London Northwestern Railway says new Class 730 trains now expected to arrive at Northampton in late-2024
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Operator West Midlands Trains, which runs services under the London Northwestern Railway brand, says its plan to replace its ageing carriages has been impacted by the Covid pandemic which shutdown production for months at manufacturers’ Alstom’s factory in Derby and then delayed testing of the new units and driver training.
Bosses pledged a £700 million investment when the firm was awarded contracts to run services between London, Northampton and Birmingham back in 2017 and initial projections indicated the new Aventra trains would be rolled out during 2020-21. But a spokesman for London Northwestern confirmed this week that delivery of 45 five-car state-of-the-art units is now expected in “late 2024”.
John Doughty, LNR Engineering Director, said: “Following significant delays to our new fleet rollout as a result of the pandemic, we are delighted to have introduced the first Class 730 trains onto our network this month.
“These trains will initially serve routes between Milton Keynes and London Euston before rolling out across our network, including Northampton, throughout 2024.
“I am confident these new trains will prove popular with our passengers and we are working hard to introduce them to as many routes as quickly as possible.”
London Northwestern trumpeted the arrival of the first of its new Class 730s on services into London Euston on a few early-morning runs earlier this week. But these units are shorter, three-car units — typically running with two units coupled together as six-carriage trains — designed for commuter services from Milton Keynes and Tring. They are also painted in unfamiliar purple and orange colours of LNR’s sister operation West Midlands Railway — where they will be moved once more London Northwestern trains start to arrive next year.
Part of the delay in introducing the new trains is being put down to the operator — which is owned by a consortium of Dutch and Japanese companies — also ordering different units to run on its West Midlands Railway routes at the same time. But London Northwestern insists the Class 730s will be worth waiting for with passengers from Northampton benefitting from extra seats, air conditioning, and USB sockets, seat-back tables, smart new digital information screens showing quieter areas and on-board wi-fi.
Mr Doughty said: “These state-of-the-art electric trains will make a real difference for customers across our network. The carriages of our Class 730s are longer and more spacious than our existing fleet, allowing us to carry more passengers and improve accessibility amongst a range of passenger benefits.
“We are pleased we are able to utilise the Class 730s to increase overall capacity on our routes to and from London Euston before we bring the fleet to the West Midlands next year.”
The introduction of the Class 730s into passenger service will allow LNR to scrap its five remaining 36-year-old Class 319 units by the end of this year and the remaining Class 350 trains, which were built in 2008.