On Sunday 20th May 2018, new rail services were due to start between Rainham in Kent and Luton. Unfortunately, as well publicised in the media (here) things didn’t go according to plan. But this is not what this blog is about. This blog looks at the workhorse of that service, the new Class 700 unit, most of which at the time of this blog were owned by Thameslink (although Great Northern will have some).
The trains were built between 2014 and 2018 by Siemens in Germany. The initial order was for 60 Eight car trains and 55 twelve car trains. They are scheduled to replace all the class 319s on the Thameslink Network.
Their maximum speed is 100mph, and are electrically supplied with a third rail shoe (750 V DC) as well as a pantograph for overhead operation (25 Kv AC). They are fully fitted with air conditioning, and a regenerative braking system.
The units are capable of working as ATO (Automatic train operation), which means the train can drive itself. This is already in operation along the “Thameslink Core” which links the East Coast mainline to the network around St Pancras. The usual safety AWS is installed, as well as the ability to upgrade this easily to the new Digital Railway signalling as and when it is operational.
Two shots of the exterior of the train are below, one is of the information plate :
Interior shots of the train taken by myself at Rainham are below:
The images above show the standard configuration in standard class. 1st class carriages have slightly better seats and tables. As you can see, the train is totally able to be walked through, although first class carriages are separated. On the 8 car trains there are 3 toilets (1 disabled). I believe this is increased by one each om the 12 car trains. Luggage racks above the seats are large, plenty of space for a small case.
The new information boards show various information, including carriage loading indicators and information on the London transport network:
They also show the time and the next station stop, as well as the usual scrolling information about the service you are on and its destinations. Overall, these are very impressive and very informative.
As good and shiny as this train is though however, its glaring problem is the seating in standard class, which is well documented if you perform a basic internet search. Having done a full 2 and a half hour journey from Rainham (Kent) to Luton, I can indeed say that these seats are not built for that length of journey. They are quite hard, and realistically I see only around an hour and a half being the maximum journey time you would want on them.
This however is not a problem. The train is really designed with the commuter in mind, so the core user would only be using it for a short journey, either up to London from Medway, or up to London from Luton. As a modern train it really performs well, with good acceleration and the ride comfort in relation to bumps and jolts is really very smooth. All onboard announcements are clear and concise.
If the lessons from the seating can be learnt, then new variants of this train could be learnt and improvements made to what is in essence a very fine unit. As an addition to the fleet roster in the south east it is very capable, and notwithstanding the seats, a very enjoyable ride.
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That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.