East Midlands Railway is the new name on the UK rail network, following its successful bid to run the East Midlands franchise.
EMR, as it wants to be called, is owned by Abellio, the same company that now runs Greater Anglia, ScotRail, West Midlands Trains and Merseyrail. It has taken over the franchise, complete with trains, staff and services, from East Midlands Trains after owner Stagecoach was disqualified from the East Midlands competition for submitting a ‘non-compliant’ bid.
The new franchise came into being on Sunday 18 August 2019. One day later, the first EMR-liveried train, Class 222 Meridian number 222104, was revealed to stakeholders and the press at Derby station. Its smart purple livery shone in the August sunshine, which made a rare appearance, and was admired by all who saw it.
Station staff had new ties and new badges, though ‘Stagecoach blue’ shirts were still in evidence. Passengers were even offered cupcakes bearing EMR logos. One manager looked very smart in a nice purple sweater, although he admitted he bought it himself!
Even so, it was well done and a credit to the new company. The expected speeches were made, by the managing director of Abellio UK Dominic Booth (“Abellio is delighted…”) and the City Mayor of Leicester and chairman of the East Midlands Councils Sir Peter Soulsby (“We’re pleased to welcome East Midlands Railway…”), but there were some serious promises for the future being made as well.
A fleet of 33 new five-car trains is being ordered from Hitachi at Newton Aycliffe for delivery in 2022. They will be AT300 trains, similar to the Class 800/802 units already being supplied to GWR and to LNER. However, they will have coaches only 24-metres long, rather than the 26 meters of the other two classes. And they will have one extra diesel engine, four spread over the five carriages, to cope with the long diesel-only sections north from Kettering.
In addition, Class 360 all-electric trains will be brought in for the London to Corby service once electrification is complete, and Class 170 diesel multiple-units will be used for cross-country services.
Julian Edwards, managing director of East Midlands Railway, was keen to stress that passengers would get improved services as well as new trains.
The timetable will change from December 2021, correcting some of the current anomalies in which trains to and from London often seem to run close together with then long gaps before the next one. In future, the schedule will be more evenly spread.
Catering will be sorted out. EMR intends to give both standard and first-class passengers a better offering.
And improved Wi-Fi will be available throughout all trains. The current offering is seen as being sub-standard and it will be improved.
There is more of course – £20 million investment in stations, easier ticketing, more customer assistance, better staff training – but customers want comfortable trains that are on time and provide decent catering and good connectivity, and that’s what EMR will offer.
This article first appeared in Issue 177 of Rail Engineer, Aug/Sep 2019.