SREmG
 

Class 701

Photograph © Stuart Hicks

Unbranded Class 701 unit Nº701002 photographed on the Up Line at Raynes Park on 11th August 2020

In March 2017 South Western Railway, a co-operative venture between First Group (70%) and MTR (30%), were awarded the South Western Franchise, supplanting the incumbent Stagecoach South West Trains who had held the franchise since the beginning of late 20th century privatised railways. This involved a commitment to introduce 750 new carriages. In June 2017 South Western Railway announced an order, financed by Rock Rail, reported to be worth £895million, with Bombardier for sixty ten car and thirty five car electric multiple units, with an option for two further ten car units, from their Adventra range. These being to replace the entire South Western suburban and outer suburban fleets. Whilst a single unified suburban fleet makes a lot of sense this involves replacing trains with a significant working life left in them. The Class 455s had undergone a major and significant refurbishment between 2004 and 2008 and between 2016 and 2017 their DC traction equipment had been replaced by modern AC motors and control gear. After acquiring Class 456 units from Southern in 2014, these units also underwent a similar significant refurbishment, although they retain their original DC traction equipment. Arguably these two classes have at least a further ten years in them. Class 458 units had undergone a major rebuild and augmentation between 2012 and 2016 and have about another twenty years working life left. However the greatest shock is the replacement of Siemens Class 707 high capacity inner suburban units which only entered service three days before (and then only nominally) South Western Railway took over the franchise on 20th August 2017.

As is unfortunately common with new rolling stock, construction and introduction into service is prone to delays. Class 701s (the class number being confirmed in September 2017) were originally due to enter service in December 2019. The entire Classes 7nn Adventra range encountered delays due to difficulty developing, having tested and approved their software. (The first type from the Adventra range - Crossrail class 345 - uses earlier generation software.) The first unit was not delivered until June 2020 and at the time of writing (early February 2021) the most recent prediction is to enter service on Waterloo-Reading workings during March 2021. Though this may be subject to further delay resulting from the Covid-19 Pandemic with commissioning and driver training taking longer.

These trains are of aluminium construction, driving cars being 20.8m long and intermediate cars 19.90m long, both 2.78m wide. They are fitted with wide sliding plug doors and have wide gangways within the unit, though there are no inter-unit gangways. Dellner 12 couplers are used at unit ends and the class can only work in multiple with itself. Flexx B5000 inside frame bogies are used and motor bogies are fitted with two Bombardier asynchronous 250kW motors driven by IGBT inverter controls. Both disc and regenerative/rheostatic braking are employed. These units have maximum speed of 100mph and whilst the Adventra range is dual voltage/pickup capable these units will only be fitted for 750v DC. Though a small number of pre-service units have been fitted and tested on AC, not on the mainline. For South Western Railway the interior accommodation is 2+2 unidirectional and facing standard class throughout - a downgrade for Reading services. These units are air-conditioned, have wi-fi and at-seat USB charging facilities. Capacity is believed to be 556 seats/746 standing for ten car units and 274 seats/361 standing for five car units. It is believed functionally a ten car unit is two five car half-units. Only the trailer vehicles have a lavatory - wheelchair accessible - and two wheelchair spaces.

Class 701/0 Ten car units are formed:

DMS [2-Bo] - MS [Bo-2] - TS [2-2] - MS [Bo-2] - MS [2-Bo] - MS [2-Bo] - MS [Bo-2] - TS [2-2] - MS [2-Bo] - DMS [Bo-2]
and Class 701/5 five car units are formed:
DMS [2-Bo] - MS [Bo-2] - TS [2-2] - MS [2-Bo] - DMS [Bo-2]

The units will be maintained at Wimbledon Traincare Depot and with additional storage at a new depot at Feltham on the site of the former marshalling yard. The latter is due to open in 2021 and will accommodate up to ten ten-car trains.

It was reported that the first four trains built were for type testing with the fifth being regarded as the first production build for delivery. One unit, believed to be Nº701501, was tested at the Velim test centre in the Czech Republic in January 2020. In May 2020 Nº701502 was reported as being tested with a pantograph up on the short test track in Bombardier's works at Derby. By 2nd July both Nº701501 and Nº701502 had been moved to the Old Dalby testing centre, but on 21st August Nº701501 was observed on the test track at Derby. The first delivery - to Eastleigh - was Nº701002 on 10th June 2020. This is one of the four testing units and during delivery it was observed only to have seats installed in its two rear vehicles. Between 18th and 20th June 2020 it was moved from Eastleigh for testing at Weymouth and in between testing it was remarkably stored away from the conductor rail on the Swanage Railway. This unit was moved to store at Worksop on 10th November 2020. The first production build unit Nº701004 was delivered to Eastleigh on 30th June 2020. Subsequent deliveries have been as listed later, but in the interim testing and mileage accumulation has taken place. Regular running contracted to GBRf has been on an Eastleigh - Staines Up Loop circuit (largely to keep it away from heavy commuter routes) but other running from Eastleigh has taken in destinations such as Waterloo, Guildford, Dorking, Portsmouth & Southsea, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, Winchester and Reading. Notably hardly any of the inner suburban network which will be these units' major domain!

On 24th August 2020 there was a press and publicity launch of these trains, using Nº701004, at Wimbledon Traincare Depot. During which it was said, and reported by The Railway Gazette, these units would enter service by "autumn 2020" on Waterloo-Reading services with all in service by the end of 2021. As previously written, these targets have already been revised. At the launch it was also declared these trains will be called "Arterio"s. To quote from South Western Railway "Through Waterloo, the beating heart of our network, Arterio trains will carry our customers along the arteries of our suburban network to the capital - to work, to school, to restaurants, shops, bars and theatres - and home again." It does not pay to over-think this branding. Will Up trains need to be re-named Veinios?

Other notable happenings, other than deliveries, so far have been:

On 18th July 2020 South Western Railway extended its option for a further order from two to five ten car units, though the deadline for calling on the option is believed since to have passed with no order being placed.

On 22nd July 2020 Nº701004 was used for an emergency coupling trial with Desiro Nº450063.

From the beginning of October 2020 some, but not all, subsequent units were delivered from Derby straight into storage at Worksop because in the absence of any existing South West Trains stock being withdrawn or transferred, and with reduced services running due to Covid-19, the south western was running out of siding space.

Overnight commencing on 18th and 19th October 2020 "cousin" LOROL Adventra Class 710 units Nº710272 and Nº710276 were being tested at Dorking, believed to check for potential interference with the old 50Hz track circuits in use around there.

Unit deliveries to the end of January 2021 - to Eastleigh unless otherwise detailed:

Nº701002 - 10th June 2020, then to Worksop 10th November 2020
Nº701004 - 30th June 2020
Nº701005 - 20th July 2020
Nº701006 - 31st July 2020
Nº701007 - 14th August 2020
Nº701008 - 1st September 2020
Nº701009 - to Worksop 27th November 2020
Nº701011 - 12th October 2020
Nº701012 - 18th September 2020
Nº701013 - 5th November 2020
Nº701014 - 4th December 2020
Nº701015 - 16th December 2020
Nº701016 - 7th January 2021
Nº701017 - to Worksop 8th October 2020
Nº701018 - 13th January 2021
Nº701019 - to Worksop 11th November 2020
So 16 down (of which one, Nº701002, was not SWR ready) - 74 more to go!

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  • 701005
    Eastleigh
    Class 701/0 unit Nº701005 at Eastleigh on 20th August 2020.
    Photograph by John Goodrich.
  • 701004
    Delivery
    Unit Nº701004 being towed through Viginia Water on its delivery journey on 30th June 2020.
    Photograph © Stuart Hicks.
  • 701002
    Eastleigh
    UnitNº701002 being delivered to Eastleigh behind GBRf Class 66 Nº66745 on 10th June 2020. This was the first delivery of one of these units, not branded for SWR as it was specifically a type approval test unit at the time.
    Photograph by John Goodrich.
  • 701005
    Strawberry Hill
    Ynut Nº701005 passing through Strawberry Hill on 25th August 2020. The new and shiny Dellner coupling is very apparent, as is the SWR branding.
    Photograph by Rick Squirrell.
  • 701006
    Mount Pleasant
    Unit Nº701006 photographed at Mount Pleasant on 4th November 2020.
    Photograph by John Goodrich.
  • 701005
    Southampton
    Unit Nº701005 at Southampton on 8th September 2020.
    Photograph by John Goodrich.
  • Wheelchair
    Door
    Signage for the doors with wheelchair access.
    Photograph © Stuart Hicks.
  • Bicycles
    Door
    Signage for the doors leading to the bicycle storage area.
    Photograph © Stuart Hicks.
  • Barrier
    Coupling
    Unit Nº701008 at Staimnes showing detail of the bar coupling to the barrier wagon.
    Photograph © Stuart Hicks.
  • Feltham
    Depot
    A view of the new Feltham depot being built, which will only accommodate ten ten-car trains. The remaining eighty need spreading between Wimbledon depot, Staines and Guildford sidings
    Photograph © Stuart Hicks.

This page was created 7 February 2021

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