End of the line for 35-year-old trains as they bow out of London

Greater Anglia have retired trains from the capital 35 years after they were first built.

The company have ceased Class 321 trains that have run into Liverpool Street for many years as newer stock is introduced.

The trains will still run outside the capital in the near term – though for many it looks like the scrapyard beckons.

Network South East

Class 321s were ordered by British Rail’s Network South East division with construction carried out from 1988.

The first batch were built to service routes into Essex which they faithfully did before newer Class 720 stock was introduced.

They were built shortly before Networkers which now run on Southeastern. The retirement of Greater Anglia’s fleet leaves the Networker as some of the oldest trains still running in London with the class recently reaching 30 years in service.

321 at Stratford. Familiar site for many years

South Western Railway have older trains though all are due for replacement. Southeastern are considering replacing the Networkers but ultimately the decision comes down to government and the Department for Transport. With cuts the name of the game in Whitehall, don’t hold your breath for the green light.

The 321s saw heavy refurbishment of a select number as part of the Renatus project in the late 2010s, though this wasn’t enough to ensure their survival. It didn’t do a great deal to hide their age. They were rattly things and doors would thunk loudly when passing another train.

Chelmsford in 2022

They’ve given good service for over 30 years though with none now expected to run in service through London to Liverpool Street the end is here, never say never as the odd one may turn up, but in all likelihood one of the centrepieces of Network South East is now over in the capital.



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J 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.

3 thoughts on “End of the line for 35-year-old trains as they bow out of London

  • Shudder. I remember those units from the evening Cambridge – Kings X nonstop service in the evening, after client visits to the city.
    Absolutely appalling ride at speed. I think I’m actually happier to see the back of them than I would be to see the end of the Southeastern Networkers. Which is saying something.

  • Concerned that the life of trains seems to be falling. Once upon a time BR would have cascaded trains to other routes as a way of justifying electrification schemes or the like. Not ideal…but better than scrapping trains early and still not getting electrification in other areas.

  • All sorts of perverse incentives, thanks to the ROSCOs, and new ways of financing which have made it cheaper to hand back a fleet and take on a new one as part of a franchise bid – see SWR. Assuming the introduction goes to plan, which of course it never does.
    Going further back, it wasn’t just cascades, but re-use of underframes, electric motors and control gear rather than scrapping!!


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