Southeastern’s new City Beam trains introduced today

Southeastern’s first Class 707 trains branded as City Beam have been introduced today for passenger usage.

The train will run along various metro lines throughout today, though the Greenwich line sees just one journey it would appear.

More trains will be progressively introduced in coming weeks and months.

UPDATE: Just one day after introduction later it was announced Southeastern would no longer run services on the line due to possible fraud dating back to 2014.

Just as well they spent money on changing colour schemes in and out into corporate SE blue.

It shouldn’t impact introduction into services of future trains.

Maybe it’ll halt work on colour changes inside. I’d suggest spending that planned money on the tired networkers instead.

Original: The introduction sees a fair bit of PR-related activity alongside as you’d expect with plenty of positive gloss applied.

Areas in green will be served by trains

First the good parts; they have air con, plug sockets and better on-board information.

There’s more capacity achieved mainly by fewer seats. I couldn’t stand the bay of three on Networkers so no loss to me, though some didn’t mind them and standing will not be welcomed.

Thameslink train. Extremely similar to new City Beam stock

There are no additional trains overall for Southeastern as they lack anywhere to stable stock. It’s almost one in and one out.

The downside compared to Networkers – some of which are being sent to storage and probable scrap – is a lack of toilets.

This probably isn’t too big an issue to most as on Metro routes there are already Class 376s without toilets alongside Thameslink’s Class 700 without toilets on the Greenwich line.

The new 707 trains have been running on South Western Railway for three to four years and set for replacement with new trains with toilets. That was an issue among passengers and toilets coming back was highlighted as a benefit during the franchise process.

Why they’re here

If we take a step back, the main reason they’re now with Southeastern is to prevent nearly new stock sitting in sidings out of use as South Western Railways’ recent franchise award saw all new trains replacing the 707s.

The political embarrassment of nearly new trains parked up unused led to some urgency to do something with them. Hence the move to Southeastern.

While 30 trains will offer things that than tired Networkers cannot, it’s hardly part of a comprehensive long-term strategic plan for Southeastern’s Metro services.

Thameslink at Maze HIll
Thameslink at Maze Hill will be joined by sister trains

The trains are 10-car max and do not fully utilise SE Metro’s 12-car network. That isn’t an issue now with depressed passenger numbers, but in five years that could be an issue if they’re still running.

5-car units also prohibit use on 8-car max routes when doubled of course. Lines to Victoria are too busy for 5-car trains in the peaks, as daily experience at Denmark Hill proved.

A 30-unit fleet is relatively small and only a fraction of total Networkers operating. It also introduces another fleet for Southeastern when the prevailing trend is to simplify fleets for easier maintenance.

Doing so ensures less space in depots for various maintenance parts. Given Southeastern’s lack of depot space, having to maintain three Metro fleets is not ideal.

Future

In the near term many will appreciate the new trains yet their introduction doesn’t really offer much of a long-term solution for a franchise on short-term extensions for nearly a decade.

Journeys on Southeastern in recent days sum up problems these new trains do not address. All stations used were pretty busy yet some appeared unstaffed, and most had barriers open regardless of time.

A world away from TfL services but also c2c, FGW and South Western Railway journeys also taken recently.

Trains were almost all Networkers. Most were tired inside with a somewhat gloomy ambience. Hardly appealing to leisure passengers.

Broken seats are common

All problems around for a long time. A small amount of new trains is welcome, though the fundamental lack of station staffing to provide safe and welcoming places is an ever-going problem.

As I recently covered, Kidbrooke station saw last minute planning changes so it opened with no ticket barriers as evident when plans approved. No staff for the barriers.

A new entrance at Lewisham was constructed as part of a tower development. People moved into the tower two weeks ago, but the station entrance is locked. No staff for it.

Barriers and building at Abbey Wood now visibly staffed all day, every day

Compare to Abbey Wood since TfL took over. Barriers went in and are staffed pretty much anytime I go through. Same again in recent days.

Counted passengers numbers – and revenue – at Abbey Wood increased substantially after the investment – even though Crossrail hasn’t begun and nearby housing at Thamesmead estates was demolished en masse and residents moved away.

Will the issue of minimal staffing and tired trains on 80 per cent of services for Southeastern change anytime soon?

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris popped up to talk about “Building Back Better” but refused to say anything about why government has not awarded a new franchise nor long term strategy for Southeastern’s London and suburban routes over the past decade, nor why they blocked transferring Metro lines to TfL while failing to invest in adequate staffing.

This latest move isn’t the result of a detailed strategy. If it was it’d increase trains numbers overall by building new sidings and expanding depots, and be part of a wide-ranging rolling stock strategy that had a plan for 30 year old trains.

None of that exists. Avoiding awkward PR with nearly-new trains not being used was a major goal. Lots of fawning PR today doesn’t ensure short term thinking for Southeastern goes away.

 

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “Southeastern’s new City Beam trains introduced today

  • September 27, 2021 at 12:54 pm
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    Ironically they show up the class 465 as being ever more ancient.

    I loved them when new but do they not half need some love now. Not many trains go for 30 years barely touched.

    The new trains are good. Anyone who ever travels on SWR will know and they’re very similar to Thameslink. It’s a small part of a much bigger puzzle of south easterns poor metro attention of services catering for the London market.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2021 at 3:42 pm
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    Hi,
    Rob indicates these are similar to SWR stock. So, are they NEW?, or refurbished units???

    Reply
  • September 27, 2021 at 3:49 pm
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    They are ex-Southwestern trains stock, as stated by Murky in this report, and rebranded inside and out with Southeastern’s colours.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2021 at 3:59 pm
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    Thanks, John. I saw a service at London Bridge today bound for Cannon Street. I don’t know from where it came, but the train pulled into London Bridge at approximately 12:45. I shall be hanging around London Bridge tomorrow to catch a short ride to Cannon Street and maybe even the return journey depending on the route.

    Reply
  • September 28, 2021 at 2:54 pm
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    I caught the 11:20 from Cannon Street going to Sevenoaks this morning. The 707 is a vast improvement with a bright interior and destination board that shows you the stops and the estimated arrival time. No more wondering if you are on the right train and straining the hear the destinations announcement at stations.

    Reply

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