Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

With more numbers, there’s no problem

Posted in Europe, Great Britain, High Speed, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 4 January 2013

You may be aware that I travel around the country a lot. As a consequence, I am on trains a significant amount, and don’t always have a book with me. So, I have a tendency to head for the closest WH Smith and purchase the latest issue of one of the railway periodicals. Between Christmas and New Year I was in Nottingham for a week – on my journey up I procured the latest issue of Rail Express, and was reading through it when I came upon an article about Thameslink that, off the top of my head, was reassurance that the rolling stock procurement contract would finally go through early in 2013. However, this article referred to “Class 700”, which intrigued me somewhat. Bear in mind that, in spite of the stuff I write about, my knowledge is still limited, but I was always under the impression that, in the TOPS classification system used to classify rolling stock on the British network, EMUs were given numbers between 300 and 599 – those that run off 25kV AC from overhead wires run from 300 to 399, while those that use direct current between 650 and 850V from a third rail have numbers from 400 to 499 (for the Southern Region), and 500 to 599 for elsewhere. Which is what confused me, as clearly the number 700 doesn’t come between 300 and 599. Something that confused me further was the fact that, even though the rolling stock procurement for Crossrail is only at the ITT stage, Crossrail has registered its planned rolling stock as Class 345. Naturally then, given I am an inquisitive sort of chap, I made mention of this on Twitter, while using my super duper new smartphone to conduct various web searches trying to find out more. Yesterday I got a reply from a chap called “Sparky” who works in the rail industry and who told me that yes, Class 700 does seem to be the official classification, which is used in internal discussions for the Desiro City units planned for Thameslink. So, I then did a little more digging and found Railway Group Standard GM/RT2453 “Registration, Identification and Data to be Displayed on Rail Vehicles”, published in September 2011, which sets out the information that has to be shown on all rail vehicles, and updates GM/RT2210 (June 1995) by expanding the number ranges for registering multiple unit sets. In this it seems AC multiple units will not only be in the 300 series (though there remain a significant amount of vacant numbers), but also in the 700 series, thus explaining the Thameslink scenario. However, on reading this, I took note of something else – the 800 series is reserved for “high speed multiple units”, which the document classes as operating at speeds above 190km/h (approx 118 mph). Presumably, under this then, Virgin’s Pendolinos and Super VoyagersEast Midlands Trains’ Meridians and Southeastern’s Javelins would all have been given 800 numbers had they entered service now rather than when they did. But, something else that came to mind was the classification of brand new high speed trains, by which of course I mean trains intended to operate on the UK’s high speed lines. While these lines will of course not be part of the National Rail network, and some rolling stock will not be interoperable, their movements would still need to be tracked around the high speed network. I have asked the DfT under Freedom of Information whether the new rolling stock intended for High Speed 1 would be required to have TOPS numbers, which they say is a matter for Network Rail (who are not bound by FOI, and do not seem to have a mechanism for the general public to make enquires such as this). As a consequence, it is still not clear whether Eurostar’s new trains, or indeed Deutsche Bahn’s Velaro D units, would be given TOPS numbers at all. The DB trains are classified as Class 407 in Germany, and, as there hasn’t been a Class 407 in Great Britain, it could for simplicity fit there (even though it isn’t a Southern Region, DC powered third rail type); however, the Eurostar trains have been called “e320”, but can’t become “Class 320”, as there already is one. It can be quite maddening when you have these questions rattling around in your head, and yet there is no obvious way to get an answer. Having said that, these are not as if they have the answer “42” and, consequently, there is no problem if they aren’t answered right this second, as there will be an answer and it will come out. I guess one just has to be patient.

DB Class 407

Is it a Class 407, or a Class 807?

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2 Responses

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  1. Al Storer (@Al__S) said, on 4 January 2013 at 6:28 pm

    TOPS numbering has been quite a mess for quite some time- it really needs total overhaul and/or replacement. Something more systematic would be good- as inspiration, the southern region’s system for numbering their DC units would be a good starting points, though it breaks down when you have, for example, more than one manufacturer making very different four carriage outer suburban units built in the same time frame (377 and 450).

  2. Claire said, on 4 January 2013 at 10:43 pm

    If Chairman Pip can’t find the answer, I reckon it can’t be found. After all, he’s like the Google of the human race! 🙂 So, yes, be patient but there is indeed no problem in the meantime. 😉


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