Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

See the little goblin

Posted in Commuter, London, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 23 June 2012

Last week, when my copy of the most recent issue of Modern Railways arrived, I found an article headlined “Transport for London asks for DMU bids”. It seems that TfL have asked rolling stock suppliers for expressions of interest to the possibility of providing eight 3-car diesel trains for use on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, owing to an aspiration it has to introduce longer trains on the route from 2013. Apparently, the rationale for this course of action is in the event that the planned for electrification does not occur until at least the end of Control Period 5Network Rail’s next five year funding period, which runs from 2014 to 2019. This is despite the fact that the route has a virtually brand new fleet of Class 172 units, introduced into service less than two years ago. But, one of TfL’s priorities since it took over the line has been to expand its capacity, for which the easiest way as it stands is to lengthen the trains. The difficulty lies in the desire to avoid procuring new diesel stock that would likely have a limited follow-on value once electrification is put in place (which is why the previous government’s plan for 200 new diesel vehicles fell by the wayside). But, because there is no new diesel stock planned, and therefore no siezeable orders, it would potentially make the cost of procurement that much greater. Indeed, the reason that TfL appear to be looking to procure all new trains rather than extending the existing Class 172s is because an order for eight intermediate vehicles would just be too expensive – Bombardier have not built a diesel unit since Chiltern’s final Class 172 rolled off the production line, and to start it up again for such a small order would be prohibitive. Which begs the question – given TfL’s plans for the Gospel Oak to Barking, which included more frequent services and measures to increase the numbers of people using the route, why didn’t they future-proof their new trains by ordering three car units in the first place? Given that, when they ordered the Class 378s for the electrified routes, they quickly took up the option of adding an additional vehicle to the original three car trains, as it was quickly determined that three cars was not sufficient. The order for the Class 172s was started a significant time after the 378s; how hard would it have been, especially given that both the London Overground and Chiltern Railways fleets are owned by Angel Trains, for TfL and Angel to come to an agreement that eight additional intermediate vehicles would be added to the Chiltern order and delivered for London Overground? It seems unfortunate, given the time and difficulty that went into getting the existing trains into service, that they might be cascaded away and new ones procured in their place so soon, all for the wont of a little forethought.

“GOBLIN Nobbling and New DMUs”

Had TfL given a degree of thought to the procurement of new trains for the Gospel Oak to Barking, it’s entirely possible that they would have been three car trains already

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