UK: Franchise operator South West Trains began running 10-car electric multiple-units on its outer suburban route between London Waterloo and Windsor & Eton Riverside on March 10, marking a key step in its programme to introduce 108 additional vehicles onto its suburban services over the next 12 months.

Speaking at an event on March 7 to launch the service at the reopened Platform 20 in the former Waterloo International station, Managing Director of the SWT/Network Rail Alliance Tim Shoveller said the Windsor Lines service group covering routes to Richmond, Twickenham, Hounslow, Windsor, Ascot, Bracknell and Reading were now carrying as many passengers in a year as the entire West Coast Main Line. This was why the alliance had embarked on a programme to extend many of its inner and outer suburban services from eight to 10 cars.

Working with rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook, SWT has taken over the eight Class 460 Juniper EMUs built for Gatwick Express services. Vehicles from these eight-car sets are being rebuilt by Alstom and Wabtec to create six new five-car Class 458/5 EMUs, with other vehicles used to lengthen the operator’s 30 older Class 458s from four to five cars. Three converted sets have now been delivered to Wimbledon depot, releasing existing units for lengthening. SWT expects to get its first lengthened set back by the end of March.

SWT has also leased 26 two-car Class 456 EMUs displaced from Southern by the delivery of new Bombardier Class 377/6 sets. The Class 456s are being refreshed by Knorr-Bremse Rail Services in Wolverton and will be used to lengthen eight-car inner-suburban services worked by the similar Class 455 units. Some unrefurbished sets have already been put into use on local trains between Ascot, Aldershot and Guildford, releasing four-car Class 450 Desiro EMUs to strengthen other services.

Although the Class 458/5s only have standard-class seating at present, they have two small saloons designed for use as first class. According to SWT Engineering Director Christian Roth, this would be needed if the trains are deployed on London – Reading services after 2017, were they to be displaced from the Windsor route by a new build of five-car EMUs.

Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said he was ‘delighted’ by the arrival of the extra EMUs, thanks to an ‘innovative solution’ which would be ‘good news for passengers’. The additional vehicles would give capacity for another 23 000 passengers, he said, adding that SWT ran ‘some of the country’s most crowded peak time trains’. As MP for Wimbledon, Hammond said he looked forward to the remodelling at Waterloo, which would see platforms 1 to 4 lengthened to take 10-car trains on his local routes.

The alliance has lengthened more than 60 platforms on the Windsor Lines, although selective door operation is still required at eight or nine locations. One key station yet to be tackled is the important gateway hub at Feltham which serves Heathrow Airport. Here the platforms are constrained by a level crossing at one end and a road bridge at the other; Network Rail is reportedly seeking funding to extend the station during the forthcoming five-year control period.

Shoveller confirmed that the alliance was in discussion with London & Continental Railways about reopening another two platforms at Waterloo International for domestic services by the end of this year.