Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Stratford - Holiday Disruption

There are numerous reports of considerable disruption at Stratford this week as London bound trains terminate there during scheduled maintenance work at Liverpool Street. It is suggested that passengers avoid the peak period if at all possible.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

The Essex Rail Users Federation would like to wish everybody a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Services

For details of NXEA services over the Christmas and New Year period click here

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas Eve Services

A reminder that Christmas Eve services begin to wind down from late afternoon and all are advised to check the timetable for last services.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

National Express Announces New Chief Exec

After a six month search following the departure of Richard Bowker, National Express have today announced Dean Finch as their new Chief Executive. Mr Finch was formerly head of the Tube Lines consortium that maintains half of London's Underground.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Vandalism Causes Spares Worry

Following the 4th instance of criminal damager leading to severe delays in the past ten days there are now fears of a shortage of spares should this vandalism continue. Thieves are stealing the copper wire used in the signalling systems and Network Rail only keep so much in stock.

The nature of these thefts is suggesting a very organised approach as it is not simply a case of cutting a wire - to do so would probably lead to the electrocution of the perpetrator. Also, newer installations use aluminium instead of copper and these gangs seem to know here the copper is.

Monday, 7 December 2009

NXEA Season Ticket Promotion

NXEA has launched a promotion to help annual season ticket holders renew their ticket early and avoid the January rush.

Passengers who renew their season ticket before December 31st will receive £20 back as well as obtaining their ticket at the new January prices. Annual season ticket prices are set to fall by 0.4% in the new year.

This offer is available to those renewing or buying for the first time, their tickets between 23rd and 31st December.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Beaulieu Park

Members of the ERUF committee yesterday met with representatives from Countryside Properties to get an overview of the planned station at Beaulieu Park just north of Chelmsford. Talk of a station in this area has existed for decades but at long last there seems to be progress.

Work on this particular plan has been going in since 2004 with the developers providing business and technical plans to the then SRA to prove that the station can be developed by a third party with 'nil cost to the railway'. Such a plan requires support and agreement from Chelmsford Borough Council, Essex County Council, Countryside Properties, Office of Rail Regulation, Department for Transport, Network Rail and the operator, currently NXEA.

It is estimated that the building process will take 4.5 years from planning approval which will hopefully be obtained in 2010/2011 with completion due in 2015. The length of the development is driven by the fact that building next to a live railway complicates the process considerably with developers requiring possession of the line to complete much of the work.

The building of Beaulieu Park will hopefully reduce traffic congestion in Chelmsford and also reduce the number of people using Chelmsford station which currently has the distinction of being the busiest commuter station in the country, outside London. No mean feat for such a small station.

Of benefit to all passengers north of Chelmsford is that fact that the station will have four platforms thereby providing a convenient passing loop enabling faster services to pass slower trains.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Colchester Station Fares Badly In Review

In a government sponsored report called Better Rail Stations, Colchester station comes 12th from bottom nationally when it comes to customer satisfaction with a score of only 52%.

The report calls for a minimum level of standards with a satisfaction target rate of 80%. Improvements to be considered across the board include standard format station signs to prevent wasteful rebranding at franchise changes and a strategy to drive 60% more income from station retailing which the report suggests could be worth £44 million per year across the country.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Manifesto For The Successor To NXEA

The Essex Rail Users Federation (ERUF) is compiling a 'manifesto' of requirements and expectations of the successor to National Express East Anglia. This manifesto will be presented to local MPs and the Department for Transport as the latter prepares to go out to tender for the new franchise.

If there any any particular points you would like to see included please contact your local Rail User Group or alternatively you can contact the ERUF direct at

Friday, 27 November 2009

Who Might Take Over From NXEA?

Last night three major rail operators said they would be interested in bidding for the current NXEA franchise. FirstGroup, who ran the First Great Eastern franchise prior to National Express, Virgin and Stagecoach have all indicated an interest.

However, they have all said that any decision on a potential bid will be subject to the terms of the franchise as advertised by the Department of Transport.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Sunday Service From Walton to Colchester Town - Reminder

A reminder that this coming Sunday (29th) sees the start of a trial service providing trains between Walton On The Naze and Colchester Town. There will be an hourly service running between the two stations on the next four Sundays (29th Nov, 6th, 13th and 20th Dec) leading up to Christmas.

NXEA To Lose Franchise Early

The government has this morning announced that National Express East Anglia (NXEA) will be losing their franchise in March 2011. Although this is actually the original end date of the franchise the company had been looking forward to a three year extension to 2014 having met the prerequisite performance targets. However, the recent failure of the East Coast franchise has meant that National Express (NX) were likely to lose the NXEA business too. There were rumours that the Department for Transport (DfT) wanted to strip NX of the NXEA and C2C franchises with immediate effect but they have since decided against this. (The C2C business is up for renewal in May 2011)

The DfT have stated that the process for securing a new operator would start immediately so that a new franchise could begin in April 2011.

An interesting footnote to the timing of the end of the franchise is how close it is to the 2012 Olympics which some may see as inconvenient to say the least.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Online Plans Of Stations

Network Rail now provide an online plan of stations on the rail network. For details of stations within the Essex Rail Users Federation membership, click on the appropriate station below:
Hovering over the individual icons shown on the plan will provide the relevant photo.

For other stations go to the Network Rail website, enter the station name in the Search box; Click on the relevant station name that comes up and then on Stations Made Easy

Monday, 23 November 2009

Oyster Pay As You Go To Be Extended

From 2 January 2010 all National Express East Anglia stations within the Greater London area (zones 1-6) will accept Oyster pay as you go cards. On the Great Eastern line this means all stations from Harold Wood into Liverpool Street.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

NXEA Vision For Rail Services Between London and Norwich

National Express East Anglia has set out its vision of services on the London to Norwich mainline. Speaking at the conference Shaping Norfolk's Future, NXEA's managing director Andrew Chivers highlighted the three main areas to be addressed: Quicker journey times between Norwich and London with the fastest service taking only 1 hour 30 mins; new Inter-City trains; and further improvements to the railway infrastructure, including tracks and signalling.

Ironically some of the improvements, such as new trains, will come into service beyond the end of the current franchise in 2011 which may see another operator running the service. However, the planning does need to start now. In the short term, the widely publicised increase in capacity on commuter routes will continue with the ongoing addition of 'hand me down' trains to the Class 321 fleet enabling many services to be lengthened. NXEA will also be looking, at last, to installing WiFi services on their Inter City fleet.

The time taken by London - Norwich trains at the moment is dictated by many things: Busy commuter routes into London hindered by there only being four tracks as far as Shenfield; Very few passing loops (Places for trains to pass) beyond Shenfield; Speeds limited to a maximum of 100mph; the number of station stops made on each journey. To achieve the goal of a 1 hour 30 min journey between Norwich and London some of the above, if not all, will need to be addressed.

New trains for the London - Norwich route will be a very welcome change to the tradition on this line of taking elderly, second hand trains off somebody else's hands.

Changes to the infrastructure will take considerably longer to implement but may include a passing loop at the new station proposed near Boreham and even extending four tracks beyond Shenfield, possibly as part of the CrossRail project.

Of concern to Manningtree, Colchester and Chelmsford passengers is the possibility of fewer Inter City trains stopping at these stations to improve overall journey times and as such the ERUF will be monitoring developments closely.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Government Changes Lead To Passengers Paying More

In the week that next year's fare increases are announced across the country the Campaign For Better Transport has highlighted the fact in a report that passengers are actually paying considerably more as a consequence of changes to the rules regarding fare increases.

Traditionally, regulated fare increases were capped at the Retail Price Index (RPI) minus 1. However in 2003 the government changed this to RPI plus 1. This was done as part of the government desire to have rail passengers pay a greater share of the costs of the rail network.

As a result of this change to the rules passengers in our region are paying considerably more - examples as follows:
  • Chelmsford - Liverpool Street £354 (13% more)
  • Colchester - Liverpool Street £571 (17% more)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

NXEA Among The Worst For Customer Satisfaction

In the latest government rail review National Express East Anglia scored just 61% for customer satisfaction placing it 14th out of 18 operators nationally. London Midland, First Capital Connect, Northern Rail and London Overground are the only operators to score lower.

Somewhat ironically National Express East Coast, the franchise taken over by the government at the weekend, came top with a score of 78%.

Monday, 16 November 2009

National Express To Freeze Unregulated Fares

National Express East Anglia will be freezing all unregulated fares in the new year. The national average for fare increases is 1.1%

Regulated fares such as season tickets will reduce by 0.4%

Adonis Critical Of NX Retaining Franchise

Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis has said it is "unacceptable" for National Express to retain its remaining franchises having given up the East Coast main line at the weekend.

Regarding NXEA and C2C National Express said it "continued to meet all its contractual obligations for the East Anglia and C2C franchises". However, Lord Adonis said in a BBC interview "I regard it as unacceptable and not the way to treat the government that they seek to give up their loss-making franchise.... but keep the ones that are profitable."

Unregulated Fares To Increase by Average of 1.1%

The Association Of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has announced that unregulated fares such as cheap day returns are to increase by an average of 1.1% in the new year. This is the lowest increase since privatisation.

Regulated tickets such as season tickets are set to decrease by 0.4% as a consequence of these prices being tied to the RPI which has fallen.

Friday, 13 November 2009

National Express Lose East Coast Franchise Tonight

At one minute to midnight tonight the government take control of the National Express East Coast franchise. This will leave National Express with just the NXEA and C2C franchises, both of which the government are said to want to also strip from them as a consequence of the East Coast failure.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

National Express To Lose NXEA Franchise Early?

Hidden in the small print of the National Express rights issue document is an admission by the group that its default on the East Coast franchise means that it will "lose the right automatically" to the three year extension to the NXEA franchise. Any extension will now be "at the sole discretion of the Department for Transport".

Under the current terms of the NXEA franchise it will be extended by three years from 2011 if the company meets certain performance targets. It is currently meeting those targets.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Rail Travel Too Expensive For Network Rail

Network trail is transporting 200 of its staff from Reading to a conference in Coventry by coach because going by rail would be too expensive. If open return tickets were bought at £135 per head it would cost £27,000, so the company has opted for the coach alternative which comes in at £12 a head - a saving of £24,000!

Surely a lesson there somewhere....

National Express Announces £350m Rights Issue

National Express Group has announced a £350m rights issue in an attempt to shore up its debt laden balance sheet. Interestingly this move does not appear to have the support of its largest shareholder, the Cosmen family, who own 18% of the business.

National Express this week hand back their East Coast franchise and it is reported that the Department for Transport is still determined to strip the group of its East Anglian (NXEA) and C2C franchises. However the group said this morning that it would fight any such attempt that would effectively remove it from the UK rail business.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

East Coast Line To Be Nationalised Ahead of Schedule

The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced that they will now be taking over the National Express East Coast franchise shortly before midnight on 13th November, earlier then expected.

Media reports are suggesting that Lord Adonis, Minister for Transport, is still determined to strip National Express of its East Anglia and C2C franchises, but the DfT is still taking legal advice on whether this can be done.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Govt. To Run East Coast Franchise From December 12th

National Express will be handing back their East Coast franchise to the government on December 12th. The new service will be called East Coast Main Line and will remain under government control until mid 2011, longer than originally expected. All mention of National Express will be removed from stations and trains and staff uniforms will be 'upgraded'.

Last summer the government said it believed that it might have grounds to terminate the NXEA and C2C franchises as a consequence of the East Coast failure and that all options were being explored. This appears to still be the case.

Friday, 30 October 2009

NXEA Punctuality Improvements

In a report published by Network Rail on 29th October NXEA achieved punctuality figures of 94.1% in the period 20th Sept to 17th October. This compares with 90.9% in the same period last year.

Train Firms Seek Longer Contracts

The Association Of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) which represents franchise holders such as NXEA has called for longer rail franchises to allow them to provide better quality services. ATOC says that agreements of 15-20 years would encourage franchises to improve services and boost investment. Currently bidders compete for deals typically lasting seven years and such deals discourage franchise holders from making long term investment in the railway as they may never reap the benefits.

ATOC has also called for and end to 'inappropriate micro management' by civil servants. At present it is difficult for franchise holders to achieve anything without first gaining approval from, typically, the Department for Transport. Often a lengthy process for often comparatively small improvements or changes.

Poetry And Artwork Hoardings At Hythe

Plans for two huge displays of poetry and artwork at Hythe Station have been unveiled. The 30-metre long hoardings will be installed at the station if approved by the council and NXEA.

Details are in the East Anglian Daily Times.

NXEA Names Its Top Community Train Stations

On 23rd October NXEA held its 2009 Station Adopters Awards at Norwich City Football Club.

NXEA has encouraged and supported volunteers from local communities who have adopted their local station, helping to look after the gardens and improve the environment and community engagement at stations. Local winners of the 2009 awards are:
  • Best Small Station: Burnham-on-Crouch. Highly Commended: Sudbury
  • Best Staffed Station: Witham. Runner Up: Alresford

National Express To Hand Back NXEA?

Following the recent failed attempts at a takeover of National Express (NX) by The CVC/Cosmen and then Stagecoach bids, there is again speculation that the government may still carry through its threat of removing the NXEA and C2C franchises from NX. The threat was originally made as a consequence of NX handing back the NXEC franchise - something that has still to be done - and the belief by some that should a franchise holder default on one franchise it should also relinquish responsibility of any others it may have.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

National Express Calls Off Merger Talks

National Express has said that all talks of a merger with Stagecoach have ended. "It is unlikely that a combination with Stagecoach could be successfully executed in 2009, even if appropriate terms could be agreed" it said.

It is thought that this comment refers to possible issues with the Monopolies Commission who may have blocked such a move. Stagecoach has said that was "extremely disappointed" that National Express decided against its offer.

National Express has said that it intends to raise funds by issuing extra shares as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Teenager Jailed For Rail Vandalism

A seventeen year old teenager has been jailed for 18 months having been found guilty of throwing a shopping trolley from a bridge in Springfield, Chelmsford in front of a train travelling at 100mph. The Liverpool Street to Clacton service was carrying 250 people at the time and fortunately nobody was hurt. There was however serious damage to the train and infrastructure and services were disrupted for 2 hours while repairs were carried out.

This mindless act of stupidity by Adam Holland could so easily have ended differently with many injuries and fatalities.

Sunday Service From Walton to Colchester Town - Timetable

As previously mentioned, NXEA will be trialling a Sunday service between Walton-on-the-Naze and Colchester Town in the four weeks leading up to Christmas commencing 29th November. Timetable details can be found here.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Stagecoach Prepares Bid For National Express

It is reported that Stagecoach is putting the final touches to bank financing to launch a takeover bid of National Express. It is understood that Stagecoach has between £300m and £400m of finance ready to buy National Express and it is thought that they make a move in the coming week.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

** Update ** Manningtree - Harwich Line

Network Rail have now decided to suspend their decision regarding the return of train services on the Manningtree - Harwich line. However there will definitely be buses tomorrow (Friday).

For updates please refer to the Manningtree Rail Users Association and NXEA websites.

Manningtree - Harwich Trains Suspended Until 9th November

Following on from the landslip near Wrabness yesterday evening, train services between Manningtree and Harwich are suspended until 9th November.

Replacement bus services are extending journey times by approximately 30 mins. A number of services to Harwich are being diverted to terminate at Ipswich and some services from Harwich are starting from either Manningtree or Colchester. For details of specific service alterations as a consequence of this suspension click here.

Sunday Service From Walton to Colchester Town

NXEA will be trialling an hourly Sunday Service to Colchester Town from Walton on the Naze and intermediate stations (with connections to / from Clacton) on the four Sundays before Christmas.

National Express Issues Profits Warning

National Express Group (NX) today issued a profit warning and has said that it will be press ahead with plans to ask investors for funding following an increase in the cost of debt. The group now expects full year pre-tax profits to fall "slightly" below expectations.

NX also confirmed that the board would "continue to evaluate the value, risk and certainty offered by the preliminary proposal from Stagecoach".

The company also confirmed that it is meeting its performance targets to achieve a three year extension on the East Anglian (NXEA) and C2C franchises.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Stagecoach Get Cosmen Support

Stagecoach's hopes of securing a £1.7bn merger with National Express were boosted last night when it reportedly won support from the latter's biggest shareholder, the Cosmen family of Spain.

The Cosmens, who have an 18% stake in NX recently led an abortive takeover bid of the transport group of which Stagecoach were a part.

Additional Carriages In The Winter Timetable

The ongoing introduction of additional carriages to the NXEA fleet now means that a number of trains can be lengthened. The introduction of the winter timetable on 13th December will see the following changes implemented:

Trains increased to 12 carriages

  • 05.21 & 08.03 Colchester to Liverpool Street
  • 06.21 Colchester Town to Liverpool Street
  • 07.03 Chelmsford to Liverpool Street
  • 09.00 Braintree to Liverpool Street
  • 17.08 Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea, (12 carriages to Colchester)
  • 18.22 Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea, (12 carriages to Witham)
  • 18.32 Liverpool Street to Ipswich

Trains increased to 8 carriages

  • 08.00 Harwich Town to Liverpool Street, (8 carriages from Colchester)
  • 08.58 Witham to Liverpool Street
  • 16.15 Liverpool Street to Harwich Town, (8 carriages to Colchester)
  • 19.08 Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea

Other changes being introduced include:

  • 08.02 (Mon-Fri) Liverpool Street to Colchester Town will call additionally at Kelvedon
  • 16.30 (Mon-Fri) Ipswich to Colchester re-timed to depart at 16.32 and is extended to run through as an additional service to London Liverpool Street
  • 19.00 (Sundays) Liverpool Street to Norwich will call additionally at Chelmsford, Colchester and Manningtree

Monday, 19 October 2009

'Leaves On The Line' Delays Reduced

Network Rail are claiming a significant reduction in the number of delays caused by leaves on the line. Better management of lineside vegetation, newer trains that can cope better with the slippery conditions and the application of an adhesive substance called Sandite to the rails have all contributed to the reduction in delays.

Of course some train companies, including NXEA, implement leaf fall timetables in the autumn to add a few minutes to journey times in case of delays caused by lack of wheel grip as a consequence of fallen leaves on the line. Even so, the sound of the train struggling to get traction as it pulls away is certainly less frequent nowadays.

Stagecoach Make Another Offer For National Express

National Express (NX) confirmed on Sunday evening that it has received another takeover approach from Stagecoach. It is understood that Stagecoach wrote to the NX board at the weekend and proposed that NX shareholders should hold up to 40% of a combined company. However insiders say that a 50/50 split would better reflect the earnings of the two groups and as such the the Stagecoach offer is likely to rebuffed, at least in its current form.

Speculation that FirstGroup had also made an approach was denied.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

FirstGroup To Consider National Express Takeover?

Reports are suggesting the FirstGroup will this week consider whether to make its own move on National Express after reacting to a £1.65bn all-share merger proposal from its rival Stagecoach.

FirstGroup formerly ran the the First Great Eastern franchise prior to the introduction of the 'one' greater Anglia franchise (part of National Express)

Friday, 16 October 2009

Stagecoach Still Interested In NXEA

Following on from the collapse of the takeover bid by the CVC / Cosman family it is reported that Stagecoach may still be interested in the UK operations. As part of the CVC bid it was intended that Stagecoach would takeover the UK bus and rail operations of National Express - which includes National Express East Anglia (NXEA) - and Stagecoach are said to still regard these operations as attractive 'at the right price'.

Go Ahead Group Plc, the UK's biggest rail company by passenger numbers has declined to say whether it is interested in National Express. FirstGroup Plc which made an abortive bid earlier in the year has said in the past that it is only interested in the East Coast mainline route.

As previously mentioned, much still hangs in the balance regarding whether the government will take the NXEA and C2C back into public ownership.

CVC & Cosmen Family Withdraw From Takeover Bid

In what is being seen as something of a surprise move the Cosmen Family and CVC have pulled out of their proposed takeover bid for National Express Group. Media reports suggest that the consortium faced a number of hurdles, including the £1bn - £1.2bn needed debt package and they were not able to secure the necessary funding.

National Express Group will now seek to raise cash from investors to strengthen its financial position in a move that will be supported by the Cosmen family who own 18.5% of the company.

This latest move now brings back into play the prospect of the government taking back the NXEA and C2C franchises into public ownership, albeit temporarily, following the imminent hand over of the troubled NXEC franchise by National Express. Assuming, as many do, that the government would rather see the franchises stay in the private sector it may well be that another operator - perhaps Stagecoach - will make a bid....?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Train Refurbishment

Passengers may be aware that the Class 321 trains - the green sliding door trains - are currently undergoing refurbishment, albeit one train at a time. As part of this refurbishment the National Express corporate identity is being applied. The Manningtree Rail Users Association (MRUA) has asked what plans are in place to cope with the possible imminent change of franchise to Stagecoach and the inevitable rebranding exercise that will take place. The MRUA does not wish to see more money being wasted on yet another rebranding exercise leading to a sixth different colour scheme currently seen on our trains.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Stagecoach Set To Take Over NXEA 'Within Weeks'

According to industry sources National Express is now set to leave the rail industry within a few weeks. The East Anglia (NXEA) and C2C franchises are expected to transfer to Stagecoach while the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) says that the East Coast franchise will be in the hands of the Department for Transport by early December.

It had been expected that an announcement would be made by 16th October but the Spanish buyers of the National Express Group have asked for more time. The remaining uncertainties are reported to concern the Spanish coach operations of NX rather than its assets in the UK.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Colchester Station Travel Plan - Set For Launch

More information regarding the Colchester Station Travel Plan can be found on the NXEA website here.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Emails to ERUF - Update

Emails addressed to now appear to be working. Please can we request that anybody who emailed us since Saturday and has not had a response send us their email again.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

Emails to ERUF

Please note that any emails sent to since early Saturday will not have reached us. The problem is ongoing unfortunately but we will post here when resolved. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Colchester Station Travel Plan - Stakeholder Event

NXEA, Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council are to host an event to mark the launch of the Colchester Station Travel Plan. The event takes the form of a small exhibition on the north side forecourt of the station on Monday 12th October from 15:30 to 19:30.

The aim of the event is to explain to stakeholders and users of the station the purpose of the Station Travel Plan and the various elements that will be implemented, starting this winter.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

CVC Deadline Extended To 16th Oct

Confirmation that the deadline for the CVC consortium to finalise their takeover of National Express Group has been extended to 16th October.

Friday, 25 September 2009

CVC Deadline Extended

The CVC consortium has obtained an extension to the deadline to enable them to continue due diligence on their proposed take over of National Express Group. It is understood that the assessment of the UK business which includes National Express East Anglia (NXEA) has been successfully completed but that additional time is required to review the company's US school bus division.

Should the takeover go ahead then the NXEA business will be transferred to the Stagecoach Group.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

CVC Group May Request More Time On NX Due Diligence

Media reports are suggesting that CVC Capital Partners and Spain's Cosmen family are expected to ask for more time to do due diligence before they make a formal offer for National Express Group. The current deadline is set for 16:00GMT on Friday.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Strike Refunds - Deadline 23rd September

A reminder that any claims for refunds on monthly or annual seasons following on from the recent strike action need to be with NXEA by 23rd September.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Severe Delays This Evening

Severe delays this evening allegedly caused by some clown cutting down a tree and letting it fall across the tracks near Chelmsford.

Threatened Strike Called Off

The threatened strike by ASLEF train drivers due to start next Monday (21st) has been called off.

TUC Conference To Vote On Franchise Future

Delegates at the TUC's annual conference in Liverpool are to vote later today on calls to keep the East Coast mainline in public hands once it is handed back by National Express. ASLEF has tabled a motion urging ministers to abandon plans to find another buyer next year and to run it instead on a not-for-profit basis.

Of particular interest to Essex passengers is the call by the union to also have the East Anglian (NXEA) and C2C franchises handed back to public ownership. ASLEF are also urging the government to ban National Express from ever running a rail service again.

Hopes Rise Over Planned Rail Strike

Hopes are rising that the planned strike by train drivers at National Express East Anglia (NXEA) will be called off.

Leaders of the drivers' union Aslef are meeting to decide whether to accept a new pay and conditions deal put forward by NXEA in a bid to avert the threatened action.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

industrial Action Altered Timetables 21 - 26 September

NXEA have published an emergency timetable to cover the duration of the threatened ASLEF strike between 21st and 26th September which can be found on the NXEA website.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Cosmen Family Given Two Weeks To Complete Takeover of National Express

The proposed Cosmen family / CVC takeover of National Express group (NX) has been given a two week extension to finalise the details of the deal whilst they carry out the necessary due diligence on NX's books.

As previously recorded, such a deal is likely to see control of NX bus and rail businesses, including National Express East Anglia, transfer to Stagecoach.

70% 'back rail re-nationalisation'

According to a poll of more than a 1,000 people taken for the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) most people are in favour of returning the railways to public ownership. 70% are in favour with just 23% supporting privatisation.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

ASLEF Rejects 4% Pay Deal Whilst RMT & TSSA Members Overwhelmingly Accept

More evidence emerges that ASLEF have rejected a 4% pay rise in just over 12 months. It is not clear how many NXEA drivers have rejected the deal as ASLEF are not releasing precise details but apparently 80% of RMT and TSSA members - the other two unions involved in the previous dispute - voted to accept the offer.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

National Express Set To Accept £765m Cosmen - CVC Bid

National Express is poised to accept a 500p a share offer for the Cosmen - CVC consortium having now ruled out breaking up the group by selling its UK bus and rail businesses to Stagecoach in a bid to frustrate the offer.

At a board meeting today the company voted to recommend the £765m bid although the recommendation is subject to a few final conditions it has agreed to allow the consortium to start due diligence. An announcement could be made as early as Thursday.

Previous reports suggest that the consortium will sell the NX UK bus and rail businesses, including NXEA, to Stagecoach.

ASLEF Rejects 4% Pay Deal

Media reports are saying that ASLEF have rejected a 4% pay offer, an offer accepted by both the RMT and TSSA unions. There are also issues regarding staff relations and rostering which have led to 95% of drivers voting to strike. It is not clear at this stage whether that is 95% of all drivers or 95% of those who voted.

Calling all ASLEF Members!

We should be grateful if any ASLEF members reading this would contact the ERUF on and let us know what exactly the issues are that are prompting the current industrial action. Any responses will be treated in the strictest of confidence.

Thank you.

Talks To Avert Strike

National Express East Anglia is seeking urgent talks with the Aslef train drivers' union in a bid to avert a week long strike due to start on Monday 21st September.

Aslef members yesterday rejected a deal that was put to them last month as a result of the strikes held by them and members of the RMT and TSSA. The dispute is over 'pay and conditions' and it is believed that the unions were offered 3.5% over two years. However, there appears to be little information available as to what the union's issues are regarding 'conditions'.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

ASLEF Members Vote To Strike

ASLEF members have voted to reject the recent offer made by NXEA that ended the recent industrial action and will be striking for a week commencing Monday 21st September.

Crossrail Gets £1bn Loan

The Crossrail project which will see trains running between Maidenhead in Berkshire through to Shenfield, has received a £1bn loan from the European Investment Bank. The loan to Transport for London (TfL) will go towards the £16bn overall cost of which £7.7bn has to be raised by TfL and the Greater London Authority.

NX Looking At Alternatives To Cosmen / CVC Takeover

Media reports suggest that National Express (NX) is working on a last ditch plan to offer its UK bus and rail franchises, which include National Express East Anglia, directly to Stagecoach in a side deal which could save it from a takeover by the Cosmen family and CVC.

The sale of UK assets to Stagecoach would allow NX to significantly reduce the size of a deeply discounted rights issue that was initially intended to raise £350m in an attempt to reduce its significant debt problem.

As mentioned previously, Stagecoach appears to have provisional agreement from the Department for Transport to take on the NXEA and C2C franchises.

Train Ballot Due

One of the three trade unions in the dispute over pay and conditions with NXEA which led to the recent strike action will today confirm whether they've accepted a new wage offer.

ASLEF is expected to reveal the results of a ballot on its members as to whether they are happy with the latest pay deal being offered by NXEA. The other two unions involved in the strike action were the RMT and TSSA.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Stagecoach To Pay £100m In Rail Deal

Stagecoach has agreed to pay £100m as a "change of control" payment to take over National Express' rail business. The payment to the Department For Transport is in exchange for an agreement that the government will not force Stagecoach to relinquish National Express' East Anglia and C2C franchises as "cross default" punishment for its failure to honour its £1.4bn East Coast contract.

In what seems a rather bizarre arrangement this seems a clear indicator that Stagecoach are close to taking over the National Express UK rail business, including NXEA.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Winton Train

Earlier today the 'Winton Train' travelled from Harwich to Liverpool Street to commemorate the 1939 evacuation of Jewish children from Prague to London by Sir Nicholas Winton. The train today made up the last leg of the journey which started earlier in the week in Prague.

The train was hauled by the recently built A1 class locomotive 'Tornado', pictured here at Harwich International, next to a much older National Express Class 360!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Franchise Extension To Be Confirmed?

As a condition of Stagecoach taking over the NXEA franchise in the event that the NX Group is taken over by the Cosmen / CVC consortium, the Department for Transport are expected to confirm in due course that the specific performance conditions that are required to be met for the franchise to be extended from 2011 to 2014 have been satisfied.

Should Stagecoach acquire the current NXEA franchise, the prospect of yet another colour scheme on our trains, currently running at four, is highly likely!

Offer For National Express Raised

Spain's Cosmen family who, with an 18.5% holding in National Express (NX), are the biggest shareholder has upped its offer for NX with what they are saying is their final bid valuing the company at £765 million. Working in conjunction with buy-out firm CVC they are looking for a board recommendation to go ahead.

Of particular interest to local rail users is the claim by NX rival Stagecoach that in the event of a takeover, the Department for Transport would not seize the East Anglia and C2C franchises as threatened following the handing back of the loss making East Coast franchise by NX. Stagecoach has agreed an outline deal with the Cosmen / CVC consortium to take on NX's UK bus and rail businesses in the event of a takeover.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Clacton Train 4th Most Crowded

Information form the Department for Transport reveals the 18:22 from Liverpool Street to Clacton was the fourth most crowded journey across the country last autumn. The train was 265 passengers above its capacity of 524. These figures were set out in a response to a freedom of information request that also revealed that in May this year this train was regularly running at 7% above its capacity.

Cancellations last Saturday - Clarification

Regarding the item dated Saturday 29th August alleging the 40+ cancellations were as a result of staff simply not turning up for work (see below), it is now understood that these cancellations were as a consequence of issues around staff rosters. Happy to put the record straight.

The Winton Train

To commemorate the 1939 evacuation of hundreds of Jewish children from Prague to London by Sir Nicholas Winton, the UK's newest steam locomotive 60163 Tornado will be pulling a special train from Harwich International to London Liverpool Street on Friday 4th September. Detailed timings of 'The 'Winton Train' below:

Harwich Int 09.12
Manningtree 9.30
Colchester 9.42
Witham 9.53
Chelmsford 10.01
Shenfield 10.11
Stratford 10.27
Liverpool St 10.37

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Cancellations Caused By Staff Not Turning Up For Work

Reports in the media are suggesting that the significant number of cancellations today - over 40 - has been caused by staff simply not turning up for work. This is often one of the busiest weekends of the year but NXEA have had to cancel many trains for what was originally described as an 'operating incident'. However an NXEA spokeswoman later revealed the cause was down to 'unavailability of staff'.

Increased Offer For National Express

National Express (NX) has received an increased takeover offer from its largest shareholder. The improved offer from the Spanish Cosmen family, backed by buy-out firm CVC, reportedly values NX at nearly £700 million - a value close to that which the board is thought to place on the business.

However NX directors are thought to be still canvassing other shareholders on whether to follow up on on the offer or go it alone and pursue a £350 million rights issue of new shares as an alternative strategy for reducing its £977 million debt mountain.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Clacton Airshow

The following information has been provided by OnTrack regarding services for the Clacton Airshow:

"On Thursday 27 and Friday 28 Augus, the Clacton Airshow will take

place. Due to the large number of people expected to travel to Clacton

on these days, there will be alterations to local train services in the

Colchester to Clacton/Walton area. If travelling on these days, you

should check for timetable alterations. The main changes are as follows:

The 09.46, 10.46 and 11.46 services from Colchester (North) via

Colchester Town to Walton-on-the-Naze are diverted to run to Clacton;

connections will be available at Thorpe-le-Soken for Kirby Cross,

Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.

An additional service will operate from Colchester (North) departing at

10.40 and calling at all stations (except Colchester Town) to Clacton.

The 10.45, 11.45 and 12.45 services from Walton-on-the-Naze to

Colchester are diverted to run from Thorpe-le-Soken to Clacton;

connecting services will be available at Thorpe-le-Soken for Colchester

(North) and stations to Liverpool Street and for all stations to

Colchester Town.

There are no alterations to the Liverpool Street to Clacton service.

The roads in the Clacton area are always very busy during the annual

airshows so, if you are intending to travel to Clacton, take the train

in order to avoid the traffic jams and parking problems."

Monday, 24 August 2009

Additional Services For Clacton Airshow

Additional services are being laid on by NXEA to accommodate the expected large crowds for the Clacton Airshow this Thursday (27th) and Friday (28th). Following on from discussions held between by ONTRACK, the Clacton & Walton rail user group, and NXEA these additional services also include trains running direct between Walton and Clacton.

Specific details are due to appear on the NXEA website.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Train Fares Set To Fall in 2010

Regulated rail fares including season tickets are set to fall by 0.4% next year after the Retail Price Index (RPI) - a key inflation indicator - was measured at -1.4% in July. Increase in regulated commuter fares are pegged to the RPI figure plus 1%.

In 2010 the rules on regulated fares will change, with most rail companies having the limit of RPI plus 1% imposed on them. Previously train operators have been allowed to increase individual regulated fares by as much as 6% over the RPI rate.

Specific details regarding NXEA fares will be announced in due course.

Extra Services for V Festival

Extra services are being laid on by NXEA on both Saturday the 22nd and Sunday 23rd August for the V Festival at Chelmsford. Details can be found on the NXEA website.

Bank Holiday Service Disruption

Passengers are advised to allow for longer journey times when travelling over the bank holiday weekend. Work on overhead lines, testing of new signalling equipment and ongoing work on the Stratford transport hub in preparation for the 2012 Olympics, means that the line will be closed between Liverpool Street and Stratford, Witham and Manningtree and Colchester Town.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Tickets - Strike Refund Details

Details of how to obtain refunds for the days lost to the recent strikes can be found at the NXEA website.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Strike Action Over

Old news now, but just to confirm that Aslef, RMT and the TSSA unions have called off all planned strike action.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Aslef Call Off Strike

Aslef, the train driver's union, has called off their strike scheduled for Friday 14th August. Media reports suggest that a 3.5% offer over 2 years has been accepted. The RMT have also indicated that are likely to accept the offer.

Week Long Strikes Threatened

As the third 48 hour strike by RMT, Aslef and TSSA members takes hold, Aslef are now threatening week long strikes next month. Another 48 hour strike is already threatened for next Thursday 20th and Friday 21st August.

The move by Aslef comes as a union spokesman said that talks with NXEA had become "increasingly fractious and unproductive".

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Strike Action Confirmed

NXEA have confirmed that strike action will go ahead on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th August. Details of the few services running can be found at the NXEA website.

Assistance Needed....

The unions involved in the current dispute with NXEA are saying that their issues are over 'pay and conditions'. Whilst there is much talk in the media about the pay dispute, specific details of the other differences with NXEA are sketchy, even at this stage, with very woolly comments being made.

If you are one of the strikers and would like to expand upon what the issues actually are then please contact the Essex Rail Users Federation, in confidence, on .

Strike Talks Continue

Talks to try and resolve the strike of RMT, Aslef and now TSSA members working for NXEA continue today.

As it stands, the third strike in as many weeks is due to take place tomorrow and Friday. Previous weeks have seen only a very few services running during these strikes.

Monday, 10 August 2009


Apologies for this site not being available for a while this morning. Problems at the domain name registration provider which they now seem to have resolved.

Strike Talks To Continue

Talks between the three striking rail unions - RMT, Aslef and new this week, the TSSA - resume today in the hope that a settlement can be reached before the next round of strikes scheduled for Thursday and Friday of the this week.

Confusion still exists as to the specific reasons for the strike with contradictory messages being sent out by the individual unions and NXEA. The more general reasons being given are pay and conditions but the specifics are still thin on the ground even at this stage.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

NXEA Strike Update

NXEA are reporting that they have invited ACAS to help in resolving the dispute with the RMT, Aslef and TSSA. However none of the trade unions are now prepared to talk further until Monday. NXEA are also reporting that they have asked the unions to suspend industrial action whilst talks continue and to also present NXEA's revised offer to their members but both requests have been refused.

The TSSA are not taking part in the strike today and tomorrow but if a resolution is not reached they will be joining the planned strikes on the 13th and 14th August.

Aslef are disputing media reports regarding their pay claim saying that they have never stated that they demand a minimum pay increase of 2.5%. Similarly they say claims that they have demanded 4% more drivers are untrue.

In a TV interview tonight RMT leader Bob Crow gave out no real details to justify strike action, giving added weight to the growing media and public perception that their motives are perhaps more politically driven.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Planned Strike To Go Ahead

The planned 48 hour strike by NXEA workers will be going ahead tomorrow (Thur) and Friday after talks aimed at resolving the row over pay and conditions ended unsuccessfully today.

It is expected that a service will run similar to last week's when only 100 trains out of the usual 1,800 services ran. Trains running later on today may be affected as may some services on Saturday. Revised service details can be found on the NXEA website.

Neil Skinner, from the Manningtree Rail Users Association spoke on BBC Look East saying that many people do not fully understand why the strikes are taking place with the unions giving few details of the specific issues they have with NXEA. Click here

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A Third Union To Join Strike?

Senior managers belonging to a third rail union and working for NXEA have voted to join the planned 48-hour strike by Aslef and RMT members on Thursday.

Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said that 75% of 100 senior staff who took part in the ballot backed strike action.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Strike Action - Ticket Refunds

Holders of Monthly and Annual Season Tickets who were unable to travel as a consequence of strike action will be entitled to claim a refund for the days affected.

A specific Claims form will be available via the NXEA website once the industrial action has ended. Delay Repay forms will not be accepted by NXEA for claims related to the strike action.

Talks To End Strikes

Talks are scheduled to take place today between National Express and the unions in an attempt to avert further strikes. Following strike action last Thursday and Friday, further strikes are planned by the Aslef and RMT unions for 6th - 7th, 13th - 14th and 20th - 21st August.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

National Express Announce Half Yearly Results

On the first day of strikes by NXEA staff, National Express announce pre tax losses of £48.1m for the first 6 months of 2009. £20m was lost on the troubled East Coast franchise.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Strike Action - Union Requirements

Reports in the media are detailing some of the claims being made by the unions as cause for the proposed strike action this week.

Among a variety of demands the ASLEF union for example want a minimum pay increase of 2.5%, a four day working week for all its members and a 4% increase in the number of train drivers employed by NXEA. During two days of talks the unions have also apparently refused to discuss any productivity improvements to fund the pay increase.

Poll Results Over Strike

In an online poll taken by the Manningtree Rail Users Association 56% of respondents did not agree with the strike action being threatened by NXEA staff. The remaining 44% did agree.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

NXEA Strike Update

NXEA are advising that it is almost certain that the strike by Aslef and RMT members will go ahead this Thursday and Friday and that almost no services will run.

There may be a skeleton service of three trains up and three back between Norwich and London and an hourly service between Colchester and London. Details will appear on the NXEA website.

The advice is however, to stay at home if at all possible.

NX Takeover - 'Put Up Or Shut Up'

National Express (NX) is understood to have asked the Takeover Panel to impose a 'Put Up or Shut Up' deadline on the takeover approach from CVC, the private equity group and the Cosmen family from Spain. (see comment dated 24th July)

The order would force the prospective bidders into making a firm offer within four weeks or walking away. NX is anxious to end uncertainty and also wants to press on with a rights issue if it is not taken over.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Stagecoach Joins NX Takeover Race

There is speculation that Stagecoach is joining the the list of potential suitors for National Express. According to press reports Stagecoach has appointed Deutsche Bank to draw up plans for an all-share takeover offer. Stagecoach currently runs the South West Trains franchise and has an interest in the Virgin West Coast route. Any takeover would make it a considerable force in the UK railway industry and as such, subject to monopoly investigation.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

NXEA Strike Action

Despite ongoing talks between NXEA and the ASLEF and RMT unions, strike action is still planned for 30th July, 6th, 13th and 20th August respectively. Each strike is planned to last 48 hours.

It is understood that NXEA have offered a salary increase above the rate of inflation.

In the event of strike action being called it is unlikely that any trains will run on these days.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Spanish Join National Express Bid

Following the announcement that an unnamed suitor has made a takeover approach for National Express, a major shareholder has joined with a private equity firm to formulate a possible takeover bid.

The Cosmen family from Spain, which owns 18.5% stake in National Express has teamed up with CVC Partners. CVC confirmed the consortium has made an initial proposal "to acquire for cash" all shares in National Express.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

New Suitor for National Express

National Express (NX) has received a fresh takeover approach from an unnamed suitor. The news comes the day after rival FirstGroup said that it had scrapped plans to make a takeover bid for NX. FirstGroup had said that it would now be inappropriate to consider a formal takeover of NX, because of uncertainties surrounding the business. This follows the latter's decision to cease funding it's East Coast franchise and the possible implications of this move on it's East Anglian and C2C franchises.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

European Funding for Midlands Link

A project to upgrade the line between Felixstowe and Nuneaton has received £8m of European Funding. This upgrade will enable more freight trains from Harwich and Felixstowe to go straight through to the Midlands rather than go via London, thereby freeing up valuable space on the Great Eastern mainline.

Friday, 17 July 2009

NXEA Staff To Strike

NXEA staff are to stage four 48 hour strikes in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The RMT and Aslef unions said their members will walk out on 30th July, 6th August, 13th August and 20th August.