Waiting for the train

25 Jun

LO Train Length

Picture from Global Rail News

Press release from the the Barking – Gospel Oak Rail User Group on the delayed introduction of new trains on the GOBLIN:

Transport for London (TfL) staged a ‘launch event’ for a new train last week, but no sooner was the event over than the train was sent back to its maker, dashing commuters’ hopes of overcrowding relief.

TfL has ordered a total of 54 new Class 710 trains from Derby train builder, Bombardier. The first of these new trains was supposed to be delivered to TfL back in January, but Bombardier has so far been unable to get the trains approved to operate on Network Rail tracks. With around 30 of the trains completed, Bombardier has had to slow production as it runs out of space to store the new trains.

One of the trains was towed from Derby to London Overground’s Willesden Depot on 13 June for a TfL ‘launch event’ which took place on 20 June. Hopes that passengers would soon benefit from the new trains were dashed when TfL could only announce that the trains would be in service “by November”. The next day, the new train was towed back to Bombardier’s Derby works.

The first Class 710 off the production line was delivered to the Network Rail test centre at Asfordby in Leicestershire last December. It had to pass Network Rail’s acceptance tests before it could be allowed onto the national network. The train is still at Asfordby and has yet to gain Network Rail approval. It is said that there are problems with the software in the train management system.

“This is a major embarrassment for TfL”, said Glenn Wallis, Secretary of the Barking – Gospel Oak Rail User Group (BGORUG). “Up until now the problems with the Class 710 have been masked by the delays to the completion of the Barking – Gospel Oak electrification.”

Network Rail’s electrification of the Barking – Gospel Oak line was finally approved for use by the Rail Regulator (ORR) in early June, a full year later than originally planned.

“BGORUG is fully aware that the existing Barking – Gospel Oak fleet of eight diesel trains has to move to West Midlands Railway by November”, said Glenn Wallis. “It is therefore deeply disappointing that TfL is unable to provide a firm schedule for the introduction of the Class 710 into passenger service. Considering that testing started last December, it is also concerning that Bombardier has yet to obtain Network Rail approval for the Class 710 to operate on the national network.”

The Chair of BGORUG, Graham Larkbey, said, “What was the point of TfL staging the Willesden event when the only new announcement turned out to be the colour of the train’s upholstery?”

Having suffered months and months of closures and replacement bus services while Network Rail installed the electric cabling, passengers are still seeing no benefit. Trains continue to be overcrowded and (to my mind) dangerous during the morning and evening peak. If TfL don’t sort themselves out there will literally be no trains at all by November.

PS: for what it’s worth, the new trains look lovely

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