Mid July News Roundup

A summary of this month's exciting rail news so far.

Thameslink Order Fallout at Derby Works

The recent Thameslink fleet order confirmed by the government’s Department for Transport after much prevarication, ended a two year drought in UK main line train orders. The outcry that followed with the announcement that the UK’s only train manufacturer, the Derby based Canadian owned Bombardier, would be laying of around 1450 staff was predictable.

Bombardier have said that around 1000 of these are temporary jobs and when compared with Siemens announcing that they will generate up to several thousand jobs for the UK as a result of the order, is not all bad news if looked at in a holistic view.

Many temporary jobs have also disappeared at Wolverton Works over the last year or so and this is what contractors are for, working a defined period of time contract. On the other hand, Eastleigh Works is thriving with Knights Rail Services and Arlington Fleet Services winning more and more business.

Class 377/5 Thameslink Late Delivery

Bombardier’s last Thameslink fleet order did not go to plan with their class 377/5 delivery being a year late and the trains unreliable. This led to the highly publicised timetable change on March 23 2009 only being partially successful to start with.

It was supposed to create thousands of new seats on the overcrowded route, but these were initially only provided after much shuffling of stock. This allowed 2778 more peak service seats to be provided as an interim measure until the 377/5s were delivered providing 3393 more seats. This was also the closure date of the Farringdon to Moorgate branch.

The rolling stock shortage was only resolved by carriages being cascaded from other TOCs to make up the deficit under the direction of the Department For Transport. Presumably they will have remembered this problem when assessing the tenders for the new fleet.

Sources within Thameslink suggested at the time that one of the problems was due to faulty axle components made in Italy which had to be replaced with components machined to the correct dimensions.

The new fleet of Bombardier built 92 carriages made up 23 four car class 377/5 units. The new depot at Cauldwell Walk, Bedford was expanded in a £2.2m scheme to service the new trains. One unit was initially delivered and found to have so many faults, it was sent back to Bombardier for remedial works.

Bombardier’s latest class 172 diesel units have just been introduced into service with Chiltern were also delivered late so there is a clear trend on trains built at Derby.

Previous Ride Quality Issues

After Bombardier’s class 375 and 377 EMUs were introduced ten years ago, the track quality deteriorated and became a matter for concern in 2003 within Network Rail. The lateral passenger ride quality in the last vehicle of every train in particular was poor and thought to be due to the heavier nature of the trains combined with stiffer suspension.

Job Losses

Bombardier announced on July 5 that it was commencing a 90 day statutory consultation process with staff concerning reducing manufacturing capacity at its Works in Derby. Local sources have suggested that around 450 permanent and just under a thousand temporary staff may be out of work by the end of the year.

The Bombardier Works at Derby currently has five assembly lines working and their most recent orders have been supplying AC powered EMUs for National Express East Anglia and DC powered 3rd rail Class 378s for the Transport For London used on the London Overground. New Bombardier tube stock has been delivered for use on The Victoria Line of London Underground.

Bombardier are building around 1400 cars for London Underground’s Sub-Surface Lines which means trains will continue to be built at Derby for another 3 years or so at least. What happens after that depends on the outcome of a company review being made concerning the Works’ future.

Francis Paonessa, President of the [Bombardier] Passengers Division in the UK said ‘the loss of the Thameslink contract, which would have secured workload at this site, means that it is inevitable that we must adjust capacity in line with economic reality’.

Hitachi have won the order for the Intercity Express Project and following the success of their ‘Javelin’ train combined with Thameslink fleet order winners Siemens, both companies have proven to be more reliable and delivery pretty much to time so it is no real surprise that Bombardier failed to win the contract. Alstom, the French train builders are another company which built trains which required wholesale modifications before reliability problems were resolved.

Alstom Lose Another Train Order

Alstom failed to win the Eurostar train order losing out to Siemens in October last year and the have now lost a far more lucrative order placed by Saudi Arabia. This is to provide trains for the new 444 kilometre line between Mecca to Jeddah and King Abdulaziz airport and medina and is already being called ‘The Pilgrim Line‘.

The new line to be called ’The Haramein Line’ is a high speed route designed to carry an estimated 170,000 passengers a day in the high season. The train order has been won by a Spanish Consortium of 11 companies including train builders Talgo and the Spanish state owned railway operator RENFE, at a reported cost of €7billion.

It has been reported that French diplomatic efforts were made (as with the Eurostar order) to get the deal awarded to Alstom to no avail. Alstom it will be recalled failed to win their legal action against Siemens concerning the Eurostar contract.

High Speed Golf Trains Carry Golfers to Sandwich Club

Southeastern Trains declared that their high speed train service to Sandwich using Hitachi built Javelin trains carried 37,000 passengers to watch Darren Clarke win the claret jug. This is a significant increase on the number who visited when The Open was last held at Royal St George’s when 30,000 came by train.

Vince Lucas, Southeastern service delivery director said, “We’re pleased with how smoothly The Open has been and our contribution in making the event a success. We were able to transport a large proportion of spectators and accommodate with the higher than expected numbers of people travelling.

It is a testament to the hard work of local staff working together with other agencies in Kent. We hope many of those who came to Sandwich will take the opportunity to return to Kent, especially in the autumn when high speed trains will begin operating from Deal and Sandwich on a permanent basis.”

Littleport Level Crossing Incident July 5

The incident at a level crossing on the A10, a few hundred yards from Littleport station on the Kings Lynn line involving a motorhome and a class 365 on July 5 has yet again ‘proved’ the design of both the train and signalling equipment.

A paramedic interviewed on BBC Look East said it was lucky the train did not derail after apparently being driven into by a motorhome and hit on the side. This is not a matter of luck. The train had to go through a rigorous safety approval process before being allowed to operate with passengers. A major part of the acceptance process is verifying the crash-worthiness of the train.

This is not only bodyside protection but stability on the rails. Rails and rail wheels are profiled to run together to provide stability and combined with a stiff suspension, the whole package combines to provide a rigid train which remains on the rails and obviously upright.

Cars and other road vehicles generally lose when colliding with a train. This case was no exception!

Sunday 31 July is Diesel Sunday in South Oxfordshire

Didcot Railway Centre has joined forces with the nearby Cholsey and Wallingford Railway, to offer diesel locomotive enthusiasts the opportunity to ride behind four class 08 350hp diesel locomotives on Sunday 31 July.

The Didcot shunters will be used on both their branch and main demonstration line offering the opportunity to ride behind an 08 locomotive on three different lines. The Great Western Society based at the Didcot Railway Centre do not normally offer diesel rides so this is something of a first for them.

This is also the first time that Didcot has teamed up with the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway for a joint event/promotion. There will be admission discounts on offer at each venue, on production of the admission ticket from the first attraction.

Trains from Didcot to Cholsey depart at 21 minutes past the hour for a cross platform connection with the Wallingford Branch at Cholsey. Trains from Cholsey to Didcot depart at approximately 6 minutes past the hour.

As always with preserved Heritage locomotives, the usual “subject to availability” caveat applies!


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