The state-of-the-art train that will transform rail travel from Bedford and other stations into and across London, boost the economy and generate thousands of jobs throughout the UK, was unveiled in London by Rail Minister Stephen Hammond today (Tuesday, January 28).
The government’s £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme will create up to 8,000 jobs as part of the deal to build 1,140 carriages and to complete the wider infrastructure work required.
The new electric Class 700 train will offer a much improved travel experience for passengers and alongside the wider infrastructure work will boost capacity and reliability across one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway. Benefits in the morning peak will include:
Over double the number of carriages, providing 80 per cent more peak seats across central London (between Blackfriars and St Pancras);
The number of carriages serving the capital to jump by 40 per cent; longer, more frequent services with 30 per cent more seats on all Thameslink north services that run fast from St Albans to London;
15 per cent more seats from stations along the line from Peterborough and Cambridge and more than 60 per cent more carriages into London Bridge.
Speaking at the unveiling of a full-scale mock-up of the train at London’s ExCeL Centre today, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond, said: “We are transforming our railways through the biggest programme of rail investment ever. “These exciting new trains, combined with the wider Thameslink Programme are a real boost to UK Plc, creating thousands of jobs in construction and across the supply chain, which is driving forward our economy.
“Once operational they will provide a huge benefit to the hundreds of thousands of passengers who travel into London every day. It will vastly improve train travel providing fast, reliable and more frequent services.”
The trains have been designed specifically to meet the demands of the ambitious Thameslink infrastructure programme delivering high frequency, high capacity services. They will be more reliable and more energy efficient than existing rolling stock and their lightweight design will mean less wear and tear on the tracks, saving money in maintaining the network over the long term.
Train manufacturer Siemens expects the contract to build the 1,140 carriages to create up to 2,000 jobs across the UK supply chain in component manufacturing, assembly, construction of new depots and subsequent train maintenance.
A further 3,000 people are expected to be directly employed as part of the wider Thameslink infrastructure works with as many again employed in related jobs in the wider community.
Steve Scrimshaw, Managing Director, Siemens Rail Systems UK, commented: “Over £80 million pounds has been invested by Siemens in the design and development of the Class 700. The innovative design incorporates the feedback of UK train operators, train crew, cleaners and maintainers, as well as dedicated passenger research, helping us turn proven technology and expertise into a state-of-the-art train of the future.”
First Capital Connect operates the current Thameslink franchise and has worked closely with the government to develop the new trains.
MD David Statham said: “This new fleet will give passengers more trains, more carriages and more capacity which our passengers desperately need.
“The Thameslink Programme will deliver more than double the number of carriages across the heart of London. At London Bridge alone the programme will deliver 60% more carriages in the morning rush hour. There will also be exciting new journey opportunities along the route - from Cambridge and Peterborough across the Thames to Blackfriars and beyond.”
Cross London Trains, a consortium comprising of Siemens Project Ventures GMbH, Innisfree Limited and 3i infrastructure plc, is financing the new trains and will lease them to the operator of the Thameslink franchise.
Andy Pitt, Executive Chairman of Cross London Trains, said: “Cross London Trains is delighted to have provided the finance for these Class 700 trains which will provide significant benefits to passengers and a step change in capacity.”
The first new train will begin operating in early 2016 with the remaining fleet following at an increasing rate until there is one new train entering passenger service every week. They will run on the current Thameslink network between Bedford and Brighton and the Wimbledon Loop and will be deployed across new routes from 2017 as infrastructure work is completed. These include the Great Northern routes to Cambridge and Peterborough, the route to Sevenoaks via Elephant and Castle and new destinations off the Brighton Main Line.
From 2018 the trains will operate at high frequencies across central London with one arriving every two to three minutes between St Pancras and Blackfriars during the peak. The new London Bridge main line station will also be completed by 2018, providing capacity for more cross-London services, including the extension of Great Northern services southward from King’s Cross. The new trains will be maintained at new depots being built in Hornsey (London Borough of Haringey) and Three Bridges (West Sussex).
In addition, the new generation of trains will release existing rolling stock for use elsewhere on the network, particularly as further routes are electrified, for example in the north west of England and the Thames Valley commuter lines.
Thameslink sits within a wider context of multi-billion pound investment in the country’s transport network. It will provide for improved north/south journeys across the capital, supporting access to London Bridge as well as Luton and Gatwick airports. A new interchange at Farringdon will also give Thameslink passengers access to Crossrail for east-west journeys, including Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and the West End.
The first stage of the Thameslink Programme is now operationally complete. Final touches are being made to building work at Farringdon and Blackfriars stations, and platform extension work has been completed at a number of locations including Luton Airport Parkway and St Albans.
This has allowed some longer 12-carriage trains to operate on the Bedford to Brighton route. The platforms at Blackfriars station have also been extended across the Thames, making it the first station to span the width of the river. The second stage is now under way and involves the reconstruction of London Bridge station and a new connection to the East Coast Main Line just to the north of St Pancras station.