It was out with the old and in with the new – as enthusiastic trainspotters waved off the last of Thameslink’s old fleet at Bedford station.
The rail operator has now replaced all its Class 319 train fleet – which was introduced in 1988 when the cross-London Thameslink route was reopened to passenger traffic, creating a new route between Bedford and Brighton.
On Sunday August 27, units 319217 and 319435 were coupled together as an eight carriage service to make the final southbound journey. The train left Bedford on time at 15.06 with a salute from the drivers and a blast on the horn as the train left the station with a small commemorative headboard fitted to the front.
Greeted by a crowd of enthusiasts at Brighton, the same train then left the seaside resort full and standing at 18.14 as passengers, enthusiasts and staff alike travelled on its last-ever Thameslink journey. The train arrived at Bedford on time, at 20.59.
Engineering Director Gerry McFadden said: “The older 319s have served us well and with the help of our staff and rail enthusiasts, we gave them a fitting send off on Sunday.
“Our new Class 700 trains are a vital part of the government-sponsored Thameslink Programme which will help deliver greater capacity as we modernise the railway to meet the massive growth in passenger numbers.
“The new trains are spacious, air conditioned and better suited for today’s high capacity railway. They are well suited for people with accessibility needs and feature modern passenger information systems that even point the way to where there’s more room.
“Now the 319s have gone it allows us to transform our depot at Bedford from a maintenance facility for 4-carriage units into a stabling and servicing facility for 12-carriage Class 700s. This will allow us to introduce even more longer Class 700 trains to the Bedford to Brighton route.
“Bedford Depot started life in 2004 as a maintenance depot for minor servicing of the Class 319 units when there was a six month blockade of the Thameslink route. At its peak, it became the maintenance depot for 86 Class 319 units and 32 Class 377 units, far exceeding what was envisaged, and it is a credit to the staff that worked there that they delivered so much from such a modest facility.”