The first Greater Anglia Class 720 train arrived at its new owner’s Ilford depot on Tuesday 14 January 2020.
111 trains are being built by Bombardier in Derby. About one third of the carriages for the 89 five-car and 22 10-car trains have already been built and seven Greater Anglia drivers have been involved in the initial test running on Network Rail’s RIDC Melton test track at Old Dalby in Leicestershire.
Those same drivers will soon be conducting test runs in this first five-car train on the Greater Anglia network in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Suffolk. Once testing is complete, the new all-electric trains will start to enter service on commuter lines to Liverpool Street from Essex, Ipswich, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. The first will enter service in the Spring and the whole fleet should be in daily operation a year later.
The new trains are longer than those they replace and so have more seats. They also feature underfloor heating, air conditioning, conventional and USB power sockets, real time passenger information and improved passenger door anti-drag safety features, similar to those previously only seen on underground trains.
Greater Anglia franchise and programme director Ian McConnell said: “It’s fantastic to have one of these new Bombardier trains now on our patch.
“Our test drivers have been very impressed with them. They said it was like going from a bottom of the range small car to a Rolls Royce compared to driving our old trains.
“We’re confident our customers will be equally pleased with the quality of the new trains, as they should greatly improve their journeys with us.
“The drivers will now spend many hours in the cab of the new trains as we test how the trains interact with the overhead wires, signals and points, their performance at different speeds, double-checking them at platforms in stations across the network to make sure new signage is in the right place.”
The Bombardier electric trains are expected to enter passenger service this spring and should all be in service by spring 2021.
Bombardier’s communications director Will Tanner apologised for the delays but explained that the situation had now improved: “These British-designed and built trains have been delayed by a range of factors, but production is now being ramped up with extra staff recruited at our Derby factory so that Greater Anglia’s customers can benefit from these state-of-the-art trains as quickly as possible”.
Kevin Tribley, CEO of Angel Trains, which is procuring and financing the new trains, said: “The modernisation of Greater Anglia’s network is a major boost to the future of the UK rail industry and the communities this network serves. We are delighted that, through the supply of 665 Class 720 Aventra vehicles, Angel Trains is investing in improved service and experience for passengers in the region.
“This project, one of the largest private investments into rolling stock in the last 20 years, reiterates our ongoing commitment to creating the railway of the future that modern Britain deserves.”