It’s heavily rumoured that an announcement on the future of Southeastern is expected soon which could include trains transferred in from South Western Railway.
An announcement is needed one way or another. The franchise was extended again to June with a permanent new franchise expected to be announced three months in advance. June is in just two months.
That means one of two options are now likely. The incumbent operator GoVia gets another short term extension or services are taken on directly by a Government owned company as happened to East Coast (and when Connex were forced out of operating South Eastern back in 2004).
Alongside a probable extension comes possible news of trains moving to the franchise. But could Southeastern lose some at the same time? It remains to be seen.
The trains the area could receive are Class 707s built between 2015 and 2018 for South West Trains. That franchise was then awarded to South Western Railway and the stock looked like going into storage. Which is crazy for trains just a year old. It must be noted again franchises do not own trains. They are leased, and the Government holds much sway on what goes where.
Given the political embarrassment of new trains heading to sidings it seems politically expedient to get them over to Southeastern. There’s 30 of them, yet Southeastern could possibly lose 36 Class 376 trains to Southern in coming years which if true would mean a net reduction in stock.
The franchise already faces losing carriages at the end of 2019 as branch line services operated by Class 466 stock are not compatible with disability laws. That means moving 8 carriages from mainline work to cover branches.
The new 707s will be welcome to those used to Southeastern’s old and poorly maintained stock. They have aircon and are nowhere near as tired internally. They’re also sister trains to those Thameslink use – though have less powerful traction motors.
What is less welcome is they’re only five carriages in length like the 376s, so coupling maxes out at 10 carriages and does not utilise 12 carriage platforms installed at many stations since 2010 at a cost of millions. Not a long term solution as things stand.
The future of Southeastern will be clearer soon – it has to be – yet whether that’s just for a year or two remains to be seen. And if these new trains do arrive will there still be any gain in capacity – and what of other improvements long hoped for such as fare parity with much of the rest of London and greater staffing numbers?
The image above is courtesy of Hugh Llewelyn under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)