Greater Anglia (train operating company)

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Greater Anglia
Greater Anglia 745010 Colchester.jpg
Class 745 at Colchester in February 2020
Franchise(s) Greater Anglia
5 February 2012 – 15 October 2016
East Anglia
16 October 2016 – 20 September 2026
Main region(s) Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk & Suffolk
Other region(s) London & Hertfordshire
Fleet size
Stations called at150
Stations operated134
Parent company Transport UK Group (60%)
Mitsui & Co (40%)
Reporting mark LE [3]
Predecessor National Express East Anglia
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Greater Anglia (legal name Abellio East Anglia Limited) [4] is a train operating company in Great Britain owned as a joint venture by Transport UK Group and Mitsui & Co. It operates the East Anglia franchise, providing the commuter and intercity services from its Central London terminus at London Liverpool Street to Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire as well as many regional services throughout the East of England.


Abellio began operating the franchise, then known as the Greater Anglia franchise, in February 2012. Initially, it traded under the same name until it rebranded as Abellio Greater Anglia in December 2013. Shortly after taking over operations, the company initiated a series of projects to improve service levels, including the procurement of new trains and the launch of the 'Norwich in 90' programme to reduce travel times between several major locations on its network. In May 2015, Greater Anglia's stopping metro services were transferred to London Overground and the precursor to Crossrail, TfL Rail.

The franchise was re-tendered as the East Anglia franchise, and awarded to Abellio in August 2016. The company resumed trading as Greater Anglia on 16 October 2016 when the new franchise commenced. In January 2017, Abellio announced that subject to gaining Department for Transport approval, it had agreed to sell a 40% stake in the business to Mitsui. Since the completion of the sale in March 2017, Greater Anglia has incorporated several Japanese planning tools and practices. Trade unions have objected to some of the changes made by the company, leading to industrial action in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the dispute.



Abellio Greater Anglia logo as used from December 2013 until October 2016 AbellioGreaterAnglia.svg
Abellio Greater Anglia logo as used from December 2013 until October 2016

In December 2003, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the Greater Anglia franchise to National Express, which began operations on 1 April 2004, initially under the brand-name One. [5] [6] The franchise was to run until March 2011, with provision for a three-year extension if performance targets were met. In November 2009, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that National Express would not be granted the three-year extension even though it had met the performance criteria, because National Express East Coast had defaulted on the InterCity East Coast franchise. [7] [8]

Following a change of government as a result of the 2010 general election, the DfT announced in June 2010 that all refranchising would be put on hold while a process review was conducted. [9] As a result, National Express East Anglia was granted an initial extension until October 2011, followed by another until February 2012. [10]

In March 2011, the DfT announced that Abellio, Go-Ahead, and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the franchise. [11] In October 2011, the new franchise was awarded to Abellio; accordingly, the services previously operated by National Express East Anglia were transferred to Greater Anglia on 5 February 2012. [12] [13] [14]

The Greater Anglia franchise was originally to run until July 2014; the reason for awarding a short franchise at a time when the government was speaking of its desire for longer franchises was to allow the government to digest the recommendations of the McNulty Rail Value for Money study before letting a long-term franchise. In March 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the franchise would again be extended until 15 October 2016. [15] Greater Anglia was rebranded as Abellio Greater Anglia in December 2013. [16]


Prior to Greater Anglia, the last period of substantial investment in the region had been nearly 30 years earlier, specifically the electrification of the line north of Ipswich. [17] At the commencement of the franchise, railway commentator Philip Haigh observed that the region's services had changed little since the BR days, and that change was overdue. During the negotiations for the award of the franchise, Greater Anglia pledged to undertake numerous investments that would improve the various services and facilities offered. [17] On 4 November 2014, the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce released its investment analysis report, which included a detailed breakdown of several proposed investments in the region's rail network. [17]

One major initiative that was commenced by Greater Anglia shortly after it took over operations was the 'Norwich in 90' campaign, aimed at introducing faster journey times, such as between London and Colchester within 40 minutes, London and Ipswich in 60 minutes, and London and Norwich in 90 minutes. [17] Several organisations, including Norfolk County Council, had been calling for such a scheme to be undertaken since as early as 2009. Abellio had acknowledged such calls in 2012, but could not justify making very substantial investments during the initial franchise period due to the short timescale involved. [17] The creation of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce in 2013 was seen as a major step towards this. In 2015, Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP and co-chairman of the taskforce, noted that the scheme was as much a political effort as it was an engineering one. [17]

By the 2010s, the region's rail infrastructure was relatively worn-out and prone to unreliability. Modernisation efforts would therefore focus not only on improving absolute speeds but on reducing failure rates as well. [17] This work is being undertaken as a multiagency effort, involving not only infrastructure changes carried out by Network Rail and various civil engineering companies, but also the procurement of new rolling stock and other efforts. It was recognised early on that, for the intercity services to be meaningfully speeded up, slower regional trains could not feasibly be overtaken or avoided on the mostly twin-track line, so that services overall would need to be accelerated. [17] There has also been an aspiration to increase the number of trains between Norwich and London to three per hour, although capacity constraints such as the single-track section in the vicinity of the Trowse Swing Bridge would need to be overcome to facilitate this. [17]

Some services have been transferred from Greater Anglia's management to other rail operators. On 31 May 2015, the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford services, as well as the Romford to Upminster service, were transferred to London Overground Rail Operations. [18] On the same day, the Liverpool Street to Shenfield stopping services were also transferred to the TfL Rail concession managed by MTR. [19]

In June 2015, an Abellio (60%) / Stagecoach (40%) joint venture, FirstGroup and National Express were shortlisted to bid for the franchise. [20] In December 2015, it was announced that Stagecoach had pulled out of the joint bid with Abellio, and that Abellio would continue the bid alone. [21] In August 2016, it was announced that Abellio had successfully retained the franchise until 2025. One commitment of the new franchise period is the purchase of 1,043 new carriages, 660 from Bombardier Transportation's Derby Litchurch Lane Works with the remainder being built by Stadler Rail. [22] [23] In January 2017, Abellio announced that, subject to gaining DfT approval, it had agreed to sell a 40% stake in the business to Mitsui. [24] The sale was completed in March 2017. [25] Reportedly, Greater Anglia has incorporated numerous planning and operational practices of the Japanese railways, such as the use of digital twin simulation software for analysing performance and developing its timetables, since the acquisition. [26]

In 2021, following the COVID-19 emergency measures, Greater Anglia was given a direct award contract, replacing its franchise agreement, expiring on 20 September 2026. [27]

In February 2023, Transport UK Group concluded a management buyout of Abellio's United Kingdom business, which included its share in Greater Anglia. [28] [29]

Industrial action

In August 2017, amidst a background of ongoing rail strikes on a national level, Greater Anglia conductors voted in favour of going on strike in a dispute over planned ticket office closures and the planned introduction of more widespread driver-only operation on the Greater Anglia network. [30] On numerous occasions since October 2017, industrial action has been taken by portions of the company's employees, and the principal matter of dispute has seen no effective resolution. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has accused Greater Anglia of conducting alleged strike-breaking tactics and claimed that its use of stand-in conductors led to passengers' safety being jeopardised. [31] [32] The dispute between Greater Anglia and the RMT continued into 2018, with further strikes threatened during the summer that affected around 40 percent of the operator's services. [33]

On 19 July 2018, the RMT announced members had voted 9 to 1 to accept a deal that would keep guards on trains, [34] and halted the expansion of driver only operation. [35]

Greater Anglia is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes, which are the first national rail strikes in the UK for three decades. [36] Its workers are amongst those who are participating in industrial action due to a dispute over pay and working conditions. [37]

Franchise commitments

Greater Anglia franchise (2012–2016)

A number of improvements were planned during the first franchise period (20122016) which included: [12]

East Anglia franchise (2016–2025)

The following improvements have been planned as part of the Abellio bid for the East Anglia franchise (20162025): [38]


As of December 2022, the following services operate during the off-peak period, Monday to Friday (request stops not included): [41]

RoutetphCalling at
London Liverpool StreetNorwich 2
  • Stratford, Chelmsford, and Stowmarket are served by the same trains.
Great Eastern
RoutetphCalling at
London Liverpool StreetSouthend Victoria 3
Wickford – Southminster 32
London Liverpool Street – Ipswich 1
London Liverpool Street – Colchester Town 1
  • Stratford, Romford, Shenfield, Chelmsford, Witham, Kelvedon, Marks Tey, Colchester
London Liverpool Street – Clacton-on-Sea 1
London Liverpool Street – Braintree 1
Colchester – Colchester Town1Shuttle service
Colchester – Walton-on-the-Naze 1
Manningtree – Harwich Town 1
Marks Tey – Sudbury 1
West Anglia
RoutetphCalling at
London Liverpool StreetHertford East 2
StratfordMeridian Water 2
Stratford – Bishop's Stortford 2
  • Trains alternate between serving Waltham Cross, or Northumberland Park, Enfield Lock, Roydon, and Harlow Mill.
London Liverpool Street – Cambridge North 2
  • Roydon, Harlow Mill, Sawbridgeworth, Stansted Mountfitchet, Elsenham, Newport, Great Chesterford, and Shelford are all served by the same trains.
RoutetphCalling at
IpswichFelixstowe 1
Ipswich – Lowestoft 1
Ipswich – Cambridge1
  • Kennett and Dullingham are served by alternate trains.
Ipswich – Peterborough 12
NorwichSheringham 1
  • Trains alternate between serving Worstead, or Salhouse, Gunton, and Roughton Road together.
Norwich – Great Yarmouth 1
  • Does not run when the service via Berney Arms below runs instead
Norwich – Lowestoft1
  • Trains alternate between stoppers or only calling at Oulton Broad North
Norwich – Stansted Airport 1
  1. Pick up only northbound, set down only southbound
  2. 1 2 Trains reverse

Stansted Express

Greater Anglia operates the Stansted Express sub-branded airport rail link between Stansted Airport, London Liverpool Street and Stratford. [42] As of December 2022, Stansted Express' off-peak services Monday to Friday is: [41]

RoutetphCalling at
London Liverpool StreetStansted Airport 2


Punctuality statistics released by Network Rail for service report period 7 of 20132014 (15 September 13 October 2013) were 94.0% PPM (Public Performance Measure), down 1.0 percentage point on the same period ine the previous year, and the MAA (Moving Annual Average) up to 12 October 2013 also fell slightly to 92.3%. [43] In 2013, Abellio Greater Anglia was named train operator of the year. [44] However, a survey in February 2014 by the consumer group Which? found that customer satisfaction with Abellio Greater Anglia was at last place (out of 20 train operators) with a satisfaction percentage of 40%, [45] and in 2016 Abellio Greater Anglia was rated the fourth worst UK train operator with a commuter rail services satisfaction rating of 35%. [46]

Forecasts issued during the mid-2010s predicted that demand on the GEML into London from Suffolk and Norfolk was expected to grow by 32 percent, while demand from Essex was to go up by 52 percent. [17] This prediction was in spite of the relatively low levels of subsidies provided for Greater Anglia's operations, and the general lack of improvements in prior years; according to industry periodical Rail, it was the second least subsidised passenger operator by 2015. [17]

Rolling stock

Greater Anglia inherited a fleet of Class 90, Mark 3 carriages, Driving Van Trailers, Class 153, Class 156 and Class 170 diesel multiple units, and Class 315, Class 317, Class 321, Class 360 and Class 379 electric multiple units from National Express East Anglia. Due to its short initial franchise term, Greater Anglia was not planning to introduce any new trains, [47] although this policy changed substantially following the start of its second franchise term in October 2016.

In November 2013, an online petition was launched, aimed at stopping Greater Anglia's trains from dumping raw sewage from the train toilets directly onto the tracks. [48] There were also concerns with the 'sewage mist' from passing trains making Network Rail staff ill, and Greater Anglia announced it was "working closely" with the government to introduce a fleet upgrade. [49] By October 2016, all the franchise's Mark 3 carriages and Class 156 multiple units had been refitted with controlled emission toilets. [50]

On 31 May 2015, the company's fleet of Class 315 trains were cascaded to London Overground and TfL Rail, and some Class 317 trains have been cascaded to London Overground, which has taken over local services in North and East London from the Greater Anglia franchise. [18]

In August 2016, it was announced 1,043 new carriages would be purchased, which will allow for all of the ageing stock to be replaced, especially necessary given that a number of coaches are not compliant with accessibility requirements beyond 2020 and they would not be able to meet Abellio's new targets for lower journey times without extensive modification. [51] [52] One part of the contract went to Bombardier with nearly £1 billion to build 111 Bombardier Aventra electric multiple units and the other part of the purchase went to Stadler to build 58 FLIRT electric multiple units, all of which would enter service between August 2019 and September 2020. [23] [38] [53]

Bombardier's order included all 111 Class 720 units for taking over local and commuter services out of Liverpool Street. [54] Stadler's order included 20 twelve-carriage Class 745 units for taking over intercity services on the Great Eastern Main Line and the Stansted Express [55] as well as 38 three- and four-carriage Class 755 units for taking over all local diesel services from the previous outdated rolling stock. [56] By July 2020, all Class 755 trains have entered passenger service.[ citation needed ]

The first unit of the new order to enter service was the Class 755 fleet, of which the first one entered service on 29 July 2019 on the Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft route. [57] The next of the order was the Class 745/0 fleet, of which the first one entered service on 8 January 2020 on the Great Eastern Main Line operating services between Norwich and Liverpool Street. [58] Following the introduction of these units, the loco-hauled Class 90 sets have all been withdrawn from service, with the last set running its last services on 24 March 2020. [59]

In March 2020, testing of the new Class 720 fleet finally began and is continuing to be done despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in order to allow the first unit to enter service within the next few months. [60] [61] In June 2020, the units were authorised to enter passenger service and after further testing and crew training, the first two units finally entered service on 26 November 2020 as a pairing on the Shenfield to Southend Line. [62] [63]

Beginning in June 2020, Class 360s began moving to Kings Heath TMD, Northampton for modifications by Siemens to make them 110 mph in preparation for their transfer to East Midlands Railway. [64] Due to delays in commissioning the Class 720s and to allow the Class 360s to be released, three Class 321/9s and five Class 322s, last used by Northern Trains were leased from July 2020. [65] [66] The first unit bound for East Midlands Railway, 360120, moved to Cricklewood Depot on 10 November 2020, with all having transferred to EMR by February 2021. [67]

Due to high leasing costs the fleet of 30 Class 379 Electrostar EMUs was withdrawn and sent to storage in February 2022. [68]

On 1 August 2022, Greater Anglia confirmed that all West Anglia Services are operated by Class 720 Aventra units. [69]

Current fleet

FamilyClassImageTypeTop speedCarsNumberRoutes operatedBuilt
Shunting locomotive
08 [70] N/A Shunter 1524N/A3Stock movements19521962
Electric multiple units
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) 321/3 321344 at Colchester.jpg EMU 100161414 [1] 19881991
Alstom Aventra 720/1 N/A EMU 10016054420182021
720/5 Class 720 540 & 538 at Liverpool Street.jpg 89
GA Class 720.png
Stadler FLIRT 745/0 Greater Anglia 745010 Colchester.jpg EMU 1001611210 Great Eastern Main Line 20182020
Class 745-0.png
745/1 Greater Anglia Class 745-1 Stansted Express train at Liverpool Street.jpg EMU 100161121020182020
Class 745-1.png
Bi-mode multiple units
Stadler FLIRT 755/3 2 Class 755s at Norwich Station.jpg BMU 100161314 [1] 20182020
GA Class 755 3.png
755/4 755407AtThetford.jpg BMU 10016142420182020
GA Class 755 4.png

Past fleet

Former train types operated by Greater Anglia include:

FamilyClassImageTypeTop speedCarsNumberBuiltRoutes operated
Locomotive hauled stock
37 Class 37 37194.jpg Diesel locomotive 80130N/A419601965 Wherry Lines
Stadler UKLight 68 Marylebone - DRS 68008 (Chiltern 172104).JPG 100161320132017
Mark 2 Direct Rail Services Mark 2e TSO 5787 at Norwich.JPG Carriage 1319631975
90 90002 at Ipswich (31227986510).jpg Electric locomotive 11017791519871990 Great Eastern Main Line
Mark 3 Mk3 Standard Open 12110.jpg Carriage 12520113019751988
Driving Van Trailer Stowmarket - Greater Anglia 82107.JPG Control car 1519881990
Diesel multiple units
Super Sprinter 153 153306 and 153309 at Great Yarmouth.jpg DMU 751211519911992 Wherry Lines
Breckland line
Bittern Line
East Suffolk Line
Felixstowe Branch Line
Ipswich to Ely Line
Gainsborough line
156 Bitten Line Train Beeston Regis .JPG 2919871988
Bombardier Turbostar 170/2 Needham Market - Greater Anglia 170272 Ipswich train.JPG 100161242002
Stowmarket - Greater Anglia 170205 Ipswich train.JPG Class 170 Greater Anglia 2 Car Updated Livery.png

Class 170 Greater Anglia 3 Car Updated Livery.png

Electric multiple units
BREL 1972 315 Romford railway station MMB 15 315803.jpg EMU 7512146119801981 Shenfield Metro
Lea Valley lines
Romford–Upminster line
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) 317/1 317345 at Cambridge 2.jpg 10016141019811982 Fen Line
Hertford East Branch Line
West Anglia Main Line
317/5 317512 Passes Bethnal Green by Joshua Brown.jpg 719811982 Fen Line
Hertford East Branch Line
West Anglia Main Line
317/6 317667 at Cheshunt.jpg 2419851987 Fen Line
Hertford East Branch Line
West Anglia Main Line
317/7 317708 at Seven Sisters.jpg 919811982 Lea Valley Lines
317/8 London Overground Class 317 at Rectory Road June 2019.jpg 9
Class 317 Greater Anglia Diagram.png
321 321344 at Colchester.jpg 10016147519881991 Braintree Branch Line
Crouch Valley Line
Great Eastern Main Line
Mayflower Line
Shenfield to Southend Line
Sunshine Coast Line
Class 321 New Greater Anglia Diagram.png
322 322485 Leeds.jpg 100161451990
Class 321 & 322 GA.png
Siemens Desiro 360/1 360101 at a Frosty Manningtree.jpg 11017742120022003 Braintree Branch Line
Great Eastern Main Line
Mayflower Line
Sunshine Coast Line
GA Class 360 1 w-pantograph.png
Bombardier Electrostar 379 Tottenham Hale BR station 20161116 091106 (40816506833).jpg 10016043020102011 Fen Line
Stansted Express
West Anglia Main Line
GA Class 379 w-pantograph.png


Greater Anglia's fleet is maintained at Clacton-on-Sea, Ilford and Crown Point depots. [71]


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    Preceded by Operator of Greater Anglia franchise
    Succeeded by
    Greater Anglia
    East Anglia franchise
    Preceded by
    Abellio Greater Anglia
    Greater Anglia franchise
    Operator of East Anglia franchise
    2016 2026