By Phil Marsh

Great Northern rail services to become the most modern fleet in the UK in two years time

Published: 15th December 2016

New trains unveiled at Hornsey depot by Greater Thameslink Railway

There has been a depot at Hornsey for a century or more and today the former steam shed is used as a stores warehouse, the 40 year old electric depot has been modernized and transformed in a four year £150million modernisation and expansion project.

It is now a brand new state of the art depot built to service and repair the brand new fleets of trains which have just started entering service and will continue to do so over the next 30 months in an unprecedented multi-billion pound modernization project. Rail.co.uk accepted an invitation from Siemens to visit the new facility.

Hornsey is five miles away from Kings Cross and will maintain a £1billion fleet of new trains enabling the 20-year Thameslink project to come to fruition in 2018. This is when travel will be revolutionized by up to 24 trains per hour running through London on a north-south axis. Direct Thameslink services will link The Wash and the English Channel relieving London’s crowded tube and bus network.

The Siemens project has upgraded the existing depot and built new facilities there using Volker-Fitzpatrick as their main contractor working with Network Rail (NR) and Greater Thameslink Railway (GTR). To accommodate the 1100 new carriages, a swathe of new sidings and servicing facilities have been provided and power supplies had to be boosted and upgraded to enable the larger depot to function as planned. New main line connections and integrated signaling systems have also been installed by Network Rail.

The new train arrangements, all based at Hornsey

New Bombardier-built Class 387 trains have just commenced operations running between King’s Cross and Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn. These will replace the old Class 317s by April 2017 while the class 321s were withdrawn from active service on 10 December. Some of the 15 year old class 365s will remain in service and operate on Kings Cross services while the new fleet runs through London via the new Canal Tunnel between Gasworks and Copenhagen tunnels, made famous by the Ladykillers film.

The new Siemens-built Class 700 trains will initially be used on services between Kings Cross, Peterborough and Cambridge starting in 2017. Some of these are already running between Bedford and Brighton on the existing Thameslink services. From 2018, these trains will run from Peterborough, Cambridge and Kings Lynn to the south coast as Thameslink services through London.

Forty years ago…

The Class 313 trains have given 40 years service and will be replaced by new Siemens Class 717 trains. These will run from Welwyn Garden City, Hertford and Stevenage to and from Moorgate from 2019 allowing the Class 313s to be withdrawn.

Hornsey will now become a centre of excellence for apprentice schemes operated by GTR and Siemens with up to 20 apprentices taken on for a year’s experience in maintenance and servicing six classes of trains.

What improvements will the new trains bring?

All the new trains will have air-conditioning, display the latest real-time passenger information and have wheelchair accessible toilets and other features for passengers with disabilities. The trains will also record the amount of passengers on-board at any time by a dynamic real-time weighing sensor on each carriage.

They said:

Gerry McFadden, Engineering Director of GTR indicated that the Class 387, 700 and 717 will possibly feature power points but definitely have wi-fi fitted retrospectively to existing trains and built into future ones once the system has been designed.

The DfT contract omissions……

They were not specified by the Department for Transport when they ordered them in an attempt to save money. Seat-back fold-down tables will also be fitted in the same fashion as they were not specified either.

These basic passenger facilities were not ordered despite the plan use the trains on journeys of over 100 miles through London linking Kings Lynn, Peterborough and Brighton plus serving Gatwick and Luton airports - when real-time travel information is so vital.

UK first as train drives itself across London

All the new trains will be fitted with the European Traffic Control Systems and in late November, test trains were operated for the first time in late November in the UK – and possibly the World in conjunction with Automatic Train Operation (ATO). The test site was through central London and testing continues.

This means that the trains will, in essence, drive themselves through the central London area and drive up punctuality as they will be able to follow close behind the preceeding train. The driver, under ATO will only close the doors and press a second button to tell the system that the train is ready to depart.

It seems that after 20 years of planning and constructing, north-south travel is about to be revolutionised through London. And at the same time, Crossrail will turn into Elizabeth Line into a similar east-west axis through London.

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