Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Capitán, la sequía ha terminado (por ahora)

Posted in Business, Great Britain, Politics, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 1 March 2012

News came through yesterday of the final confirmation that a total of 20 new Class 350 units were to be purchased, with ten of these going to strengthen London Midland’s existing fleet, while the other ten will go to First TransPennine Express to serve on the ManchesterGlasgow/Edinburgh route once it is fully electrified, estimated to be by 2013. This is on top of the announcement that came at the end of December that Southern were obtaining 26 new Class 377s. All of which brough to an end the 1,000 day “rolling stock drought”, which is a favourite bugbear of Captain Deltic. One might think that this, if not making him jump for joy, would at least give him cause for a slight smile. But I doubt it. These are top me up and tide me over orders, made because, whether someone’s fault or not, there is a fuck up in planning and timetables. While the Southern order is good news for Bombardier, at least in the short term, it is one that it shouldn’t have been necessary to make, had the Thameslink rolling stock procurement gone according to plan. The purchase of the Class 350s for TPE has also received a good deal of criticism, due to the length of the route they will be expected to operate, and the fact that the design is primarily a suburban train rather than a true intercity one (even though the intention is to outfit them as intercity trains). While you can understand the purchase of a Desiro type, given that the majority of TPE’s fleet is formed of Class 185s, there has been questions raised as to why something akin to a short (5-6 car) version of the Class 390 Pendolino was not considered, especially as it:

  • Would fit in better with the WCML timetable, being a 125mph unit, rather than the 110mph Class 350
  • Is a purpose built intercity train (however much people may dislike it)
  • Already has an existing production line under way to lengthen part of the existing Class 390 fleet

El Capitán has often spoken about the lack of direction in rolling stock procurement, and it seems nothing has changed. Lord A’s intricately worked out cascade plan, which was intended to see trains currently used on the Thameslink route moved to the newly electrified North-West and Thames Valley regions, is in danger of falling down thanks to the procurement delays for the new Thameslink trains, which may well mean either several years of diesel trains running under newly strung wires, or else those operators who would have received the ex-Thameslink Class 319s ordering new electric stock. Added to everything else is the seeming lack of desire to pay any attention to the replacement of the Pacer units, which is slowly drawing closer, and you can understand why El Capitán is probably not doing a happy dance of joy around his desk.

Is Captain Deltic doing a happy dance?

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