Posted 20th June 2017 | 5 Comments

First, MTR unveil new trains for South Western

THE fleet of trains to be built by Bombardier for the new South Western franchise is being unveiled in Derby. The order for 750 Aventra vehicles is worth £895 million, and Bombardier said it is the largest single order yet for its new Aventra type, which is replacing the Electrostars as Bombardier’s aluminium-bodied commuter EMU.

The new trains will boost peak capacity at Waterloo by 46 per cent, FirstGroup said.

Aventras are already on order from Derby for Crossrail, London Overground and Greater Anglia.

The latest order has an element of controversy, because the original proposal had been to use new Siemens-built Desiro City Class 707s for South Western, alongside its existing fleets of Desiros. The 707s are said to be more expensive than the Aventras, and FirstGroup and MTR’s decision to change the fleet policy has meant that 150 Class 707 vehicles, which are due in service this year and next, will have no obvious operator after 2019, when the initial lease ends.

This date would have coincided with the end of the Stagecoach SWT franchise if negotiations with the DfT for a two-year direct award had succeeded, but because those talks failed the franchise is now changing hands on 20 August this year.  The 707s are being delivered for 750V DC operation but can be converted to 25kV if necessary, and so they could eventually find a home away from the third-rail network.

The large Aventra order also marks a significant change of direction for South Western, where all the ex-BR slam door units were replaced by Siemens Desiros soon after the turn of the century. The Bombardier fleet will consist of 90 new trains, formed as five- or 10-car sets, and the contract also includes maintenance support for the duration of the seven-year franchise.

The trains will operate on the Windsor, Reading and West London routes and be based at Wimbledon depot, where South Western employees will carry out day-to-day maintenance with the help of Bombardier staff on the site, who will supply technical advice and spares.

Funding has been led by sponsor Rock Rail and partners SL Capital (part of Standard Life Investments) and GLIL Infrastructure LLP, who all provided the equity investment. The ‘senior debt’ is provided by a consortium of UK, European and North American institutional investors. 

Rail minister Paul Maynard, who has survived the post-election reshufflle, highlighted the fact that the new fleet will be built in Britain. He said: “This multi-million pound investment in a new fleet of British-built trains is excellent news for South Western passengers and the British economy. This investment reflects our commitment, and that of train operators, to put passengers at the heart of everything we do, and will improve journeys and target congestion.”
First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery explained: "We have exciting plans for the South Western rail franchise and these new trains are an important step on the way.  We know from listening to passengers and stakeholders that alongside improved performance, what they want to see is additional seats and we will deliver this via these state-of-the-art trains.”

The Department for Transport has distanced itself from the change of fleet policy, saying: “First MTR has committed to deliver 750 new carriages by the end of 2020 which will offer more space and improve journeys. It is for First MTR South Western to decide how it uses its trains."

Reader Comments:

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

  • John Harper, Edinburgh

    What about the DFT thinking of a strategic cascade programme. A fleet of 319/779's for GWR and Thameslink/ Southern plus cascading 707's and 458's to the south could allow withdrawl of 313/ 455 fleets, With the LO and GA plans provide replace their DMU's a DMU fleet of 17 3-car 170, 22 2-car 170/171/172, and 6 4-car 171's would be spare plus 153's and 156's to join those 2nd gen units released by GWR and Northern. The 153/155 fleets could be totally re-engineered with new power units, toilets to provide a 28 3-car fleet to buy time for the valleys being wired with the last Pacers being scrapped .
    [I cannot trace a Class 779. Are you thinking of Greater Anglia’s Class 379 units? These will indeed become available in 2019-2020 as the Stadlers come into service.--Editor.]

  • Rich, Cobham

    I am so glad the awful 30 years old + Class 455's are being scrapped. They are no longer,fit,for purpose. I am also delighted the Class 442 Wessex unitsmare returning to the Portsmouth line in place of the 444/450 split duties. These have always been my favourite South West EMU's. They were a failure,on Gatwick express as they were not built without the baggage provisions needed. I presume they will be configured to deal with the curves and gradients on the Pompey line. My main hope is that the policy of stopping everywhere and slowing services down will be reversed. Repeating the timings on Services to 1969 timings as a minimum.

  • Paul Marshall, Southampton

    Sorry Melvyn, there is no net increase of 600 vehicles.

    First group are replacing the entire existing suburban fleet, including the 707s, 458/5s, 455s and 456s.

    This is said to be 742 vehicles including the 707s. So it is 750 in, 742 out.

    The fleet size increase over recent times is basically just the 150 vehicles replacing the 707s (because they are not yet in service), and the 90 x 442 vehicles.

  • Davi Faircloth, Derby

    Panic must be setting in amongst the traditional ROSCOs!

    The 707s were financed by Angel, the re-tractioning of SWT's 455s and the alterations to the 458s by Porterbrook, and the Renatus 321 rebuilds are being financed by Eversholt, but none now appear to have medium to long term futures. Probably the 707s, being new trains, will find a home somewhere, and perhaps - because of their ability to run at 25kv AC - they might fit well with London Midland's Siemens fleet, say on West Midlands locals as replacements for 323s; but surely the same problem as caused them to be rejected by First/MTR will follow them - they are too expensive to lease.

    Interesting times ahead.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Surely the 150 carriages of Class 707 trains now being delivered needs to be deducted from the promised 750 carriages given they will no longer count as SWT Stock thus meaning this order will provide a net increase of 600 carriages !

    At least the Aventra trains will be similar to those on order for LO so if London services are transferred to Mayor and TFL the fleets will be compatible. As indeed will new similar trains being ordered by Greater Anglia franchise.

    As for Class 705s well either they have pantograph fitted for use elsewhere with the TSGN franchise where sister Class 700 and in due course 710s will operate or they could remain as DC trains and move to South Eastern to allow withdrawal of older NSE trains .

    Of course users of SWT will soon discover that while Greater Anglia is replacing its entire fleet they on the other hand will be getting back the trains Gatwick Express recently withdrew for a new fleet of trains ...!

    Butgiven the political makeup of areas covered by SWT their was no political incentive to introduce new trains where there was little to gain outside London !