Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) this week completed a five-year £2bn programme to transform passenger journeys with more than 1,500 new carriages, turning one of the UK’s oldest fleets into one of the most modern.
On Tuesday, 1 October, Great Northern consigned to history the last of its 42-year-old Class 313 trains that operate on the Moorgate route. All are now modern Class 717s.
Since September 2014 when it launched, GTR has overseen the introduction of four fleets of trains and expanded one other, transforming journeys for thousands of passengers:
- 116 brand new Class 387/1 carriages (29 units) – initially used on the Thameslink network, now on Great Northern, operating as far as King’s Lynn
- 108 brand new Class 387/2 carriages (27 units) – serving Gatwick Express between Brighton, Gatwick and London Victoria
- 1,140 brand new Class 700 carriages (115 units) – serving the entire, expanded Thameslink network
- 150 brand new Class 717 carriages (25 units) – serving the Great Northern Moorgate route
- 12 Class 171 carriages (4 units) for Southern – adding to the existing fleet and facilitating the first longer 10-carriage services between Uckfield and London Bridge
GTR has overseen what is thought to be the biggest cascade of rolling stock since privatisation – a total of more than 1,500 new carriages brought into the franchise, and almost 900 cascaded out. A further 880 were cascaded between routes within the network.
GTR Chief Operating Officer Steve White said: “Today is a landmark moment for both GTR and its passengers as we continue to deliver on the industry’s hugely ambitious modernisation programme for our network.
“This £2bn programme of modernisation, much of which formed part of the Thameslink Programme, has transformed services for our passengers. With over 1500 new carriages introduced the average age of our fleet has dropped from 20.4 years to 12.5 years with a net increase of 646 vehicles.
“By bringing in new carriages, we have been able to expand our network, creating space for 50,000 more commuters to and from the capital each rush hour and new direct cross-London journeys to key destinations such as Gatwick Airport, Peterborough, Cambridge and Brighton.
“These trains support the expansion of passenger volume which increased by 22.7m to 341.5m in 2018-19 compared to the year before.”
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said: “The introduction of new carriages has been one of the biggest upgrades since the privatisation of our railways, replacing one of the UK’s oldest fleets. As a GTR passenger, I’ve regularly commuted on both the old and new trains and, with more space and better passenger information, these trains have significantly improved this service.
“As the number of passenger journeys has more than doubled in the past 20 years, significant investment by both government and train operators is modernising our railway, helping to get our trains running on time.”
GTR together with industry partners Siemens and Network Rail have built or upgraded new depots in Sussex and north London to house and maintain the new trains along with additional and upgraded stabling at locations including Bedford, Cricklewood, Brighton, Horsham and Cambridge.
Engineering Director Gerry McFadden, who led the introduction of the fleet with his team said: “It’s been a huge enterprise that the whole of GTR has been involved in. Collaborative work between our engineering and operations departments and the vehicle owners has enabled the introduction of these trains and ensured they are well maintained and operated correctly.
“Despite the complexities of this network and the sheer number of new trains, which all need bedding in, the GTR fleet is now the second most reliable in the country, contributing to our drive for an ‘on-time railway’.”
The last Class 313 ran in service on Monday, 30 September, however GTR will be running a special service with a Class 313 for charity on 23 October. Tickets for this event are sold out and will raise money for GTR’s three charities: For Jimmy (supports young people), MIND (supports those with mental health issues), NOAH Enterprise (helps the homeless) and The Railway Children.
Trains cascaded into GTR:
- 12 carriages (4 units) of Class 171/2/4 - To support Uckfield 10-carriage operation
- 108 carriages (27 units) of Class 387/2 - Gatwick Express
- 1,140 carriages (115 units) of Class 700 - Thameslink
- 150 carriages (25 units of Class 717 – Great Northern Moorgate services
- 116 carriages (29 units) of Class 387/1 - Originally introduced on Thameslink then cascaded again (see below)
Total 1,526 carriages in
Trains cascaded out of GTR:
- 132 carriages (44 units) of Class 313
- 48 carriages (12 units) of Class 317
- 352 carriages (83 units) of Class 319 (includes 12 carriages (3 units) of Class 319 on spot-hire units)
- 52 carriages (13 units) of Class 321
- 76 carriages (19 units) of Class 365
- 100 carriages (25 units) of Class 377
- 120 carriages (24 units) of Class 442
Total of 880 carriages out
Trains cascaded internally:
- 28 carriages (7 units) of Class 377/2- Originally to allow TL to withdraw 319s then returned to Southern.
- 116 carriages (29 units) of Class 387/1 - Originally introduced on Thameslink (see above) then cascaded to Great Northern
Total of 144 carriages
Total of 2,550 carriages cascaded
Average age of the GTR fleet
At the start of the GTR franchise in 2014, the average age of the fleet was 20.4 years; it is now 12.5 years (this takes Thameslink and Great Northern stock from September 2014 and Southern and Gatwick Express stock from July 2015, which is the date when Southern joined GTR).
Latest Rail Delivery Group figures for period 6 (18 August – 14 September 2019) show the GTR fleet recorded a miles per incident figure of 10,482, second only to Southeastern (10,754).
Fast facts – new Class 717 trains vs Class 313s
- The new trains (717s) have capacity for 943 people – that’s nearly 100 more people per journey than those they replace (an 11% increase)
- They feature air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and plug sockets at every pair of seats
- They feature live service updates from London Underground
- There are 25 new trains each with six carriages and 362 seats
- Each train weighs approx. 204 tonnes (without passengers)
- The trains feature open and interconnected carriages like a bendy bus, allowing passengers to walk from one end of the train to the other
- The trains run through three miles of ex-Tube tunnels, which used to be part of the Northern line, into Moorgate
- They also have the latest accessibility features; including more visible grab handles and wheelchair spaces with clear markings on the carriage exteriors
- The 717s have a brand new ‘snow mode’, which changes the way the brakes work to improve reliability in snowy conditions
- They have train monitoring systems to facilitate a condition-based maintenance regime
- They are capable of operating with ERTMS
- The trains these replace (313s) have been in service for over 40 years making them mainland Britain’s oldest electric mainline trains
- They have travelled around 3 million miles since they were introduced in August 1976 – the equivalent to 120 trips around the earth, or more than six trips to the moon and back
- Since the 313s were first introduced, they have carried over 460 million passengers – that’s seven times the population of the UK
- When the 313s were first introduced, ‘Don’t go breaking my heart’ by Elton John and Kiki Dee was number one and Southampton were holders of the FA Cup
Hornsey engineering depot
The 25 new six-car trains are being maintained in-house by GTR's engineering team at its depot in Hornsey, north London.
Around 120 staff, including 100 fitters, have been trained to work on the new stock.
The depot, which can trace its railway heritage back to 1850, is also being extensively modified to the tune of £5million to accommodate work on the new trains with roof gantries being fitted to 18 and 19 roads to facilitate work on the roof-mounted air-conditioning units.
The new trains demand new bespoke tools so, to improve efficiency, GTR has installed an electronic touch-screen tool vending machine from which fitters can select exactly what they need. The fitter holds a fob to access the tools which will only be released if they are properly calibrated.
Dave Garrard, Continuous Improvement Manager at the depot, said: "This is the first time during my time at the depot that we have had brand new stock introduced for which we can create bespoke maintenance exam routines aligned with the service level agreement.
“To do the exams in one shift would have taken the units out of service for both the morning and evening peak so we've split them into two. This means we can do the work between the peaks, increasing the number of trains we can make available for passenger service."
The depot still maintains 28 x 387s and 21 x 365s in addition to the 25 x 717s. The team is also putting the GN 387 fleet through a heavy overhaul. When this ends shortly, they will move on to the Gatwick Express fleet.
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London 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 currently the most punctual of the large and complex operators in UK rail according to 'On Time' statistics released by the Office of Rail and Road for May, June and July 2019, and fourth of all train operators in the UK