SWR Class 707 EMU

SWR Class 707 EMU.

UK: South Western Railway has extended its lease on 12 Class 707 electric multiple-units until August, following delays to the introduction of its Arterio Class 701 EMU fleet and the decision to bring forward the end of its lease on the two-car Class 456 units from February to January 17.

The 30 five-car Siemens Mobility Class 707s were ordered by previous franchisee South West Trains, but in June 2017 SWR ordered 90 five-car and 10-car Bombardier Transportation Aventra Class 701 units, branded Arterio by SWR. These will replace both the Class 707s and the ex-British Rail Class 455 and 456 EMUs used on suburban services from London Waterloo.

SWR Class 701 Arterio EMU

SWR Class 701 Arterio EMU.

The new trains were originally scheduled to enter service in mid-2019, but on January 11 SWR said it was still waiting for Alstom — as successor Bombardier Transportation — ‘to supply a train that performs to specification’ before it can begin an extensive programme of testing, crew training and business mobilisation for their introduction.

Rail Business UK understands that issues include problems with the cab layout where the production sets are understood to differ from the layout and design agreed with drivers’ trade union ASLEF. Delivery has also been delayed, with audits by Alstom following its purchase of Bombardier Transportation identifying problems with the manufacturing process that were leading to trains being completed with large numbers of defects needing to be rectified at significant cost. Alstom has since been working to improve manufacturing at Derby in an attempt to ensure fault-free sets are being released.

Rail Business UK understands that the first Arterio units could be put into service by August, while the Class 707s are being retained to provide cover in case of any further teething problems.

Rolling stock reshuffles

SWR said the inability to use the Arterios had brought ‘challenges’ around fleet availability and capacity, as it had refrained from spending ‘significant sums’ on overhauling older EMUs which were due to be replaced.

Southeastern Class 707 EMU (Photo: Southeastern)

Southeastern Class 707 EMU.

Agreement had been reached for the 30 Class 707s to transfer to Southeastern, and 18 have been operating on the Grove Park, Hayes and Dartford routes since September 2021. The remaining 12 will now be retained by SWR until August to alleviate the expected pressure on capacity when passengers return once the government eases coronavirus measures, including guidance for people to work from home.

Other measures being taken by SWR to maximise fleet availability include recruiting additional engineers to increase the capacity of maintenance and safety programmes; adapting the timetable to allocate vehicles where they are most needed; monitoring customer demand and changing the calling patterns to relieve pressure at the busiest stations; and reconfiguring train formations to provide more capacity on suburban routes.

‘Prior to the outbreak of the most recent coronavirus variant, the delay to the Arterio roll-out had created a challenging situation on parts of our network and I’d like to apologise to our customers’, said SWR Managing Director Claire Mann. ‘I want to assure our customers that we have comprehensive short, medium and long-term plans in place to really get to grips with this challenge and protect customer journeys once people again return to the railway. Retaining the Class 707s is a key part of our medium-term approach, and I’d like to thank Southeastern for working with us in such a constructive way to support the wider interests of all railway users.’

Southeastern Passenger Services Director David Wornham said the ‘small change in the transfer schedule’ would not negatively affect its customers.