West Midlands Trains Class 730 Aventra EMU (Photo Rail Business UK) (1)

UK: ‘Customers will have their breath taken away’ said West Midlands Mayor Andy Street when West Midlands Railway presented its Alstom Aventra Class 730 EMUs in Wolverhampton on February 8.

As part of a £700m investment in new rolling stock, operator West Midlands Trains is introducing 48 three-car and 36 five-car Class 730s to replace Class 323 EMUs on local services in the West Midlands as well as Siemens-built Class 350/2 sets on its London Northwestern branded services to and from London Euston.

West Midlands Trains Class 730 Aventra EMU (Photo Rail Business UK) (2)

The three-car Class 730s are expected to be rolled out on the Cross-City line between Lichfield, Birmingham, Redditch and Bromsgrove in the next few months, but as an initial step a single diagram will be introduced on the Wolverhampton - Birmingham - Walsall route from February 12.

WMT Engineering Director John Doughty explained to Rail Business UK that this would help the operator retain driver competence on the Aventras during the time it takes to train sufficient crews for the more complex Cross-City workings.

West Midlands Trains Class 730 Aventra EMU (Photo Rail Business UK) (4)

Introduction of the Class 730s will release Class 323s for transfer to Northern. Each set can carry 530 passengers including 199 seated, offering significantly more capacity than 30-year old units that they replace. With four six-car trains per hour, this would provide an extra 1 200 seats/h for Cross-City services, although Street said he was still hoping to see the restoration of a six train/h service in due course.

At present, WMT is deploying four pairs of Class 730s to operate peak hour suburban services out of London Euston. Delivery of the five-car units later this year would release these to work further routes in the West Midlands, including the remaining Wolverhampton - Walsall trains and Rugeley - Birmingham International. Doughty told Rail Business UK that the operator had now accepted all of the three-car sets from Alstom, but none of the five-cars, which are still being manufactured.

West Midlands Trains Class 730 Aventra EMU (Photo Rail Business UK) (3)

WMT Managing Director Ian McConnell said the introduction of the new trains was ‘a momentous day’ that had been a long time coming’. He told Rail Business UK that ridership was now ‘not far off pre-Covid levels’, with a strong recovery of commuter traffic except on some longer distance routes. Meanwhile, there had been strong growth in leisure travel, particularly on LNW’s Trent Valley service, although the current industrial action by drivers was damaging passenger confidence.