Posted 19th September 2011 | 9 Comments

Southern to order more trains as Thameslink slips

It had been intended that Class 377s on the Thameslink route would be returned to Southern in 2013

It had been intended that Class 377s on the Thameslink route would be returned to Southern in 2013

SOUTHERN has launched a procurement process for more trains, after it became clear that the slipping Thameslink rolling stock programme means that 23 Class 377 units on sub-lease to First Capital Connect may not be returned on time.

The High Level Output Specification from the Department for Transport had assumed that the Class 377s would have been returned for the December 2013 timetable, but this now seems unlikely.

As a result, Southern is preparing to order 130 extra vehicles – enough for 32 four-car units – to fill the gap.

The operator has issued a PQQ (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire) to potential suppliers, with trains due for delivery no later than December 2013.

Southern Managing Director Chris Burchell said: "Without the return of our sub-leased vehicles we need to explore other options to provide the necessary capacity to meet our passengers’ needs.

"Critical to the success of this project will be the ability of suppliers to demonstrate they can deliver the trains on time while still offering affordability and value for money."

The 377s were originally delivered from Bombardier in Derby around two years ago, although some were delayed by problems caused by the 2009 financial crisis.

The head lease is held by Southern, but after commissioning trials at Selhurst depot the trains were all sent to Bedford for service with First Capital Connect, with the intention that the new Thameslink fleet would have made them redundant by 2013.

The problems with Thameslink rolling stock procurement are far from over. The government's timetable ran late, and when Siemens was finally named as preferred bidder in June a storm of protest arose, because of fears over the future of the Bombardier plant in Derby, which was the rival contender for the £1.4 billion order.

The DfT had hoped to confirm Siemens' status as supplier of the new Thameslink fleet in November, but this decision has now also slipped back, to early in 2012.

Meanwhile, the National Audit Office is preparing to publish a preliminary report on the DfT's procurement process, after it emerged that the wider economic benefits of placing the order in Derby were not taken into account.

There have been warnings that the loss of the Thameslink contract could have placed 20,000 British jobs at risk, both at Bombardier and in the wider supply chain.

If the NAO concludes that there were significant flaws in the Department's calculations, it will then mount a full inquiry.

Although the government is not bound by NAO conclusions, it seems unlikely that it can conclude the deal with Siemens deal unless the NAO signals that the process did offer, as is being claimed, best value for money for taxpayers.

Other challenges include a potential judicial review of the decision sponsored by UNITE the union, which has won the financial support of Derby City Council. A report on the procurement of rolling stock is also being prepared by the House of Commons Transport Committee, which took evidence from a number of witnesses earlier this month.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    I thoroughly agree with at least one of your correspondents above - why should the north always have to have second-hand stock and the brand new go to the south-east? Talk about London-centred!!!!!!!! The whole attitude stinks!

  • Deltic08, Ripon, England

    Why should the North always get other areas cast-offs. The average age of local trains up here is 25 years old. You keep your crappy dual voltage class 319s down south for Oxford and Newbury and let us have some new 377s for a change.

  • Miles, London

    I don't see why DFT don't allow First Capital Connect to order newer version of the class 377, as they are proven to work on the Thameslink line.
    I'm sure that Bombardier can adjust the seating configuration in order to allow more standing room and wheelchair space, they could even use ideas from the class 357/375/377, class 376, class 378 and class 379
    I'm sure if the DFT stop all the messing about, we could guarantee some UK JOBS and save money simply using the trains that work successfully on our railways already, then Southern could get their trains back.
    Southern should consider replacing their existing metro stock with class 376, which are 5 coach formations, thus allowing the ageing class 455 and 456 to be retired or moved to Sussex coast way services, as the current class 313 are extremely old, and the class 377 that are sometimes used on metro lines back to their express routes.

  • Steve, Reigate, UK

    All this dilly dallying costing the taxpayer millions, meanwhile the commuters on the Thameslink and Southern routes are stuffed like sardines into trains that are too short due to lack of stock.

    It's too late to change the procurement plans lets get on with it, if anything bring the Thameslink order forward so we can start benefiting from trains the correct length needed now!

    And well done to Southern for reacting and getting on with providing new stock now. I suspect an order for 26 5 car units to operate on the metro service releasing the 4 car trains for the outer suburban trains currently short formed. When the units come back from Thameslink they can replace the old stock that keeps causing problems every morning in the intense rush hour services.

  • STeve, Kuwait City

    The 319's need to be scrapped or donated to Somalia. Preferably with all the DfT executive chained on board. Will we now need to compensate Siemens for wasting their time?

  • Lucian Dunwoodie, Hong Kong

    The extra 377s will be taken up easily by the train lengthening projects currently planned for Southern and Southeastern.

    However, it might be the case that the 319s won't go to the Great Western.

    Rumour control has it that if and when the 500 vehicle minimum initial order for the IEP comes out, it will provide rolling stock for the Great Western to Bristol & Wales, replacement of the HSTs on the ECML, and also, on the Great Northern to Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

    That would mean finding a new home for the 365s so that all the 319s go north.

    My guess is that there's some further electrification going to be announced all probability bits and bobs of routes in and around Manchester and Leeds, maybe with Welsh Valleys. With a bit of stock switching around too.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island,Essex, England

    Sounds like someone is trying to cook the books about the non selection of Bombardier for the Thameslink stock?

    If Southern is to get additional rolling stock then how about filling some or all of the gaps in electrification and then releasing DMUs which could be better used in non electrified parts of the country. This order might even help build the case for BML2 given the recent chaos caused by a burst water main at Croydon!!

    Hopefully stock capable of AC working is ordered in case the 3rd rail is abolished one day?

  • Laurel Hardy, Northampton

    "That's another fine mess you have got us into" DfT

  • John, Oxford

    This might be good news for electrification out to Oxford then. So when the new Thameslink trains do arrive, the proposed shuffle whereby existing Thameslink stock starts running out of Paddington - it could now include some newer units i.e. the 377s that would otherwise have gone to Southern.