Siemens Class 717 trains

Modern trains replace UK’s oldest fleet in £240m upgrade

Image credit: wikicommons

One of the UK’s oldest rail fleets is to be replaced by £240m worth of new Siemens Class 717 trains.

The Great Northern franchise, which is operated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), deployed two of the new trains on routes between Moorgate in the City of London and Hertfordshire earlier today.

The trains are designed to accommodate a new signalling system allowing drivers to see signals on a screen in their cab, allowing capacity at peak times to be increased, although this is not expected to be operational until 2021.

The trains were due to be launched in January, but their introduction was delayed as signals at some stations cannot be clearly seen from the driver’s seat.

GTR said a second member of staff will travel in the cab to view signals as a temporary measure until the signals are re-positioned by Network Rail in the coming months.

The franchise operator, which also runs Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express, has repeatedly failed to provide customers with satisfactory services according to a recent survey from consumer group Which?. Out of the UK’s 30 franchises, its services placed 25th, 28th and 29th alongside the better-performing Gatwick Express route, which reached 12th in the table.

The new Great Northern trains have interconnected carriages - allowing passengers to walk from one end to the other - air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and plug sockets.

A total of 25 six-carriage 717 trains will be in operation by late summer, replacing the existing rolling stock which first entered service in 1976. They have capacity for 940 people - nearly 100 more than the trains they are replacing.

Gerry McFadden, engineering director at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) which operates the Great Northern franchise, told the Press Association: “People have been coming up to us unprovoked and telling us how fantastic they are. The experience inside a brand new train is very different.

“These trains are completely open inside. They’ve got significantly more capacity, at-seat plug points, Wi-Fi, passenger information screens and air-conditioning. It’s a completely different experience.”

Rail Minister Andrew Jones said: “The arrival of the brand new Class 717 fleet, replacing some of the UK’s oldest trains and delivering more seats and space, is fantastic news for passengers.

“With the number of journeys on our railways having more than doubled in the past 20 years, we are focused on introducing new trains right across the UK, delivering significant improvements in performance, punctuality and capacity.”

William Wilson, managing director for rolling stock at Siemens Mobility, said: “Siemens has built these trains with one goal in mind - to transform passenger journeys to and from London by ensuring that services are reliable and offer as much space as possible.

“The Class 717 has modern carriages with increased capacity for passengers and is equipped with air cooling, Wi-Fi and power points.”

The new trains are financed by Rock Rail Moorgate, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments, and are being leased to GTR.

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