UK: Transport for Wales officially launched its fleet of Stadler Flirt Class 231 diesel multiple-units into revenue service with a ceremony at Caerphilly on March 29, at which unit 231001 was named ‘Sultan’.
Ordered from Stadler as part of a £800m fleet replacement programme, the 11 four-car DMUs are intended to operate services on the Maesteg – Cardiff – Newport – Gloucester – Cheltenham route.
However, they are initially being deployed on the Penarth – Cardiff – Caerphilly – Rhymney route to replace unreliable Class 769 units converted from former Class 319 EMUs by Porterbrook.
Following the completion of discontinuous electrification, the Rhymney line is due to be operated by another Flirt variant, the Class 756 electric-battery-diesel hybrids. The first of these 24 sets have now been delivered, and are currently undergoing commissioning tests on the electrified route between Newport and Swindon before entering service.
Stadler has also delivered the first of 36 Class 398 Citylink tram-train units being built in Spain for South Wales Metro services.
About people, not engineering
The Class 231 fleet was formally launched by the Welsh government’s Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters and Transport for Wales Chief Executive James Price, along with Stadler’s Head of Engineering Urs Bikle. Price said the formal launch of the new trains was ‘a landmark for TfW, the rail industry and the local community … a moment in time’.
Waters added that the investment was ‘not about the engineering, it’s about the people’ pointing to the level boarding capability of the Flirts as ‘what we want the railway to be’.
The name ‘Sultan’ was selected as part of TfW’s ‘Magnificent Train Journey’ campaign, under which school children across Wales were invited to enter a competition to name the new fleet of trains. Winning pupil Morgan from Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Allta submitted an acrostic recommending the name of a giant sculpture in Ystrad Mynach commemorating the pit ponies used in the South Wales coal mining industry.