By Phil Marsh

Two sets of new trains commence operations as a new train service operates linking two major towns for the first time.

Published: 21st July 2016

How are these trains linked?

The brand new Thameslink trains have just been introduced into public service and will gradually be operating more and more trains over the next few months and years. The Siemens built Class 700 trains are designed to accommodate up to 1750 passengers and will, and once the Thameslink upgrade is complete in 2018, transform cross London travel.

The train was initially introduced in late June to help carry more passengers while the Southern rail strikes were underway running between Brighton and London. The train has now been introduced on services between Brighton and other locations south of London and Bedford through central London.

To accommodate more and more passengers, the trains have wider doors and aisles to speed up passengers joining and alighting and it is possible to walk through the whole length of the train allowing Thameslink said, a greater sense of on-board security. Seating is two-by-two across the carriage rather than the cramped three by two in many trains.

Airport links

Passengers’ needs have been designed into the train with the provision of more luggage space which is vital as these trains will link Gatwick and Luton airports with London and air-conditioning will react to the number of passengers travelling to help create a better journey.

The frequency of trains and the variety of stations served could cause confusion to passengers so each carriage has electronic signs showing which carriages have more space to sit or stand and also show real time service information.

Toilets are fully accessible for disabled passengers, those with pushchairs or needing baby changing facilities and provision for full-sized bikes has been made outside the peak hours but includes storage facilities for folding bikes on peak services.

When the 115 strong fleet is fully introduced, they will operate between Peterborough and Cambridge to the south coast in addition to existing destinations.

They said: Siemens Thameslink Programme Director Dave Hooper said:

“This success represents a step change in cross-London commuter train experience with the latest state-of-the-art train design and on board systems equipment. This has been achieved by many people across our European in-house team and supply chain in design, testing, train manufacturing and depot construction.

The service team at Three Bridges depot is very proud to take over the leadership of these new trains from the development phase into passenger service operation and we look forward to entering more new trains into service over the coming months.”

Andy Pitt, Executive Chairman of Cross-London Trains, said:

“I am delighted that the new Class 700 trains are entering into passenger service. It’s great to see that passengers are starting to benefit from the massive investment in this brand new train fleet which will deliver much needed additional capacity to the rail network.”

New Hitachi train makes first electric-powered run on the Great Western main line

The troubled Great Western main line electrification project reached a new stage when a Class 800 Hitachi train ran under energised overhead wires for the first time. The wires were energised between Reading and Didcot which has become the test zone and the train ran at up to 125mph without incident.

The Intercity Express Train operated between Reading and Didcot on the mornings of Saturday 16 July and Sunday 17 July in a series of exercises designed to test the overhead electric power system and two test runs reached 125mph. The tests were overseen by Network Rail, the train provided by Agility Trains and Hitachi Rail Europe.

They said:

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail Western

This is a great step forward, and I’d like to pay tribute to the team who have worked very hard to make this happen. This is the future of rail being built before our eyes and it’s a very exciting time to be involved in this project. This weekend we’ve come a big step closer to providing faster, quieter, and more efficient services to the people of the region who depend on railways. Testing will continue as construction proceeds with public services scheduled to begin from 2019.

First service ever between Milton Keynes and Bedford

The Bedford to Bletchley 16 mile branch line is a rural slow service taking around 40 minutes calling at many stations on the route. It is usually closed on Sundays but this year, London Midland ran trains on the line in conjunction with the Bedford River Festival and Firework show. Not only did they operate trains on Sunday 17 July but they were extended to Milton Keynes which brought the first direct services between the two major towns.

To mark the occasion, Iain Stewart MP and Chairman of the East West Rail all-party group flagged the first train away at 1337hrs using a Class 150 two carriage diesel unit. Trains, which were well loaded, ran between the two locations for the rest of the day in a preview of what will happen on a regular basis when the line is upgraded in four years.

And how are all these trains connected?

Trains will run between Bedford, Milton Keynes, Didcot and Reading in the next three or four years making rail travel easier. This will be made possible by the re-opening of the Bletchley to Bicester line to passengers, after a 50-year break.

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