Great Northern has deployed the first two of a 240 million fleet of new Siemens Class 717 trains, which will replace mainland Britain’s oldest electric rail fleet. The trains were initially due to be launched in January, but were delayed because of signals at some stations that could not be clearly seen from the driver’s seat.
As a temporary measure until the signals are re-positioned, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates the Great Northern franchise, said a second member of staff will travel in the cab to view signals. Although the trains are designed to accommodate a new signalling system that allows drivers to see signals on a screen in their cab, this is not expected to be operational until 2021.
As well as benefiting from air-conditioning, wi-fi and plug sockets, the new trains also have interconnected carriages to allow passengers to walk from one end to the other. They have capacity for 940 people, which is nearly 100 more than the trains they are replacing.
“The arrival of the brand new Class 717 fleet, replacing some of the UK’s oldest trains and delivering more seats and space, complete with wi-fi and air-conditioning, 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,” commented Andrew Jones, Rail Minister.
A total of 25 six-carriage 717 trains will be in operation by late summer, replacing rolling stock that first entered service in 1976.
“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,” added Gerry McFadden, Govia Thameslink Railway.
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.