Rail Industry Focus


Class 700: the future of commuting in the capital

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 16

How can we meet the need for more trains with greater capacity while also ensuring a better experience for commuters? That’s the question Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) seeks to answer with its new Class 700 Desiro City train. RTM’s Rosemary Collins reports.

The Class 700 Desiro City train is a key part of the £6.5bn Thameslink programme, which is designed to meet the 40% increase in passengers the network has seen in the past 10 years. As  the National Infrastructure Commission’s ‘Transport for a World City’ report said in March, more urgently needs to be done to develop the transport network in London and the surrounding areas to meet the rapidly growing population of the nation’s capital, which is due to become a ‘megacity’ of more than 10 million people by 2033. 

RTM boarded the Class 700 for its inaugural run from Blackfriars to East Croydon to see the future of commuting for London. The total fleet, built by Siemens in Krefeld, Germany, consists of 115 trains formed into 60 eight-car trains and 55 12-car trains, consisting of a total of 1,140 vehicles. 

The 240m-long 12-car train (700109) featured in the demonstration had 52 First Class seats, 602 standard, 18 tip-up and standing room for 1,110 passengers, meaning it can carry up to 1,754 passengers. By 2018, when the trains are due to be implemented across the GTR network from Brighton to Peterborough, they will run up to every two minutes and provide an 80% increase in seats. 

“I think it will transform the travelling experience of everyone using our services,” said Charles Horton, the CEO of GTR. “These trains are essential to us in meeting the growth in demand that we’ve seen across the Thameslink network in the last 10 years.” 

Back in 2013, the £1.6bn contract to finance, supply and maintain the train fleet was awarded to a consortium of Siemens and Cross London Trains, comprising Siemens Project Ventures GmbH, Innisfree Ltd and 3i Infrastructure plc. 

“This has been a very long time in development,” said Sabrina Soussan, CEO of Mainline Transport at Siemens. “We are very proud of this moment. So many people have worked so hard to achieve this.” 

Meeting increasingly ambitious criteria 

Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of rail systems at Siemens, told RTM the other major requirement in the Class 700 design was meeting increasingly ambitious DfT criteria. 

Versions of the Class 700 have been in development for so long that it was originally called the Thameslink 2000, but the idea was revived after upgrade work reduced crossovers at Blackfriars, increasing the station’s capacity, and after the DfT published its 2007 technical strategy. 

“They raised the bar significantly for anyone who wanted to be in the rail business,” said Scrimshaw. Requirements in the new strategy included greater passenger capacity, a longer life cycle, a lighter frame and reduced environmental impact. 

The train’s interior fittings are, therefore, designed with the aim of allowing as much space for passengers as possible. For example, there are manually operated doors on the First Class carriages but no internal doors between the other carriages in an effort to increase space. Electrical equipment has also been moved from the end of the vehicles to the roof, again increasing space. 

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Fewer luxuries 

A key demographic the Class 700 will serve is Gatwick Airport passengers. Its doors are wide enough to allow two passengers to board at once, or passengers with suitcases, and it has extra luggage storage capacity. Its extra space and accessible toilets also suit wheelchair-using passengers. 

However, the short-term nature of the journeys the Class 700 is intended to accommodate means that it has few of the luxuries intended to make longer journeys easier and more comfortable. 

David Guy, vice chair of Brighton Line Commuters, told RTM that while he was impressed with the design overall, he did have a “minor gripe” about the absence of fold-down tables. In addition, wall sockets are only available in First Class, and there is no wi-fi. 

When asked about the absence of sockets, Scrimshaw replied that they had not been a priority in the design process due to the rapidly changing nature of passengers’ personal technology. 

However, the trains benefit from a number of innovative features intended to make journeys more pleasant for passengers. These include panoramic windows to allow a better view and more light, and carbon dioxide sensors which automatically detect when the air conditioning needs to go on, designed to keep passengers cool without a ‘blasting’ effect. 

In addition, the Class 700 carriages feature passenger information screens which supply users with up-to-date information, including which carriages are full, where the toilets are located and what ongoing transport they can access at each station. 

The train is also designed to meet the other requirements in the 2007 strategy. For example, it has cantilevered supports off the side of the wall for its seats and luggage racks, which makes cleaning under them easier and more efficient and so saves resources. It also has narrower seats, which, again, might be less comfortable to sit on for a long time, but reduce the weight of the carriages. 

The trains will also be the first in Europe to use both the Automatic Train Operation System (ATOS) and the European Train Control System (ETCS), which is due to be used on all UK trains as part of the introduction of digital railway. Testing of the signalling still needs to be completed before the trains can be rolled out. 

The Class 700 is part of the wider fleet of Siemens Desiro City trains, which are set to become a key part of commuting in the future. The Class 707s will be used by South West Trains, while the 717s will be used by Great Northern. 

The company is also seeking to use the lessons learned on building an energy-efficient model for the Class 700 in its design bid for the New Tube for London, which will be introduced on the Waterloo, Piccadilly, City, Central and Bakerloo lines.

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



Ben   17/08/2016 at 10:51

No WiFi provision is down to GTR running their franchise on a shoestring. There's no frills as GTR perceive they won't get any reward for it, which of course they won't from DfT, but they would from advertising etc. It's very frustrating that the Thameslink line serves the Square Mile, yet you're in a data black hole from West Hampstead through to Blackfriars. Welcome to 2016 - but it's a shame GTR aren't quite there with the whole package yet.

Scottie   22/08/2016 at 14:26

Question for RTM and it's Readers ? These new trains (Class 700 ) do look impressive indeed apart from the rather bland, "undercoat" grey external livery. Am very pleased to hear this stock has toilets fitted. How come this stock does have toilets fitted but the new Crossrail stock ( now Elizabeth line ) does not ? They will both be crossing the Capital in tunnels, and my understanding is they will both be designed for similar journey lengths, albeit one on North/South and the other East/West !

Manek Dubash   25/08/2016 at 11:20

It's a pity too that the seats are rock-hard, and too closely pitched for comfort. But as we know, passenger comfort is bottom of the priority list for passengers (sorry - customers) who have no other choices. Nice to look at but I wouldn't want to travel on one for more than 15 minutes. Given the current state of GTR' services, most journeys seem likely to last considerably longer than that.

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