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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Electric Class 700 to ‘transform’ rail travel, says DFT

The government has unveiled a new Thameslink train which it hopes will ease overcrowding on one of the busiest commuter routes in the UK.

The electric Class 700 train will begin operating in early 2016 with the remaining fleet following at an increasing rate until there is one new train entering passenger service every week, the Department for Transport (DFT) said.

The DFT claim the new train will “transform” rail travel into and across London.

The teains will run on the current Thameslink between Bedford and Brighton and the Wimbledon loop, and will be deployed across new routes from 2017 as infrastructure work is completed.

The government expects the £6.5 billion Thameslink programme to create up t o 8,000 jobs, as part of the deal to build 1,140 carriages and wider infrastructure work.

Rail minister Stephen Hammond unveiled a mock-up of the train at the Excel centre in London yesterday.

German manufacturer Siemens is building the 1,140 carriages in Germany, but said up to 2,000 jobs will be created in the UK supply chain, including component manufacturing, maintenance and new depots.

The DFT said the benefits for peak time travellers into London will include:

  • Double the number of carriages, providing 80% more peak seats across central London (between Blackfriars and St Pancras).
  • The number of carriages serving the capital to jump by 40%. Longer more frequent services with 30% more seats on all Thameslink north services that run from St Albans to London.
  • 15% more seats from stations along the line from Peterborough and Cambridge and 60% more carriages into London Bridge.

Cross London Trains, a consortium comprising of Siemens Project Ventures GMbH, Innisfree Limited and 3i infrastructure plc, is financing the new trains and will lease them to the operator of the Thameslink franchise.

“We are transforming our railways through the biggest programme of rail investment ever,” said Hammond.

“Once operational they will provide a huge benefit to the hundreds of thousands of passengers who travel into London every day.”

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said nothing can detract from the fact that the Thameslink fleet replacement programme has been a “multi-million pound fiasco” from start to finish.

Crow said the Thameslink “shambles” has threatened 10,000 jobs and delayed the release of key fleet across the country.

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