New trains for Southeastern: Shortlist announced but is it just PR

Southeastern have announced a shortlist of potential manufacturers for new trains to replace the venerable Networkers.

Now well over 30 years old and with many in very tired condition, the press release put out today says very little really about replacement that wasn’t said back in 2022 when a tender was announced.

The shortlist includes just about every company that produces new trains for the UK market in Alstom, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler.

Netowrkers often missing seats, and other fixtures and fittings

It doesn’t state how many are to be built – if approved. Back in 2022 there was the possibility of a net reduction in carriages.

Air con

It highlights some things that are a given such as new trains including air con which has been the norm for 20 years.

In fact, the very last trains ordered in the UK without air con was Southeastern Metro’s Class 376 back in 2004. They’re now set for refurb but that does not include adding it – despite all of its sister Electrostar trains including it.

Last trains in UK ordered without air con back in 2004

Other things that are standard the world over now that they mention are “more spacious interiors” and “greater accessibility”.

Given small vestibules on the Class 465 and 466 this was always guaranteed. Greater standing space around doors has been the norm for many, many years including on the 20-year old Class 376s.

What’s interesting is what is not said, including no mention of toilets. South West Railway’s Class 707 were ditched and sent to Southeastern after just a couple of years in service (a couple are yet to move over) with replacement Class 701s on that network now including toilets after complaints.

City Beam trains moved from SWR with replacements having toilets

The 376s were built without toilets but at the time it was stated toilets would be located on stations.

You can probably guess what happened. Lack of staffing have seen many closed much of the time if not permanently.

Press release

The press release issued today though doesn’t really tell us very much of anything. It will come down to the Department for Transport – who control Southeastern – signing it off. And they havn’t yet.

If and when that does happen it’ll be properly newsworthy. Until then, it’s not guaranteed.

Networkers now well over 30 years of age

It’ll also be the case that new trains will be privately owned and leased (at possibly high cost) to Southeastern as both the Conservative’s rail plans as well as Labour’s doesn’t seek to change that model.

While it can be cheaper at first as it’s off government balance-sheet, long-term leases can end up cost the taxpayers and passengers more over the lifespan of rolling stock.

Government cuts

The story today includes a quote from Rail Minister Huw Merriman. It doesn’t mention that it was his department that forced through cuts on services in the Metro area for both staffing and frequencies.

In recent weeks we’ve seen a shortage of staff impacting up to 100 stations.

No staff seen at Greenwich in rush hour

Those cuts combined with a poor timetable ensured service intervals grew from a turn-up-and-go 10 minute interval in certain areas to 27 minutes. It’s one way to encourage driving.

Day-long Sidcup line rounders to Abbey Wood were axed, Southeastern services through Greenwich halved as were Charing Cross trains on the Bexleyheath line. All despite major housing developments along each line.

New tower beside Lewisham station

After more than 18 months the spacings are to be improved from June but it blew a substantial period of possible growth – and it’s still below accepted turn-up-and-go Metro standards of a train at least every 15 minutes in built-up areas.

While other transport modes such as London Overground and the DLR – which TfL didn’t cut so severely – saw passenger numbers bounce back even alongside the Elizabeth line, Southeastern have lagged far behind.

DLR serves new homes beside Gallions Reach

They’ve been blaming the Elizabeth line in large part alongside working at homes – even though when the Elizabeth line started they also cut connections from their own services to connect with it at Abbey Wood.

The different approaches between the DfT and TfL can be seen in late 2022 when the full Elizabeth line began. Docklands Light Railway services on the Beckton branch were improved with a doubling of services to link new homes around Gallions Reach to connect with the Elizabeth line at Custom House.

DLR services recently doubled linking to Elizabeth line

While TfL put on a Beckton to Canning Town shuttle for improved connectivity, Southeastern Metro trains linking areas to Abbey Wood station for the Elizabeth line were cut as soon as the full line opened. Rather than capitalise on potential custom they suppressed it.

Given the recent past and constant spin and poor management from the DfT, this new on possible new stock shouldn’t be taken for granted until the contract is signed. Until then, it’s not a great deal more than PR.

Possible trains

In terms of each manufacturer we can look at what’s been introduced across the country recently for a guide.

Alstom

Formerly Canadian-owned Bombardier, the French company now own the Derby factory at risk of closure. Many recent trains built including those on the Elizabeth line and London Overground.

Behind the disastrous introduction of Class 701s on South Western Railway running four years late and counting ordered when still Bombardier

Stadler

Swiss company whose trump card is level boarding. See the excellent new Greater Anglia trains. Generally thought to be more expensive.

Also behind new trains on the Merseyrail network. Another Metro system and those trains running late with many problems.

CAF

Spanish company building trains for the DLR. Running late.

Also built hundreds of new trains for Northern Rail in recent years. Mixed views to say the least. Sometimes said built to a budget.

Hitachi

Japanese producer of many, many intercity trains all over the UK in recent years. Suffered problems with cracks on some and complaints over build quality.

Not much experience of metro trains in the UK. Outside bet? Also have a factory that may be closed without new orders.

Siemens

German company which built the City Beam trains running on SE Metro.

Generally well thought of but no level boarding.

Aventra class train on Elizabeth line built by Bombardier (now Alstom)

Despite all now being owned by overseas companies, most do possess UK manufacturing presence though a number at possible risk of closure which brings politics into it to even greater degree.

What will win, if any? We shall see. Or maybe the Networks will continue until they’re forty.

 

 

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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.

11 thoughts on “New trains for Southeastern: Shortlist announced but is it just PR

  • Very unlikely any decision to be made before an election? Then the ball is in Labour’s court and they may want to take a step back.

    Until a deal is signed easy to see this as an election ploy by the Tories. Claim they’re doing something but not actually signing the deal.

    Reply
  • Is there even time to award it with an election deadline in 6 months and purdah?

    Something will have to happen one way or another; Class 465s are now up to 33 years old with timescales of 3-4 years to build and test they’ll be nearing 40 years of age after any contract is awarded. That’s without delays and there’s always delays with new trains. I’ll miss them though

    Reply
  • Not sure today really moves the ball along much further as it says nothing new since 2022 except all train builders who supply the UK market are now talking about doing so for south eastern. Shocker!

    With inflation being so high since the last glut or train orders across the UK and borrowing now more expensive due to subsequent interest rate rises can any offer a decent price that government will agree to via leasing Co’s?

    Always aware though that mention of existing/new stock in 2022 couldn’t have meant existing stock for wholesale replacement as there’s simply not enough third rail spare to make up for losing the mainstay of the fleet.

    Reply
    • JJl – The press release does still mention “new or upgraded trains for Metro services”.

      Don’t rule out those 455s on SWR moving just yet! *

      * joking…

      I also like the press release image is Kidbrooke station years ago before thousands more homes were built – which SE don’t seem to realise given how it’s scarcely staffed. Typifies how they fail to capture potential custom under DfT control.

      Reply
  • DaFT’s recent statement is that award in Quarter 2 2025 for October 2027+ deliveries.

    So likely any award when this government aren’t even in power. Perhaps trying to get Labour to state what they’ll do. Given any possible devolution they won’t award a contract immediately upon taking office no?

    Reply
  • Southeastern put out a marketing video about the new stock where Steve White confirms they’ll have toilets, and that they are targeting level boarding!

    https://youtu.be/38Ehkc2jg-U

    Reply
  • Steve White the MD of Southeastern did a video on X/Twitter yesterday which said that level boarding, air conditioning and toilets are a requirement from all of the potential suppliers.

    He does point out that there are a lot of variations of platform heights and curved sections on Souheastern stations but Network Rail have agreed the tender.

    Reply
  • Siemens to manufacture more extra Class 707s and to replace the Class 376s to go to Southern and Alstom or Hitachi to manufacture new 4-Car and 5-Car trains to replace the Class 465 and Class 466.

    And perhaps replace the Class 377/5s to Southern. With Great Northern to replace the Class 387/1s with Class 379s to enter service very soon that the Class 387/1s would go to Southern and some to GWR.

    Reply
  • I do think that it will be Alstom to manufacture new trains to replace the Class 456 and Class 466 and of course to keep jobs going at Alstom Litchurch Lane train manufacturing plant in Derby, East Midlands.

    With the last remaining Class 707s to be cascaded from South Western Railway to Southeastern. That Siemens have recently built 30 Class 707s and are being replaced by the Class 701 Arterio. That some of the Class 701s have already entered service.

    Reply
  • Nervous about the use of “refurbished” and “cascaded” !

    Reply
  • People who want to “bring back British Rail” should read this article because South Eastern is a warning of what will happen if senior civil servants hold the purse strings. To become a senior civil servant you just have to be very intelligent. So the Civil Servant deciding on South Eastern funding quite likely to have a degree in Classics and to make matters even worse she will switch jobs every three year. In contrast London Transport is staffed by transport professionals with a long term commitment to public transport in London and democratically accountable to the Mayor and Assembly.
    Contrast South Eastern Metro with the London Overground and you will see the consequence.

    Reply

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