THERE is a mention on our Time Traveller page this month of the infamous three-year hiatus in the mid-1990s when no new trains were ordered while the privatisation of British Rail was being sorted out, and even then it was a modest new build of 12 Class 168 DMUs for Chiltern Railways.
Step forward to today and the situation could not be any more different, with a flood of new trains being delivered or on order. Our cover story is the unveiling of the Class 345 for use on Crossrail services from next year, while Great Western Railway is now taking delivery of its Class 387 fleet, South West Trains’ Class 707 units are on test in Germany, and the first Class 385 for ScotRail is on its way by sea from Japan.
As if that was not enough, just as we closed for press the delayed news came in that Abellio had regained the East Anglia franchise, and with it would order 1043 new vehicles for delivery in 2019-20.
While the new fleets are shared among four main train builders, the best part of the East Anglia deal is that a £1-billion order for 660 of the new carriages has gone to Bombardier in Derby – which, although ultimately a foreign-owned company, is Britain’s last major train builder from scratch.
Considering it was this country that exported railways to the world, and was still looking to do so until the end of British Rail 20 years ago, then the latest orders are a significant step in keeping 175 years of railway tradition going in Derby.
A TRAGIC REMINDER
Mention must be made of the awful news that a rail enthusiast was killed while leaning out of a moving train at Balham, South London. There are probably not many of us that have not done a bit of ‘window hanging’ at some point, but this terrible accident serves as a warning that it is a very dangerous thing to do. The full details of exactly what happened have yet to be determined, but our thoughts are with the families, railway staff and other passengers affected by the tragedy.