TOCs are still hopefully shaking the ketchup bottle
After 31 December, 218 days from the publication of this month’s Modern Railways, it will become illegal to operate passenger rail vehicles that do not comply with the Persons with Reduced Mobility Technical Specification for Interoperability (PRM-TSI). Excluding the IC125 fleets, roughly 1,000 vehicles will be affected by this legislative deadline.
These vehicles are being replaced by the glut of new trains ordered three to four years ago. In those halcyon days of cheap money, cheap trains and franchise bidders embellishing their quality scores, January 2020 seemed a long way away. Several manufacturers were promising to complete deliveries by the end of 2018, giving a year to cover any delays. In February this year, ‘Informed Sources’ included an update on where deliveries had got to. It also listed the fleets the new rolling stock was due to replace.
Non-PRM-TSI compliant ex-British Rail units were highlighted in red.
There were some colourful tables.
With six months remaining, it is time to assess how deliveries have gone in the first half of the year.
This article is not intended as a comprehensive review of all the new stock on order (covered in our table on p55 of the September 2018 issue), but rather those fleets where delivery is imminent – most have PRM-TSI relevance.
Because some trains are being used for test running or driver training, or stored pending acceptance, the tables differentiate between trains ‘built’ and ‘delivered’.
As a general policy the ‘Trains built’ column refers to trains that have left the factory or arrived in the UK. This does not necessarily mean that they have been accepted or entered service.
Trains ‘delivered’ may have been accepted and are now in service.
But equally they may be at their new depot, waiting for their new operators to put them into service.
For example, Bombardier has delivered and ‘sold’ the bulk of the Class 345 Crossrail electric multiple-units. But, for obvious reasons, most of these are stored in sidings. Similarly, although not shown in the tables, all of the Siemens Desiro City Class 717 EMUs for Great Northern suburban services have been built, but they are being fed into service progressively as the Class 313s are retired.
While apologising that the tables are a bit ‘Heisenberg’, introducing brand new designs of traction and rolling stock has never been easy or straightforward and this lesson is being relearned for the umpteenth time. However, even with the major delays, most contracts have some trains running on the network, at least for commissioning or driver training.
Also, the tables are more a time exposure than a snapshot. By the time this appears in print, the numbers in service should have increased.
Just in time for this analysis, with Version 33 software loaded, a pair of Class 710 Bombardier Aventra EMUs entered service on the Gospel Oak-Barking shuttle.
Of the 37 that have been built, 14 have been used for development running and driver training.
Meanwhile, the similar, but less complex in terms of software, Class 345 Aventras for Crossrail are in service on Transport for London services into Liverpool Street plus test running between Paddington and Heathrow Airport. Around 60 units have been delivered and ‘sold’.
Aerial photographs of the trains in store graced the national press in May. Remaining deliveries have been slowed pending the start of Crossrail services through the central core.
This leaves the small matter of a total of 201 Class 720 and Class 701 units – for Greater Anglia and South Western Railway respectively – to be delivered in the next 18 months. Some of those Anglia ones are critical for this December, as in addition to the 30 ‘Renatus’ Class 321s there are just 27 Class 317s in the Anglia suburban fleet that are PRM compliant.
At the ‘Norwich in 90’ launch on 20 May, Modern Railways was told ‘We’re looking at PRMing some more, depending on Bombardier’s progress’. It seems unlikely to me that such work could be organised in time for this December.
Bombardier’s work for GA and SWR together totals 1,415 vehicles, which sounds a daunting task until you bear in mind the scale of Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane plant at Derby. When Hitachi is proud to have achieved a new peak output of six vehicles a week from its brand-new plant at Newton Aycliffe, Bombardier is running five production lines at Derby, each with a ‘beat’ rate of five vehicles a week.
As reported in our May issue (p85), a sixth line is being prepared for the West Midlands Trains (Class 730) and c2c (Class 711) Aventra orders. These are outwith the timescale of this review.
Assuming all goes well on acceptance, and service running doesn’t show up some nasty endemic fault (Cheerful as ever! Ed), Aventra production in the second half of this year should exemplify the tomato sauce in the old adage ‘shake and shake the ketchup bottle. First none will come and then a lot’ll’.
CAF is having a rough time in the UK market. Reviews of the Caledonian Sleeper ‘Lowlander’ launch (p88, last month) were generally positive, but after tickets for the new Highlander service had gone on sale, the introduction was delayed by a further month to July. In mitigation, it should be noted that sleeper trains are fiendishly complex, with all the services to be fitted into a confined space and systems integrated.
A further complication arose in May when the connector on an inter-car jumper-cable became disconnected in service and destroyed itself in the subsequent flailing around. Examination showed that the connectors used for the CAF Mk 5 coach jumpers are standard industrial units intended for static installations: they lack the robustness needed for a dynamic application in the harsh railway environment.
A connector damaged in service has the potential for contact wires to short-circuit, with the risk of false feeds into control wires and train systems. To keep the trains running, what Caledonian Sleeper calls a ‘secondary retention solution’ was fitted after a check on the rigidity of the connectors’ locating pins.
I’d go for gaffer tape personally. As the old engineering adage goes, ‘if you can’t fix it with gaffer tape you are not using enough tape’.
Meanwhile, CAF is working with the connector manufacturer to modify the product to meet railway requirements, with particular focus on the latching system. This will be backed up with additional maintenance checks.
For the permanent solution, an alternative connector has been identified. Following testing, this is expected to replace the jumper connecters with a more robust solution.
Trying to make sense of CAF’s delivery commitments is a daunting task. Take the two Northern contracts for the Class 331 EMUs and Class 195 DMUs.
When the contract was signed in January 2018, the press release put out by funder Eversholt Rail stated that ‘all vehicles (are) scheduled to enter service by December 2018’.
At the unveiling of the new trains on 4 October last year, Tony Miles reported that entry into service of the first Class 195s was planned for December, with service introduction ‘mainly between January and May 2019’. ‘Early 2019’ was targeted for the first deployment of the Class 331 EMU.
At the time of writing Northern had received 34 of the CAF multiple-units, although none were in service. The remaining trains are expected to be delivered at the rate of two a week.
TransPennine Express was more guarded when introducing its Nova 3 loco-hauled CAF Mk 5A stock at the Velím test centre in the Czech Republic in April 2018. TPE told Modern Railways it was aiming for an autumn introduction of Nova 3, ‘with most, if not all, expected to be in use by early 2019’. The Nova 2 (Class 397 125mph EMUs) were expected from ‘spring 2019’. Once again, none are in service.
Prudently, it turns out, TPE added that all its new rolling stock was due to be in service by December 2019. And today the TPE website pages for the Nova fleets list each as ‘Coming into service in 2019’.
Despite the delayed start of electrical testing because of the late commissioning of the Great Western main line test section, slow production build at the new Newton Aycliffe assembly plant and the issues with electro-magnetic compatibility, Hitachi has been delivering the Intercity Express Programme pretty much to time.
Great Western has all 93 of its Class 800 and 802 bi-modes on depot and the focus is now on LNER, where a spectacularly successful old school, all-stops-out launch (plaudits to all involved), got Azuma off to a feel-good start.
At the time of writing LNER had 12x9-car Class 800/1 bi-modes available for six London-Leeds diagrams plus driver training.
LNER is well off for Azumas, until remaining interference issues with lineside signalling communications are resolved in the Alnmouth area.
Network Rail and supplier Park Signalling have adopted a belt and braces approach to interference suppression – fitting both Isolating Surge Protection Units (ISPU), which solved the Pendolino SSI interference problems on the West Coast – and Data Link Isolation Transformers (DLIT).
In parallel, Hitachi has tuned the traction inverter drive software and will also be fitting filters to each powered car. Both the GWR and LNER fleets will be running under qualified acceptance until all sets have been modified.
As soon as the Alnmouth problem is resolved, the Statement of Compliance (SOC) should be granted for electric operation through to Edinburgh. SOC will also trigger the Type Acceptance (expected in June) for the Class 801/1 five-car electric Azumas, where nine of the 12 units have been built.
LNER’s strategy is to diagram the straight electric Class 801/1 on the Leeds services, freeing some nine-car ‘800/1’ bi-modes for the launch on the London-Edinburgh service on 1 August.
Following the Class 801/1 units off the Newton Aycliffe production line will be the five-car bi-modes (Class 800/2), where four of the 10 sets have been built. However, the final four, which were due to be delivered by September, are reported to be running late, which may reflect the recent changes to the production layout at the County Durham plant.
Completing the Agility Trains East fleet, the electric nine-car sets (Class 801/2) are scheduled to be delivered between August/ September and May/June 2020.
These will replace the InterCity 225 fleet, which is PRM-TSI compliant. UK production is being supplemented by units from Hitachi’s Japanese factory, with seven sets in store. The first UK assembled vehicles are on the factory floor at Newton Aycliffe.
Outwith the IEP fleets, the ScotRail Class 385 contract is nearing completion, with 60 out of the 70 in service at the time of writing. After the late delivery and the delay over the windscreen optical characteristics, the fleet is now earning plaudits as it takes over more services. And as TIN-watch shows, it continues to improve in reliability.
Meanwhile, 13 of the 19 Class 802/2 (Nova 1) five-car bi-modes for TransPennine Express have been built. These are being supplied from Hitachi’s Pistoia plant in Italy, where the five Hull Trains Class 802/3 units are also already in production.
On 4 June the Office of Rail and Road announced it had authorised the TPE fleet to enter service under the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011.
At the last report, delivery of the two fleets for Greater Anglia was running about three months late.
Delivery has been focused on the Class 755 bi-modes, with 13 sets delivered and authorisation received from ORR on 11 June. The first Class 745 EMU arrived in February.
First to enter service will be 4x4-car Class 755 bi-modes. In parallel with delivery of the remaining 20x4-cars, the first four Class 745s will be introduced on Stansted Express services. With bi-mode deliveries moving on to the 14x3-car units, EMU production shifts to the inter-city Class 745s. The final six Stansted Express units complete the contracts.
Table 5 summarises the number of trains each manufacturer has to build and deliver over, broadly, the next six to nine months. More-recent orders, such as new fleets for Transport for Wales and West Midlands, which are not PRM-TSI critical, will be added to the next ‘Informed Sources’ deliveries analysis in the February 2020 column.
By then PRM-TSI compliance will have become mandatory and, as the financier Warren Buffet famously remarked, ‘Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked’.
What Table 5 shows is the dominance of Bombardier, with over half the units on order. Its backlog – trains to be built – is greater than those of the other three manufacturers combined.
Compared with the Derby ketchup bottle, the rest are more like an extra handful of red sauce sachets.
Time for one last supplier. While they are repurposed rather than new trains, the short formation IC125 sets for ScotRail and Great Western are still part of the PRM-TSI landscape. They are also inextricably entwined with the new train fleets, since, as my colleague Ian Walmsley intimated in the May issue (p46), Wabtec’s Doncaster plant has been losing skilled workers to Hitachi’s nearby new depot.
Working conditions, wages plus DfT’s 27.5-year contract with LNER’s service provider Agility Trains East are powerful incentives to change jobs.
GWR expected to have nine of its 11 ‘Castle’ sets for the January 2019 timetable. At the time of writing it had two. ScotRail should have had 26 for May this year. The current fleet is six, with some Inter7City services being worked by seven sets with non PRM-TSI modified Mk 3 vehicles.
One final point. With late deliveries seemingly endemic even I, their longest standing supporter, begin to question the original ROSCOs’ claims to being more than just financiers.
The much-vaunted contract management and engineering skills, which are supposed to set them apart from the newcomers to the leasing markets, such as Rock Rail and SMBC Rail, have yet to be reflected in new train deliveries.