Thameslink, operated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) between Bedford, Brighton, Wimbledon, Sutton and Sevenoaks, has reached a major milestone in its transformation of the railway by replacing the last of the 29-year-old Class 319 train fleet with modern Class 700 trains.
On Sunday 27 August, units 319217 and 319435 were coupled together as an eight carriage service to make the final southbound journey. The train left Bedford on time at 15.06 with a salute from the drivers and a blast on the horn as the train left the station with a small commemorative headboard fitted to the front.
Greeted by a crowd of enthusiasts at Brighton, the same train then left the seaside resort full and standing at 18.14 as passengers, enthusiasts and staff alike travelled on its last-ever Thameslink journey. The train arrived at Bedford on time, at 20.59.
The Class 319 train was introduced in 1988 when the cross-London Thameslink route was reopened to passenger traffic, creating a new route between Bedford and Brighton. It was designed to operate using both the overhead power lines north of London and the electric third rail to the south.
GTR Engineering Director Gerry McFadden said: “The older 319s have served us well and with the help of our staff and rail enthusiasts, we gave them a fitting send off on Sunday.
“Our new Class 700 trains are a vital part of the government-sponsored Thameslink Programme which will help deliver greater capacity as we modernise the railway to meet the massive growth in passenger numbers.
“The new trains are spacious, air conditioned and better suited for today’s high capacity railway. They are well suited for people with accessibility needs and feature modern passenger information systems that even point the way to where there’s more room.
“Now the 319s have gone it allows us to transform our depot at Bedford from a maintenance facility for 4-carriage units into a stabling and servicing facility for 12-carriage Class 700s. This will allow us to introduce even more longer Class 700 trains to the Bedford to Brighton route.
“Bedford Depot started life in 2004 as a maintenance depot for minor servicing of the Class 319 units when there was a six month blockade of the Thameslink route. At its peak, it became the maintenance depot for 86 Class 319 units and 32 Class 377 units, far exceeding what was envisaged, and it is a credit to the staff that worked there that they delivered so much from such a modest facility.”
Notes to editors
In September, Thameslink’s remaining more modern Class 377 trains will be withdrawn, creating a Class 700-only fleet on the Thameslink route. This will be particularly beneficial for passengers using the off-peak Brighton-London Bridge Thameslink services because, here, 12-carriage trains will replace the mostly four-carriage (weekday) and eight-carriage (Saturdays) twice-hourly service, creating much more space for passengers at Gatwick and families heading for the coast.
More Class 700 trains will be delivered to run on the Great Northern route, starting on services between Peterborough and King’s Cross this autumn. From May next year these trains and others from Cambridge will join the Thameslink route at St Pancras International to give passengers seamless journeys to central London stations such as Farringdon and Blackfriars, as well as London Bridge and Gatwick beyond.
For more information please contact Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Press Office:
Thameslink and Great Northern: 0203 750 2031 (all hours)
Southern & Gatwick Express: 0203 750 2030 (out of hours 0203 750 2031)
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – services between Bedford and Brighton, Luton/St Albans and Sutton, Wimbledon and Sevenoaks
- Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
- Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
- Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria
GTR is the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff: GTR carries about 326 million passenger journeys per year, and employs around 6,500 people. Its aim is to improve services across all four networks.
Southern has the highest passenger growth in the UK with numbers into London having doubled in 12 years - compared with the industry doubling over the past 20 years. To meet this growth and to future-proof the network, GTR is modernising the rail service for passengers.
GTR has introduced more new trains in the past year than all other franchises put together, with 500 new carriages so far.
The transformative £7bn Thameslink Programme will bring hundreds more daily services from 2018, increasing the number of trains though the central London core from up to 15 to 24 trains per hour. Network Rail has also launched a £300m programme to improve resilience across the GTR network
GTR is modernising how it works, with new technology in use at our stations and on our trains, smartcard ticketing and a new, flexible on-board role on many Southern services. This ensures fewer cancellations, and with more staff on board our trains now than ever before, passengers are enjoying a much better level of on-board customer service.
The GTR investment programme for stations includes funding for more CCTV, toilet refurbishments, new retail facilities, help points and car park improvements – as well as plans for increased motorcycle storage and improved transport integration.