Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

What can you do?

Posted in Commuter, London, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 20 January 2011

Flicking through the new issue of Rail, I came across a small item entitled “‘313s’ debut on Moorgate services”, which went into the introduction into service of four former London Overground Class 313 units to strengthen the existing fleet on services to and from Moorgate on the Northern City Line. In this little piece there is an acknowledgement from the managing director of First Capital Connect about the age of the operator’s “new” units:

…[these units] are 34 years old…[but] there is no other dual voltage rolling stock [that can] be used on these services.

There is almost something wistful in the way this is phrased, almost apologetic, as if to say “we’d have loved to have got you all brand new trains, or at least ones that are relatively new, but we’re stuck with these ones”. The Northern City Line is an underground line that was at one time operated as part of the Northern line. Although it is connected to the East Coast Main Line at Finsbury Park, and thus has OHLE once it reaches the end of the tunnel, the diameter in the tunnel is not sufficient for the wires, and so it uses third rail between Moorgate and Drayton Park, hence the need for dual voltage trains. But, also because of the diameter of the tunnel, a lower profile bodyshell is needed, which is why the Class 313 is the only type cleared to operate on the line. So it is that these trains, which are now among the oldest in regular passenger service, still have to soldier on. Of course, they are still in reasonably good condition, and they have been refurbished prior to their entry into service (as were the ex London Overground units cascaded to Southern). But there is no sign of their being replaced anytime soon, and I’m fairly sure that this one isn’t high on the list for the DfT when there are major capacity issues to consider elsewhere. So, could this one not be one of those that is left to the franchise holder? In return for a reasonably long franchise period, the TOC, in conjunction with the ROSCO, offers to pick up the tab for purchasing new trains that meet the criteria for the route. Then you could have a brand new, dual voltage unit that might just meet the specification for a number of different operators.

“FCC marks additional seats at Moorgate ceremony”

A Class 313 at Moorgate - is it time to consider what should be done to replace these units, which are approaching 40 years old?

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