Published on 28th February 2012
A record number of eight locomotives, built 50 years ago, ventured north of the Thames to supply track relaying trains in the Thameslink “Central Bore” tunnel.
GB Railfreight’s Class 73 Electro-Diesel fleet was used to haul works trains in previously unseen numbers north of London. They provided Network Rail and their contractors with the necessary materials to continue progress with the multi-billion pound Thameslink Programme.
The trains entered the Thameslink route at Kentish Town station, with sleepers, track and ballast descending into the “Central Bore”, which is between St Pancras and London Blackfriars, to relay track. Signalling equipment was also affected during the works.
Very few classes of locomotives are allowed into these tunnels so this was a rare event which only happens on inspection or engineering trains.
The programme is progressing well, and is expected to be completed in 2016. When it is finished, the current fleet of Class 319 and 377 multiple units will be replaced with a brand new build, expected to be built by Siemens. It will also see the previously exclusive-to-Thameslink Midland Main Line joined by routes towards Cambridge and Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line. South of London, it is anticipated that services will reach Guildford, Littlehampton, Eastbourne, East Grinstead and Dartford.
Over the 3rd weekend in February, the infrastructure trains featured a “celebrity pairing” of locomotives, in the shape of 73109 and 73201. 73109, still in South West Trains livery, is owned by Transmart Trains. 73201, which is privately owned, was also hired to assist in running these trains.
Also in use on the works trains were GB Railfreight’s 73141, 73204, 73206, 73207, 73212 and 73213.
The class, which is able to run on both Diesel and Third Rail electric power, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. There may be several small scale enthusiast events to mark the anniversary, these will be announced on rail.co.uk.