“Super six” train drivers test new trains

Friday, 25 October 2019

A group of Greater Anglia train drivers known as the “super six” are testing new trains to make sure they are fit for passenger service.

The team of Norwich-based drivers have carried out test drives across the network checking equipment including brakes, safety systems and pantographs – which connect the train to the overhead wire to get power.

The drivers, James Garthwaite, Lucas Knight, Tim Thetford, Devin Bellchamber, Chris Wright and John Pears, have just been awarded “support team of the year” in Greater Anglia’s internal staff awards.

The super six drivers were the first to start testing Greater Anglia’s new trains from Swiss train manufacturer Stadler. These are bi-modes, which are powered by diesel and electricity and will run on regional lines, and electric trains which will run on the intercity and Stansted Express routes.

The team first started driving Greater Anglia’s new trains on test tracks in Romania before taking them for test drives across East Anglia. They have recently been joined by drivers Ben Fraser, Paul Wilkinson and Steve Goodrum.

Chris Wright has been involved in tests on the wheels, doors, raising the pantograph at different speeds as well as racking up “fault free running” mileage to ensure the trains are reliable when they enter passenger service.

Chris is used to driving Greater Anglia’s existing trains, some of which are over 30 years old.

He said: “It feels like we’ve skipped a generation of train here. It’s weird going from a single carriage diesel train to driving something as sophisticated as the new train.

"In the cab, the desk is nice and open, the windscreen is massive and it's a nice and easy comfortable view out of the window. The controls are easy to use and it accelerates and brakes quickly.”

"A lot of the testing can be very repetitive," he added. "But it can be pretty unusual too – getting up to 100mph and putting the brake in emergency and stopping and then going as fast as you can again.

"Probably the best thing I've done is putting the pantograph up at 90mph. I've never been involved in anything like that before. It was a bit bizarre but it works fine."

"I feel very lucky to be honest – there's a lot of interest around the depot and it's great to be one of the six that can jump in it and take it out testing and I'm very excited to be doing it."

All testing has to be conducted without affecting passenger and freight service – so much of it happens at night.

Andrew Goodrum, Greater Anglia business readiness director, said: “The super six drivers are doing a great job. We’re replacing every single one of our old trains with 169 brand new trains in total.

“It’s the first time in UK franchising history that such a such a large fleet of trains has been introduced at the same time.

“It involves a lot of work across the business to make it happen: training drivers and conductors to be able to work on board the new trains, making any necessary adjustments to stations, platforms and signage and of course testing out the trains on the network.”

New trains are now in passenger service on the Norwich to Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Cambridge routes and further routes will follow this year.

All of Greater Anglia’s new trains will be longer with more seats, plug and USB points, fast free wifi, air conditioning, better passenger information screens and improved accessibility features.

More information about what goes into bringing new trains into service can be found in the blog section of the Greater Anglia website.