The first Electrostar train from the 270-strong fleet operated by Southern, Gatwick Express and Great Northern, all Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) brands, is back in service after undergoing modernisation at Southern’s Selhurst depot.
Derby-built Electrostars are the most common type of electric-powered trains built since rail privatisation in the 1990s, and GTR’s fleet has been in service for up to 20 years.
Funded by Porterbrook, from which GTR leases the trains, the £55 million fleet modernisation programme is fitting the air-conditioned fleet with a range of enhancements. These range from new information screens, USB/power points and energy-saving LED lighting to passenger-counting technology and high-tech on-board operational systems that cut the time trains spend out of service for maintenance or repair.
Passenger Information System (PIS) screens will display up-to-the minute GTR and London Underground service information. The passenger-counting sensors will allow GTR to better analyse how busy individual services are, helping to adjust timetables to support essential travel and social distancing.
In addition to these enhancements for passengers, bringing every train up to the same modern standards, with common features across the whole fleet, will allow GTR’s engineers to streamline routine maintenance and repairs. This will keep each Electrostar in service for longer, reducing delays and cancellations.
To accelerate maintenance and improve reliability still further, a new ‘smart’ On-Train Data Recorder will help predict and diagnose faults – which means that some problems can be fixed without returning to the depot – and CCTV cameras will film the track in front of the train to help analyse incidents that delay the service.
GTR engineering director Steve Lammin said: “These Electrostars are great trains. Taking on board our passengers’ feedback, this comprehensive upgrade will provide an even better on-board experience and more reliability. Our team at Selhurst Depot has used this first train to develop and learn all the complex processes involved in fitting the new features, guided by the trains’ manufacturer, Bombardier. We’re now testing our new knowledge on the second train and, as we gradually speed up the work, more and more passengers will notice the benefits over the coming years.
“I’m really pleased that GTR is working with Porterbrook and Bombardier to build back a better railway for our customers, in support of the country’s post-coronavirus recovery plan.”
Porterbrook chief executive officer Mary Grant added: “We are committed to supporting GTR in meeting the expectations of today’s customers. Porterbrook will be investing a total of £100 million in upgrading our entire Electrostar fleet, operated by GTR, over the coming years.
“This initial £55 million investment will deliver significantly enhanced passenger facilities, as well as improve train reliability through the use of data analytics.
“I am also delighted that GTR’s own highly skilled Selhurst Depot team will be delivering this upgrade programme on our behalf.”
214 of the 270 GTR Electrostars are Class 377s. Between 15 and 20 years old, they provide suburban and commuter services on the Southern network between London, Surrey, Sussex and the south coast. GTR will also upgrade the 56 newer Class 387s on Great Northern and Gatwick Express routes, to bring all its Electrostars up to the same standards, extending their longevity and ensuring that they meet today’s passenger expectations.