Great Western Railway (GWR) has taken delivery of the first train in the UK able to run on overhead and third-rail electric lines and under its own diesel power.
The so-called ‘tri-mode’ train is expected to be introduced on services between Reading and Gatwick by early 2021.
19 of the Class 769 Flex trains are being supplied to GWR by Porterbrook Leasing, with the first one having now arrived at GWR’s Reading depot for an extensive programme of staff training and testing.
The Class 769 fleet will be able to run under overhead wires in London and the Thames Valley and take advantage of third-rail on the North Downs line. The trains, which have more carriages than the ones they replace, will allow GWR to realise its long-held plans to expand services over the North Downs line, between Reading and Redhill and then through to Gatwick.
Once they are in service, the new trains will release some of GWR’s diesel-powered Turbo trains to add capacity in the Bristol area and to launch new routes through the city.
The new Class 769 fleet, which will operate in four-carriage sets, have been refurbished inside and out with free Wi-Fi and power at each seat, air cooling, bigger luggage racks, and new seat covers. Equipped with new diesel engines and combined with their electric capability, the trains will offer a quieter and cleaner experience for customers than the ones they are replacing.
Under present plans, the trains will be deployed between Reading and Basingstoke; Reading, Redhill and Gatwick; and on the Henley and Bourne End lines. The tri-mode nature of the train will give GWR additional flexibility to use them in other areas of the network, where there is no electrification, should they be required in the future.
On the North Downs line, the trains will allow a return to usual Sunday frequencies of two trains an hour, and GWR will be able to run three trains an hour from Reading to Redhill on Saturdays.
John Murphy, head of fleet production at GWR, said: “A lot of hard work has been done to make sure people feel that they can travel safely at the present time, and that includes running more trains and carriages to make extra room.
“Planning is well under way for a further uplift in services in mid-September, re-introducing even more services across the GWR network to help accommodate a return to travel for school, college or for work and adding some new services for the first time.
“This news shows we have not stopped looking at ways to further improve our service for customers.”
North Downs line
The North Downs line is a cross-country route connecting Reading, on the Great Western main line, with Redhill and Gatwick Airport on the Brighton main line. The new Class 769 tri-mode trains will be particularly useful on this line due to its varied nature, although the 25kV AC system will not normally be used, unless to access a GWR main line platform at Reading (the platforms dedicated to the North Downs services are third-rail electrified, the GW main line platforms are not).
- Reading to Wokingham is electrified (third rail, 750V DC) and signalled from Wokingham signal box.
- Wokingham to North Camp is not electrified, so trains must run under diesel power. It is also under the control of Wokingham signal box.
- North Camp to Shalford junction is controlled from Guildford and is electrified (third rail, 750V DC) from Aldershot South junction.
- Shalford junction to Reigate is not electrified. It is controlled by Guildford from Shalford junction to Gomshall and by Reigate signal box from Gomshall to Redhill.
- Redhill to Reigate is electrified (third rail, 750V DC). The approach to Redhill is controlled by Three Bridges ROC (rail operating centre).