East Midlands Railway, the new name for the operator of the East Midlands franchise, started operations on Sunday 18 August 2019.
The old East Midlands Trains logo was removed from advertising and signs around stations, and the process of covering over the old logos on trains began. Two new brands appeared – EMR Intercity for long distance trains and EMR Regional for, well, regional services.
On Monday 19 August, the first fully liveried train appeared. Resplendent in EMR’s new purple, the four-car Meridian Class 222 set ran a VIP service from Derby to London for stakeholders, suppliers, politicians and the press.
Earlier, those same people had attended a launch conference, given by EMR executives who laid out their plans for the new franchise.
Dominic Booth, managing director of EMR owner Abellio UK, said that the company had already started on its promised £600 million investment in its new operation. An order has been placed for 33 new trains – four-car AT300s from Hitachi, to be built at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham.
The new fleet will be different from the Class 800/802 trains already in service with LNER on the East Coast main line and GWR on the Great Western. They will be shorter, with a car length of 24 metres rather than 26 – a 26-metre car won’t fit into St Pancras. However, that’s still a little longer than the Class 222 Meridians they will replace, which have car lengths of 22.8 metres.
Each five-car unit will be fitted with four MTU power packs, one more than the Class 800 five-car units operated by GWR and LNER.
The remainder of the EMR train fleet will consist of Class 170 and Class 360 trains. The Class 222 Meridians and the Class 153/156/158 Super Sprinters will be returned to their owning leasing companies. Five Class 170/4 three-car diesel multiple units, currently with Scotrail, should arrive with EMR by the end of the year.
Four-car Class 360 all-electric trains will move over from Greater Anglia to run the St Pancras to Corby service once that line is electrified.
While the new train fleet is intended to give passengers a better service and more capacity, other changes will be more readily apparent.
Catering will be sorted out. The trolley service in standard class will be more consistent as will catering in first class, which currently is suspended over weekends.
And Wi-Fi, a constant cause for complaint, will be upgraded and made available on all trains.
More of the money – another £20 million – will be spent on stations. There will be general ‘repair and paint’ refreshes, more staff, better ticket machines, 916 extra car parking spaces, 1,050 new cycle spaces and 60 electric vehicle charging points.
There will even be ‘improved customer facilities at St Pancras’. We wait to see what that will be – somewhere better to stand while waiting for the train to commence boarding only five minutes before it’s due to depart perhaps? Or a first-class lounge that’s open at weekends?
Then there will be improved facilities for passengers with accessibility problems – a shorter booking time for assistance, and more Changing Places toilets.
Julian Edwards, Abellio’s deputy managing director and UK development director, and now interim managing director of East Midlands Railway, summed it all up: “Today is a new era for rail services across the East Midlands. We have already begun to deliver on our promises including new and better trains, improved stations and more services.
“I’ve been really impressed by the employees I have already met across the network and, working together, the railways of the East Midlands will begin to look and feel very different to today.”