Published: 16th November 2015
Work has started on the refurbishment of 40 Class 334 electric trains operated by ScotRail. The units are being altered at the Alstom depot in Glasgow at Polmadie, beside the West Coast Main Line on the south side of the city.
The £36m improvement project includes the installation of power points for passengers to charge mobile phones and laptops.
The trains see service across the Central Belt of Scotland, linking Edinburgh with Helensburgh and Milngavie through Bathgate, Airdrie and the low-level platforms at Glasgow Queen Street. They also run to and from Glasgow Central, Larkhall and Lanark, and on routes serving Cumbernauld, Dalmuir and Helensburgh.
The first trains with power points are entering service now. Wif-fi, heating and air-conditioning improvements are beginning in the summer of 2016. The full project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2017, during Eversholt Rail’s planned investment of £36.1m to improve these three-car trains.
Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, said that completing the first refurbishment of an electric train during the franchise was an important milestone that would make a real difference for customers.
Feedback from passengers had helped in planning the changes. Notably, more than 90 power sockets would be fitted to each train as a result, Mr Verster said.
Derek Mackay MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Transport and Islands, described the refurbishment programme as “great news for passengers travelling on busy commuting routes across Scotland”.
ScotRail said that the refurbished trains are to be rolled out at a rate of about two a month to ensure that the improvement programme does not impact upon timetabled services.
The Class 334 was one of the new generation trains designed to replace the 1960s British Rail slam-door trains. It was designed and built by Alstom who also built the Class 460 Gatwick Express and Class 390 Pendolino electric trains at the turn of the century.
They were in competition with Bombardier and Siemens both of whom built more reliable trains which entered service more easily than the Alstom trains.
These Class 334 trains were introduced onto the Glasgow suburban services in 2001 and were not well received by drivers and other staff who had to operate them. In fact, things got so bad that an Alstom technician had to ride with the driver in 2001/2 so make sure the train carried on operating with some reliability.
One of the problems was that the CCTV cameras fitted on the outside of the trains to film the platform-train interface so the driver could open and close the doors safely. But the cameras suffered from serious condensation problems obscuring the lens and therefore introducing risk to passengers.
This was resolved as were the reliability issues and the trains now perform, as do the other Alstom trains, as designed to do so. But it took some time and a lot of expenditure to get these fleets operationally accepted.