Trains were ordered by Connex in the early 2000s and introduced around 18 years ago, by which time services were operated by a government owned entity after the franchise holder was stripped of control.
Ever since, Metro stock under Govia franchises who won the franchise in 2006 never saw much in the way of attention.
Class 376s proved controversial due lacking an on-board toilet and being the very last national rail stock to be ordered without air conditioning. Aside from that I’ve always been fine with them given they provide a good travelling environment. Light and spacious.
Wide doors and sizable areas at the end of each train are great when traveling with a buggy. They get much right for busy, urban stopping services
Most trains have a lifespan of around 40 years and see at least one thorough refurbishment, and the 376s do need one with many seats looking tatty.
The 376s are one of three different types of train now serving Southeastern Metro, with the venerable Networkers still making up the vast majority of the fleet and probably most in need of revamping.
Many rail company’s seek a single fleet of stock for Metro services for simplified operational and maintenance reasons, but Southeastern now have three different types of train due to stop-start years of short term franchise extensions from the Department for Transport blocking long term strategy planning. Plans to devolve to TfL came and went. Govia were eventually halted from another extension after financially irregularities came to light.
Compounding issues with varied stock are possible train lengths. Networkers can run in formations of 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 (depending on the line) while Class 707s and Class 376s are 5 or 10.
Southeastern have sent a number of Networkers to storage and likely scrap with like-for-like replacements in the form of displaced Class 707 “City Beam” trains from South Western Railway. 18 out of 30 have so far transferred.
Despite the eventual arrival of 30 Class 707s and 36 Class 376s, Networkers will continue to provide the vast bulk of the fleet.
At 30 years old and never having seen a comprehensive refurbishment they badly need one. It’s very possible they’ll have a other 10 years left in service. Hopefully they follow soon and see a comprehensive program. Stop gaps such as work on disabled toilets havn’t address much of the decline.
A less drab colour scheme would certainly help improve ambience. With leisure and discretionary travel ever more important, an attractive and pleasant place to travel matters more than ever.
Deep cleaning years of embedded dirt would also help.
For now though, it’s welcome to see plans for the 376s.