Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

We need more trains

Posted in Great Britain, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 10 January 2010

The United Kingdom has a shortage of rolling stock. I don’t think anyone will deny that. The surplus of Mark 2 and Mark 3 coaches notwithstanding, these still need locomotives to pull them and, if they are to operate successfully on commuter services, they realistically need Driving Van Trailer to avoid the need for the locomotive to run around at the terminus. Again, we aren’t talking about the sexy, high speed, inter-city rolling stock, but the workaday commuter trains that are full to bursting every day. There are a significant number on order, with 39 Class 172 DMUs for London Overground, London Midland and Chiltern Railways, plus 30 Class 379 EMUs for National Express East Anglia being built by Bombardier, with a further 38 Class 380 EMUs for ScotRail from Siemens. Brilliant. But, the Government announced in March 2009 that they would be ordering 202 DMU vehicles, in a total of 61 trains, intended for First Great Western, First TransPennine Express and Northern Rail. Then in July, Lord Adonis announced a major programme of electrification; not only the Great Western Main Line, but a number of commuter routes on the north of England would receive wires, thus lessening the need for new DMUs, as it is seen as wasteful to operate diesel trains on electrified lines. The electrification plan will receive its rolling stock through a cascade – the introduction of the new trains on Thameslink will see the Class 319 units refurbished and sent for use on the newly electrified lines in the north-west and the Thames Valley, which will then allow the diesel trains currently used on those lines to be cascaded to other operators. All super. Except that the diesel trains that are intended to be cascaded are between 20 and 25 years old, mainly Pacers and Sprinters. And these are approaching the time that they will become life-expired and need replacing. Which will then see new DMUs being built anyway. But, the 202 vehicle proposal has now been cancelled as a result of the electrification programme. So what will happen then? Why on Earth did the government not carry on with this order, especially given that there is only one train builder left in the UK, Bombardier at Derby, and that a large order like that, combined with the orders from the various TOCs and London Underground (S Stock and 2009 Stock), would have been an even bigger guarantee to employment for a major industrial employer. And, by the time the new Thameslink trains were in service, these new would also be built and running, reducing the severe time pressures on cascading the electrified trains when the time comes. Oh well.

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