services) without the subsidy and resources available in London and the Mets, and keep your fingers crossed that the books balance. All or nothing.
    Or try to create sustainable services by matching resources and demand (see Stagecoach) and incur the wrath of enthusiasts who believe that any bus creates its own demand?
    Or take the cowboy approach and flood routes with buses to keep the competition away, until... whatever happened to them, by the way?

  8. FirstGroup starts formal sales process for US business but pauses UK bus sale

    Possibly they cannot find buyers for the UK business at present

    Train and bus operator FirstGroup has announced the appointment of advisers to formally look into selling off its US assets following pressure from shareholders.

    The UK bus business is also no longer under threat of sale, with bosses saying: “The board determined that greater value will be achieved by delivering … margin enhancement prior to any launch of a formal sale process.”

  9. School bus project launched on rural routes

    It seems sensible as most of the school routes have a lot of dead mileage as well

    A pilot project using school buses for rural communities during off-peak hours is to be introduced in the New Year, following concerns over bus provision in Suffolk.

    "This pre-book only service will be comprised of vehicles that are currently on the road after transporting students to school in Stowmarket, travelling from Sudbury.

    "The taxi-buses will return via an assortment of villages to Cockfield. Here the service will connect with Chambers 753 bus, between Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds, then returning to Sudbury - with the reverse happening in the afternoon.

  10. The latest accounts for First Eastern Counties are now available online from Companies House.