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Video: Why Paul Geater is giving nine out of ten to new Greater Anglia commuter trains

PUBLISHED: 19:05 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:12 14 September 2018

The new Bombardier Aventra train being built at Derby. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The new Bombardier Aventra train being built at Derby. Picture: PAUL GEATER


Greater Anglia has shown off one of the first new commuter trains that is expected to transform commuter services in Essex and part of Suffolk from next year.

Derby-based Bombardier is building 111 new Aventra trains for the region’s commuter lines from London to Colchester, Ipswich, Clacton, Cambridge and Southend.

Of these 89 will be five carriage trains with 540 seats and 22 10-carriage trains with 1,100 seats. They are all standard class – there is no first class accommodation.

The seats are firm but did not feel uncomfortable for journeys of about an hour – they are ergonomically designed and the company is confident that commuters will be happier if there are more seats available to them.

They are in a 2+3 configuration, like existing suburban trains, and come completed with wi-fi and power points for people to charge mobile phones or tablets.

Inside the Bombardier Aventra train at the Derby factory. Picture: PAUL GEATERInside the Bombardier Aventra train at the Derby factory. Picture: PAUL GEATER

There are actually more charging points than there are seats for passengers.

The open nature of the carriages allows more seats to be installed – and also makes the carriages feel more open. Greater Anglia and Bombardier also hope they will be smoother on the track than the trains they replace – some of which are up to 40 years old.

The first of the Bombardier trains will start to come into service in autumn next year, although people will start to see them around the Greater Anglia network from the first quarter of next year.

Andrew Goodrum, Greater Anglia business readiness director, who is responsible for the introduction of the new trains, said: “It’s great to see these new trains nearing completion.

Paul Geater with one of the new Bombardier Aventra trains. Picture: JULIETTE MAXAM/Greater AngliaPaul Geater with one of the new Bombardier Aventra trains. Picture: JULIETTE MAXAM/Greater Anglia

“It’s now possible to see the huge difference they’re going to make to our commuters and other customers travelling to and from London Liverpool Street and across much of the Greater Anglia network.

Alan Fravolini, portfolio director for Aventra projects at Bombardier, said: “It’s wonderful to see the first completed UK-designed and built cars roll off the production line at Derby.”

As well as the Aventra trains, Greater Anglia is also introducing new Intercity and regional trains built by Swiss company Stadler across its network next year.

Paul Geater’s verdict on the new Aventra suburban trains

Other rail companies, notably Transport for London, have already started running Aventra trains and they have generally been welcomed by passengers. They will also be the backbone of the Elizabeth Line fleet that will run on Crossrail under the heart of London.

The trains are smooth and fast – and although they have only recently come into service so it is too early to come up with a definitive answer, reliability has not been a problem.

What is unique about the Greater Anglia trains is the internal layout – and this is where questions will be asked.

For a start the trains are all standard class – there are no first class seats. Ideal for high-density commuters but that could be a disadvantage if you’re trying to attract businesses customers heading between London and Cambridge or Clacton.

And what about wealthy tourists who might want to visit Cambridge and travel there in more comfort?

The seats are firm and look a bit like those described as “ironing boards” by some. However they have been ergonomically designed and I found them quite comfortable with a slight “S” shape providing support in the back.

However I can see the carriages feeling slightly cramped when they’re full – but that is the case at present and they do have more seats than current commuter trains. And the power plugs at every seat is a real bonus.

I don’t think I’d feel uncomfortable travelling on an Aventra train from Ipswich to Chelmsford, or even London, on an off-peak service if I could spread out a bit.

A peak service would be uncomfortable and I think I’d prefer to make sure I got one of the new Intercity trains for a longer trip if I thought it was likely to be very busy.

Overall the new trains are bright and airy. I heard some comments on the narrow aisles. I didn’t feel they were that narrow (and I’m certain not narrow!) so I’m not sure that is a valid criticism.

All in all from what I’ve seen I’d give the new Aventras 9/10 – but I do suspect that at some point in the future some could see a few first class seats installed.

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