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Greater Anglia in race to get Intercity trains on track ahead of deadline

PUBLISHED: 07:30 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:02 27 February 2020

Only two of the new Intercity trains have entered service so far. Picture; JOHN DAY

Only two of the new Intercity trains have entered service so far. Picture; JOHN DAY

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Greater Anglia is facing a race against time to get enough new Intercity trains into service to meet the government’s deadline to retire its existing carriages.

Existing Intercity trains will fall foul of disability legislation after the end of March. Picture: PAUL GEATER.Existing Intercity trains will fall foul of disability legislation after the end of March. Picture: PAUL GEATER.

After March 31 existing Intercity carriages will have to be withdrawn from service because they will no longer meet the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The original deadline for their renewal was December 31 but Greater Anglia and other rail operators were given a three-month extension to get their new trains into service - but problems with the new trains mean Greater Anglia is struggling to meet this deadline.

It has 10 new Intercity trains for its services between Norwich, Ipswich and London and needs to have nine in service to meet its daily timetable. However at present only two are running. The rest are still undergoing testing - or are "running in" by building up miles of fault-free running before they can enter passenger service.

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A third Intercity unit is due to enter service very soon, but the company's timetable for the introduction was knocked off course when two of their Intercity units hit objects on the track during test runs and had to start the programme from the start again. One suffered damage in a collision with an object and had to be repaired.

The testing programme as a whole was thrown off schedule by the signalling problems in December which caused weeks of problems for rural and regional services and was eventually found not to be the fault of the new trains that had come into service.

If Greater Anglia is not able to get enough trains into service by the deadline, the government has indicated there is unlikely to be a further extension to the DDA. That would mean more suburban trains, which do have automatic doors, are likely to be put on Intercity services in the short term.

That will not please many travellers because they are designed for shorter journeys and their seats are more compact.

Greater Anglia bosses are generally happy with the performance of their new Intercity trains - except for the occasion when one broke down and it took five hours to clear all the passengers on a section of track on the approach to London.

They say passengers have also been happy with the comfort and the facilities on the trains which are similar to those on rural lines.

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