Rail Industry Focus


Eight class 700s completed as three bridges depot prepares for testing and training

Source: RTM Apr/May 15

Siemens is steaming ahead with production of its new trains for Thameslink, Adam Hewitt reports.

Siemens has completed work on seven of its full-length Desiro City trains (12-car) for Thameslink and one reduced-length (eight-car), while more than 230 Class 700 bodyshells have now been manufactured out of a total of 1,140 under a £1.6bn contract. 

This summer will see the arrival of the first of the new trains into the purpose-built Three Bridges depot at Crawley, one of two new depots being built by Siemens to maintain the fleet. 

Siemens has spent £50m on developing the new Class 700, which it calls the UK’s “first second-generation train” and the innovative design incorporates the feedback of train operators, passenger focus groups, train crew, cleaners and maintainers. 

In particular, the Class 700’s lightweight design is expected to mean less wear and tear on the tracks, saving money in maintaining the network. 

Commenting on manufacturing progress, Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of Siemens Rail Systems in the UK, said: “The manufacture of the state of the art Class 700 is fully ‘on track’. 

“I’m excited that the first train will arrive into the newly constructed Three Bridges depot in a matter of months. The fact that we have made such quick progress is testament to our commitment to delivering this strategically important project.” 

At the launch event for the trains attended by RTM at the ExCel Centre last year, Scrimshaw noted that critics – who thought Bombardier should have won the Thameslink contract – had accused Siemens of basing its ideas on non-existent or untested technology. 

He said then: “This is the train that some people said ‘didn’t exist’ – a paper train with bogies that were just blueprints.” 

Passenger services 

Once the trains have been delivered, they will then be handed over to the train owner Cross London Trains, which will lease the trains to operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) ready for the start of passenger service between Bedford and Brighton, Wimbledon and Sutton in spring 2016, followed by Peterborough and Cambridge services later the same year. At the peak, Siemens will be handing over one train a week. 

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said: “These new Thameslink trains we’ll be bringing into service next year are going to transform journeys for our passengers, creating much-needed capacity on our busy commuter routes with around 80% more seats across central London by 2019.”

The highest frequency services will be through the Thameslink ‘core’ in central London, at up to 24 trains per hour thanks to ATO (automatic train operation). 

Since both the rolling stock and the signalling is being delivered by Siemens (originally by Invensys, whose rail signalling division was bought by Siemens), there are high hopes that there can be some true systems thinking. 

Johannes Schmidt, CEO of Project & Structured Finance Infrastructure and Cities & Industry at Siemens Financial Services, writing for RTM in 2013, explained the financing of the rolling stock: “Siemens Project Ventures GmbH entered into a jointly-owned consortium partnership – Cross London Trains – alongside equal equity investors Innisfree Ltd and 3i Infrastructure Plc. 

“The deal has been financed with a debt facility arranged through a syndicated loan group consisting of 19 banks with SMBC, Lloyds, KfW and BTMU acting as mandated lead arrangers, alongside a debt facility from the European Investment Bank. The Siemens-Cross London Trains consortium was advised by Barclays Capital throughout the financing arrangements. 

“Meanwhile, the two depots have been financed exclusively by Siemens Financial Services.”

Siemens Class 700


Last year RTM reported that the first completed 12-car Class 700 reached 100mph in a speed test at the test track at Wegberg-Wildenrath, Germany. 

Daragh Lowry, Thameslink Trains customer and stakeholder director at Siemens Rail Systems, told RTM: “Reaching 100mph was one of many important milestones in our extensive commissioning and testing programme. The Class 700 will be required to travel at up to 100mph every day in service, so this rigorous testing process is a fundamental part of the programme.” 


The high-tech depot at Three Bridges will be ready to start testing and training this summer. The purpose-built facility is fully signalled and incorporates key personnel safety features, including a depot protection and emergency electrical isolation system. RTM has been told that final work on the facility is expected to be complete by 15 July.

Three Bridges also has an automatic inspection facility which, through laser measurement, can accurately predict when key train components need to be maintained or replaced.    

Iain Smith, programme director of the Thameslink Rolling Stock Project at Siemens, said: “Three Bridges depot is of particular importance to the overall Thameslink Programme due to its role in commissioning the state-of-the-art trains. 

“Without a working depot, we can’t fully test trains, perform maintenance or put them into service. The completion of the first depot later this year will mark a key milestone and takes us a step nearer to a transformation in service for Thameslink passengers.” 

The construction of a second depot in Hornsey, north London, is also well underway with the first phase of the project, including seven new roads and a carriage wash machine, handed over to GTR at the end of March. 

Both depots are being constructed by main contractor VolkerFitzpatrick on behalf of Siemens, which has invested more than £300m in the developments. 

Siemens is now working towards complete handover of Hornsey to GTR in July 2016, when the main facility building and 15 new roads will be in full use. 

Smith said: “The fact that we are now so close to the completion of Three Bridges depot, with Hornsey following closely behind, is hugely exciting.”

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