Wednesday 8 January 2020

007 Ends 61 Years Of Hurt On GEML

What year 1958 was - Great Balls of Fire was no 1, Bolton Wanderers won the FA Cup, Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, and the first section of motorway in the UK, the Preston Bypass opened. It was also the last time the Great Eastern Main Line had a brand new train make its maiden trip. Until today.

61 years down the line and the first Greater Anglia brand new Intercity train left Norwich at 0740 to begin a new chapter of history. The 12 car Stadler, 745007 made light work of the 114.5 mile journey, arriving in Liverpool St 3 minutes early. But what of the trains themselves? I boarded this morning expecting a longer version of the bi-mode 755's. To some extent they are, but to my surprise in other ways they are entirely different.

745007 at Norwich waiting to form the 0740 to London
The ride is effortless, with thanks to Roger French aka Busandtrainuser for that word, as I was struggling. He's right, you're doing 100mph before you know it without acceleration to take your breath away. Quiet, smooth, visual through the large windows. Air conditioning at the right temperature for me at least - everyone is different so that really is a matter of taste. Comfortable seats as on the bi-modes, WiFi, charging points, the familiar and reassuring voice of Julie Berry on the announcements, two refreshment trolleys and a cafe bar, far more seats than the old trains and you have a bit of a winner. It is, quite simply, like no other train in the UK.

It's a looong train!
Like the bi-modes the seats over the bogies are raised, but not every coach is the same. Some are like the bi-modes, where the end seats are raised by a step, but others the floor slopes up so most of the seats are raised with no step. Of course that means the floor also slopes down in the next coach which could prove entertaining. First Class is quirky beyond measure with quiet secluded sections, raised cubby hole type tables, and seats that appear quite firm at first, but didn't seem to feel any harder as the journey progressed, so once they are bedded in I think they'll be fine. The only negative point I heard was regarding the very bright lighting. It would be good if there was a lower setting, especially as the reading lights above the seats are of particularly good quality.

One of the quirky First Class tables
The Cafe Bar looked attractive, but it is heavily towards the First Class end of the traiu, so if you are in the rear standard coach you have a considerable walk to get to the cafe bar, and I'd rely on the trolley! I expected more toilets too, only 5 for the whole train and only one accessible toilet, again at the First Class end where the only wheelchair bays are. That might be something that needs retrospectively looking at as those 5 loos are going to be extremely well used, so tanking is going to be vital.

The Cafe Bar area
I travelled back from London in the company of the aforementioned Roger French, and the Deputy Editor of Modern Railways magazine, Phil Sherratt, and we had a tete a tete comparing the 745's to other new fleets around the country. The general conclusion was these 745's are just about the best new trains around right now, including the IET's on GWR and LNER. I would much rather travel to Scotland on a 745 than Azuma, and no one disagreed. It made for a really interesting journey, so thanks to Roger and Phil for their company and wisdom.

Waiting at Liverpool St to return to Norwich
And back at Norwich with one of the old warhorse Class 90's for company
It was at Norwich that Phil came into his own. Sometimes the obvious is that obvious it goes straight over your head, well it does mine, and I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed that the grey and white on the 745's is the mirror of that on the 755's. A nice touch and another example of the thought that has gone into these units.

Compare this 755/3 with the 745.
One final quirk. Walking through them at the halfway stage you reach what looks very similar to the engine compartments on the bi-modes. No engines on these 745's though so what are they? I asked the friendly driving team who told me they were, in fact cab ends without the cab, as the 12 car units are, it turns out two 6 car units joined together. That means they can be split in the sheds for maintenance purposes if necessary.

The middle of the train outside

And inside
In conclusion I think the huge majority of passengers will love these trains, the level access and wide doors make boarding and alighting much easier, the on board facilities will be popular, but if you're travelling home on a Friday evening I suggest you use the loos at the station, because I fear the on board ones will be in great demand. The short set enticed enthusiasts from round the country to the area. I have a feeling Greater Anglia's unique new fleet will too. They have set the bar high, and make fleets only months older look already dated. 61 years melted away in 115 minutes.


  1. Well done. Good news. Though am I the only one hoping we can resist the temptation to welcome them in a traditional British manner, with abuse;for once.

  2. I heard the trolley was just a promo stunt, most services will just be the buffet.

    And we know no more buffet on Sundays and a few morning and afternoon services.

    Still entirely agree with you, about time we had new trains and they've done a great job with the Stadlers.

    1. Andrew Kleissner15 January 2020 at 14:21

      Just imagine - it wasn't all that long ago that you could have sit-down meals and a Proper Afternoon Tea on East Anglian express trains!