photograph by Colin Duff
|On the 3rd September 2014 South West Trains issued a press
release that they had ordered thirty 5 car EMUs from Siemens, to be financed by
and leased from Angel Trains, in order to increase capacity on their suburban
services. This was to deliver a total peak-time capacity increase of around 30%
by 2018. At the time it was stated the first was due to be delivered in 2017 and
all would be in service by early 2018. Unlike the other Siemens Desiro trains
run by South West Trains these trains were to be maintained by SWT themselves at
Wimbledon depot, which had already benefitted from £6 million worth of
investment to deliver improved maintenance facilities.
These trains are of the Siemens Desiro City platform (similar to, but a high-density metro version of, the Class 700) and have a lot of the modern features lacking from the then existing suburban stock - but as with existing Classes 455/456 unpopularly not having lavatories. (Though it is known that the Desiro City platform has provision for lavatories and with such things being modular these days could be retro-fitted, but with a reduction in seating capacity.) The Desiro City platform can accommodate ac and dc voltages and pickups, and although tested on ac during commissioning (please read more later) the Class 707 would operationally only be dc units.
These units were built at Krefeld in northern Germany, initially tested at the Siemens test site at Wildenwrath, and then delivered, being hauled by locomotives throughout, through the Channel Tunnel. Construction of the first bodyshell commenced in June 2015 and was completed at the end of October 2015. Test running commenced at Wildenwrath in March 2016.
For publicity and feedback a half-coach mock-up of a unit was on display on the concourse at Waterloo for seven days from 23rd March 2016. In September 2016 three cars of Nº707006 were displayed at the Innotrans Exhibition in Berlin.
The first delivery, of Nº707001, was on 8th December 2016. Regular test running, initially out of Clapham Yard, was established between Staines Up Loop and Reading. It is believed Nº707003 and Nº707005 kicked off the testing programme on 10th February 2017 as originally scheduled, but a sighting confirmed testing had definitely commenced by three days later. Other test runs, at various times, included running between Eastleigh and Brockenhurst, between Clapham Yard and Bournemouth, to Alton and between Haslemere and Havant (also one trip to Portsmouth and Southsea).
Unfortunately early units were not meeting their required fault-free mileage which delayed the commissioning progress and introduction to service. Construction was halted for a while and there were no deliveries between 8th April (by which time units up to Nº707010 were in the country) and 16th September 2017 (commencing with Nº707011 and Nº707012).
South West Trains controversially lost the South Western franchise to First Group's/MTR's South Western Railway venture and with the SWT franchise ending on 29th August 2017 SWT ceased testing of these units on 26th July. As was quipped at the time, leaving First Group to sort out the problematical commissioning! Though some units did move, mostly between depots and sidings, in the interim. However, in order to fulfil a franchise commitment Nº707003 and Nº707005 ran in passenger service, as a somewhat token gesture, on 17th August 2017, just three days before the SWT franchise ended! These were exceptionally diagrammed for the 1Z31 09:28 Brentford to Reading, with quite an odd stopping pattern, followed by a few Reading-Staines shuttles. A test run of this pair of units had previously run to Reading - perhaps a rehearsal - on 7th August. There was no further running of class 707 units until after the Waterloo Blockade.
South Western Railway took over the franchise on 20th August 2017 and soon there was a bombshell announcement that due to a franchise commitment the entire suburban fleet consisting of Classes 455, 456, 458 and (not fully out of the box) Class 707 would be replaced by a new fleet of Bombardier Adventra 5 and 10 car units, to be designated Class 701. So before they had even entered service properly the 707s had no long term future on the south western.
Units fully entered service from Tues 5th September 2017 with the following being 10.707:
Waterloo to Windsor 0558 0828 1058 1328 1558 1828 2058
As previously mentioned, Units 707001 and 707002 were temporarily fitted with pantographs and were tested on ac, initially in LOROL's New Cross Gate Depot on 24th July 2017 and then at Peterborough on the East Coast Mainline overnights between 17th and 19th September 2017.
707s diagrams increased from one pair to three pairs in traffic from Monday 16th October 2017.
5U07 0502 Wimbledon Park Depot-London Waterloo
3F09 0500 Wimbledon Park Depot-Guildford
5H91 0602 Clapham Yard-Shepperton
Thereafter with subsequent introductions 707s settled down to operate on the entire the SWR suburban network on services which Classes 455, 456 and 458 also ran. They do not appear to have ever had a monopoly on any service. By 2nd November 2017 Nº707003 to Nº707012 had all worked in passenger service. On 4th December 2017 Nº707023, Nº, Nº707025, Nº707026 and Nº707027 all had their first day in public service, meaning 16 out of 30 were then in service. The period between delivery and entering service had considerably reduced. On the other hand, the first two units delivered, Nº707001 and Nº707002, only finally entered service a week before Christmas on the 0700 Shepperton to Waterloo and 0815 Waterloo to Waterloo. Nº707024 and Nº707030, the final delivery, entered service on 13th March 2018. So arguably, despite the troublesome commissioning, the entire fleet had still entered service, as originally projected, in "early" 2018.
Although the suburban network is the 707s regular purlieu, including not infrequent runs to Reading (as also Class 455s) there have been some unusual workings. On 17th March 2019 Nº707006 was used as a shuttle between Reading and Staines during engineering work. During a strike on 20th June 2019 Nº707012 and Nº707018 worked services to Basingstoke. Nº707014 was on display, but not publically accessible, at the Siemens Northam Depot open day on 28th September 2019. Finally the big one! Nº707015 and Nº707018 worked the 17:35 Waterloo to Weymouth as far as Southampton Central on 18th December 2019 due to the diagrammed Desiro not being available following a broken rail at Brockenhurst.
On 20th April 2020 it became public that Southeastern had signed a contract to sub-lease the 707s from SWR. This to fulfil, as part of their Direct Award contract announced on 30th March, a commitment to increase suburban train capacity. Overnight 8th/9th January 2021 unbranded Nº707003 and Nº707004 transferred to Grove Park from Wimbledon via Waterloo and the following day they were moved to Ashford. Nº707005 and Nº707006 followed to the Southeastern, arriving at Grove Park on 16th January. Due to poor weather and Covid restrictions, Southeastern had, at the time of writing (mid-February 2021) hardly done anything with them. Though on 17th February 2021 Nº707005 and Nº707006 are known to have run between Grove Park and Orpington.
Delivery dates (arrival at Clapham Yard):
Nº707001 9th December 2016Technical details:
Units are of aluminium construction and are formed
Units can only work in multiple with other Class units and, at least in theory, Classes 700 and 717. Out of passenger service assistance can be provided by other units with compatible couplers (Classes 444, 450, 458/5 and 377) or with an adaptor for Tightlock couplers (Classes 455 and 456).
Units are fitted with Automatic Selective Door Opening (ASDO) and the default door opening if ASDO fails is the first four caches. The guard can override this as appropriate.
Passenger alarms (emulating the old "communication cord") are of a new type, being of fairly small red buttons, but behind break-glass panels. They are also labelled "S.O.S." rather than "Alarm", plus the accompanying S.O.S. sign is yellow, rather than red.
Operationally drivers may only change ends in platforms or along specially constructed walkways. Guards have to travel in the rear set in a 10 car formation, so that there are staff in both units. Units have a new design of wheelchair ramp specific to the stock. They are located in a small cupboard next to the emergency cupboard in coaches 3 and 8. A limited number of locations have station specific ramps, at places where there is a low stepping height. Due to the wide gangways vehicles can only be locked out of use by using a lightweight barrier between the handrails at the end of the coaches.
The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment has advanced features. It can continue for up to 90 minutes if the power supply fails. If a fire is detected it switches to ventilate only, to reduce the spread of smoke. Special lightweight barriers have been designed to allow open door ventilation if trains become stranded between stations.
This page was created 22 February 2021