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‘A first of a kind engineering project’ – SWT’s new Class 458-5s

South West Trains has taken delivery of 48 Class 456 carriages from Southern to begin operating on the Guildford to Ascot line from early April.

A further 60 Class 460 carriages from Gatwick Express, owned by Porterbrook, are being refurbished by Alstom and Wabtec at its depots in Doncaster and Loughborough.

The cascade will allow 10-carriage trains running at the busiest times, with extra services on some routes.

The first 10-car train is being rolled out on the London Waterloo to Windsor line from mid-March.  

The SWT-Network Rail Alliance said the £65m investment programme, funded through the HLOS, will provide capacity for an extra 23,000 peak time passengers every day.

Detailed safety, electrical and brake tests were carried out at Wimbledon traincare depot on the first ten carriages of the cascade last autumn.

The SWT-Network Rail Alliance has extended platforms at over 60 stations to enable longer trains to run on key routes and has re-opened Platform 20 of the former Waterloo International Terminal, which will be used for full passenger services from 19 May.

It added: “Further proposals are also being developed in partnership with the Department for Transport to deliver capacity for almost 10,000 extra peak-time passengers travelling on the main suburban and Reading lines by 2019.  The proposals include bringing Platforms 21 to 24 of the former International Terminal back into passenger service and extending Platforms 1-4 at Waterloo to accommodate longer trains.”

Piers Wood, Customer Director at Alstom, said: “Bringing these trains together is a first of a kind engineering project for the UK. We are bringing together two different fleets of trains - the class 460s and the class 458s. This will bring increased capacity and comfort for passengers, and is an innovative engineering solution for our customer South West Trains.”

RTM visited Wabtec’s Doncaster depot in April to see the refurbishment and conversion of the 60 former Class 460 Gatwick Express vehicles to increase the length and number of services South West Trains that can operate into London Waterloo. Kate Ashley’s report is reproduced below:

It is a complex restructuring project, combining elements of the old trains with 120 of South West Train’s existing Class 458 carriages, to create 36 five-car Class 458/5 sets.

The £42m scheme is funded by Porterbrook Leasing, which owns both fleets. The work has been contracted to Alstom and is being carried out by Wabtec Rail at depots in Doncaster and Loughborough.

The Class 458 trains will be reconfigured from four-car into five-car sets, and six additional units will be converted. The new sets will form 10-car trains to provide extra services on the Windsor lines from Hounslow, Reading, Weybridge and Windsor.

The conversion will leave four cars redundant – the driver’s cabs – which can donate their bogies to other engineering projects, be used as spares or scrap. The chosen configuration allows the best use of all the cars.

Managing director of South West Trains, and lead for the SWT/Network Rail Alliance, Tim Shoveller, described it to RTM as an “unusual solution”, that would provide a “long overdue capacity upgrade”.

Remanufacturing existing rolling stock will allow SWT to accommodate growth whilst maintaining reliability; the operator expects thousands of extra passengers over the coming years, making this a long overdue capacity upgrade.

It is “a work in progress”, Shoveller acknowledged, but one that demonstrated reengineering “on a scale not seen in privatisation”.

Engineering director for SWT, Christian Roth, said it had been suggested three times to the DfT that more Desiros should be built, but as an alternative Porterbrook proposed using existing trains to boost capacity.

Signalling has already been reconfigured and platforms along the route have been extended in preparation for the new trains.

The project will see a complete overhaul of the trains, including power supply and automative selective door opening for suburban stations where platform extension is not feasible.

The Class 460s have to be upgraded with GSM-R, as well undergoing work to address corrosion. The project was still “significantly cheaper” than buying new trains, and could increase capacity at half the cost, Roth said.

Work on the first trains was completed at the end of May. They were in service six weeks later, following the training of drivers and depot staff at Wimbledon. Trains will mainly be running on the Windsor line and the whole fleet will be complete by summer 2014.

It allows SWT to make use of trains that otherwise would be written off, adding cost and waste to other parts of the industry. Reengineering allows a number of such issues to be addressed whilst designing the trains for a modern service.

Piers Wood, customer director at Alstom, said it was a “huge publicity change” for the 460s, to be converted with the “very reliable” Class 458s, which would shift passenger perceptions.

The project was not starting from scratch, he explained, but merging two different products – the Class 460s and the Class 458s – into one. It will involve the procurement and insertion of 854 line items, 5,625 wiring changes, 664 new drawings (both mechanical and electrical), 166 new hazards, 51 engineering requirements, 45 different sets of calculations, and 5 bogie modifications.

Wood called the project “a great step forward”, and highlighted the good work the industry can do when it pulls together. He added: “Proof of the pudding will be when they are back in service.”

Interior work included floor replacement, rewiring, reconfigured seats into a 2+2 layout, air conditioning and lighting reconfiguring, as well as new toilets. There are fewer seats per car to give passengers more space to stand, and to increase capacity. The new structure is compatible with the SWT Desiro fleet.

The Class 460 trains have also been re-geared from 100mph to 75mph, with faster speeds not required on the new route, and to avoid overheating. Larger axles are being fitted on the leader trailer bogies to handle a greater crush weight with more passengers, and existing retractable gangways and couplers will be replaced between coaches.

Porterbrook said it was “one of the most complex things that has ever been done at the Doncaster depot”, but that good progress was being made.

Paul Francis, managing director of Porterbrook, said: “The deal on Class 458/5 clearly demonstrates the important role of rolling stock lessors in providing flexible commercial and engineering solutions to rolling stock provision alongside the purchase of new trains.

“In this case Porterbrook is investing £42m to deliver an important HLOS commitment for our customer. This increased rolling stock capacity will be delivered with only three years remaining of the franchise but Porterbrook can underwrite this long term investment.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Nonsuchmike   28/02/2014 at 13:35

I don't know whether to laugh or cry: "fewer seats per coach" to allow "more standing room" is not my idea of the best practice for paying passengers. More frequent as well as longer trains on the busier routes might be a tad more customer friendly, as every paying passenger deserves a seat. What other gems are there? Reducing the capacity of a train to operate @ 100mph to prevent overheating at a new maximum of 75mph? Not when I did my Physics degree it wasn't. Granted a lower current will flow with a greater resistance for any given voltage, but you also increase the risk of burn outs/electrical failures within the system if for no other reason than voltage fluctuations within the system. And finally they are cannibalising the old coaches to make longer train sets. This means that they have to take sets out of operation, modify them over time before bringing them back into service. Scarcely a way to increase capacity in the short term - just the reverse in fact. Black is white; white is black; we all love 1984 style big corporate brother and all the benefits he brings to his people, at a price, allegedly. But what are the alternatives? How about a not for profit framework for the whole industry?

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