Published: 29th April 2014
The British Rail 1990s designed and built Class 365 electric train fleet is undergoing a transformation and passengers have just started to see the new trains in service. They operate on the Great Northern routes linking London Kings Cross, Cambridge, Kings Lynn and Peterborough and run at up to 100mph on commuter services.
The refurbishment of three of the 40-strong fleet has now been completed and are back in revenue earning service on First Capital Connect (FCC) services. Four of the trains carry colourful liveries advertising locations they serve while the others are in FCC livery. The refurbished trains are easy to see as they have been outshopped in a unique livery with no corporate branding because the franchise ends September.
The new franchisee will externally relivery these trains into their new brand and having a neutral background will avoid wasting money on ‘double painting’ the outside of the trains.
The original fleet was 41 trains but one, No. 365526 was derailed in the Potters Bar accident in 2003 and subsequently destroyed after nine years in storage, including the last few years at Wolverton Works. It was later destroyed at the secure MOD facility at Longtown in Carlisle. The train had to be stored in a secure location until all litigation and Coroner’s reports had been completed, Wolverton Works had the space so it was stored there for several years.
The trains were due to be refurbished at Wolverton Works but when they entered Administration in July last year, the contract was retendered with Bombardier at Ilford winning the deal. Work started in January after the new contract was signed in November 2013.
The first train to undergo the ‘refresh’ was No. 365517 and the money is being spent upholstering seats, new carpets on the floor with interior and exterior repainting. Eversholt say that the trains will also be put through a major engineering overhaul to improve reliability and the complete fleet will take two years to be upgraded.
The trains already put through Ilford Works will return there later this year to have enhanced features retro-fitted for passengers with disabilities and mobility impairments. Others of the fleet will have these fitted as they go through Works as part of the project from this summer. A new fully automated passenger information system with audio and visual announcements will also be fitted.
David Statham, First Capital Connect Managing Director, said: "The upgraded train looks and feels like a new train and I am delighted our passengers can now enjoy a more comfortable and modern travel environment reaching several exciting destinations between London King's Cross and Cambridge, Peterborough, and King's Lynn.
"This major upgrade provides better, brighter, new look trains, and will soon include enhanced accessibility features and improved on-board information. Since we took over this franchise we have added over 12,500 extra seats at the busiest times of the day on the Great Northern route through new trains and longer services. Now we're giving people even more of what they want - better trains to travel in.”
Andy Course, Chief Operating Officer of Eversholt Rail, said: "We are all delighted to deliver the first refreshed Class 365 back to First Capital Connect and their passengers. Investing in the Class 365 fleet, and all of our rolling stock, demonstrates our long term and continued commitment to enhancing our assets.”
Francis Paonessa, President, Rolling Stock & Services, Bombardier UK said: "Bombardier is pleased to be delivering the upgraded and modernised 365 units, providing increased comfort, reliability and accessibility for passengers travelling on the Great Northern route. Our team in Ilford have done an excellent job in delivering a quality product including a significant transformation of the passengers' environment, just 9 weeks after contract signature on November 7th."
It has since been announced that Mr Paonessa will be leaving Bombardier to join Network Rail in a few months. He will take up duties as Managing Director for Network Rail Infrastructure Projects at a salary reported to be £425,000.
When the project is complete, the trains will be compliant with the latest disability travel regulations with the installation of a pair of wheelchair bays, a wheelchair-accessible toilet with low level call-for aid facilities, better door grab-handles and new external door buttons.