REFRESHING ROLLING STOCK REFURBISHING – or, in modern parlance ‘refreshing’ – of passenger rolling stock has become big business for the privatised rail industry. Gone are the days when virtually all train refurbishments were handled by the huge ex-BR workshops that passed into private hands upon the carve-up of the industry in the mid-1990s. In the new era, almost any fi rm with a rail-connected building can tender for the work, particularly if little heavy lifting is involved or the changes are cosmetic. Even some heritage centres have been successful in winning contracts, underlining just how blurred the divisions have become between what used to be known as ‘main line’ and ‘preservation’. With trains having a lifespan of 30 years or more, there are likely to be at least two major refurbishments and an intermediate ‘makeover’ during that time, so for companies successful in winning contracts, the workfl ow can be regular as well as lucrative. Interestingly, it is Privatisation that has created one of the most common reasons for ‘refreshes’ – for they tend to come soon after franchise changes. New franchisees naturally want to rid themselves of the image of the previous incumbent and introduce their own style and identity, although this has inevitably resulted in public criticism over what is seen by many as an enormous waste of money.
Rebranding It can take several years to rebrand an entire fl eet, due to limitations on the number of trains a franchisee can release for such work. This is one reason why the rebranding of the East Coast and East Anglian franchises by National Express is taking time and why there are currently many ‘hybrid’ rakes running around on those routes. South West Trains’ Class 455 fl eet took well over two years to complete, during which time the franchise came up for renewal. Fortunately for SWT, it was retained by them. Other refurbishments are dependent on the level of use and wear-and-tear and there are cases in which an operator may opt to defer the programme – or not even consider one at all, as with the Class 313s operated by London Overground. In their case, the decision was taken because new trains have been ordered. There are two more reasons for refurbishments – disability access regulations (which over the last few years have become far more onerous on the railways) and capacity enhancements. The growth in the popularity of rail transport over the past ten years has given all franchise holders capacity headaches. Just how for old New trains
to cure these will probably continue to be a challenge for many years unless the recession reduces the number of people travelling. Despite the fact that technology now enables many people to work from home, few employers have gone down that road (fortunately for the railways) or even
Above: A photo juxtaposition showing what can be done: In this refurbishment of a West Yorkshire Metro Class 143, the hideous ‘busstyle’ seats have been replaced by high-backed seats, giving the effect of a new train. Pictures
unless stated: CHRIS MILNER Left: Grand Central’s HST trailers feature new seat moquette and tables inlaid with games boards.
staggered start times, so peak-hour trains, particularly in London and the South-East, have remained overcrowded. The fact that there are different types of customer means there is no ‘one size fi ts all’ approach and capacity solutions have to be tailored for each company. Even to get a modest increase in capacity, some refreshes are viewed by passenger groups as radical or severe. Take South West Trains as an example. The company was constantly being berated for overcrowded trains and ‘standing room only’ from Guildford, Basingstoke or further afi eld. With a fi nite number of trains, SWT recast its ‘Desiro’ fl eet diagrams to create more capacity with 12-car Class 450s, only to incur the wrath of commuters on the Portsmouth line who lost the Class 444s. But that was only part of SWT’s plan. Working with train builder Siemens and others, it came up with a higher-capacity set by removing fi rst class accommodation and
24 • The Railway Magazine • April 2009 Above: The refurbishment of South West Trains Class 455s by Bombardier at Chart Leacon, Ashford, includes a full body repaint to SWT’s inner suburban livery. Below: The removal of some seats as part of the re-work of the 455s has created more standing room, as many journeys are quite short, but passengers can circulate much more easily because of the wider aisles. The left-hand image shows the flexible space for large items, cycles or pushchairs .
CHRIS MILNER examines the multi-million pound process of train refurbishment and rebranding – now big business in the privatised railway industry
taking out some standard class seats to create more standing room. As part of its Class 455 refurbishment, it created wider aisles by removing seating and made more space for prams, cycles and other odd-shaped objects. While such initiatives may not be ideal, they are the often the best solution to the problem. In the case of Southern’s recently-acquired Class 442s, another engineering challenge was the need for new windows to be cut into the bodyside. Over at First Great Western, one of the problems is the sheer number of commuters to London from Reading, Oxford, Didcot, Swindon and even Bristol, along routes on which HSTs are the main workhorses. The HST interiors were looking tired and had inadequate capacity, and the power cars were smoky and fuel-hungry. Working with German engine manufacturer MTU and Brush Traction, FGW,
Above: The gutted interior of an SWT Class 455 carriage before the rebuilding work begins.
Left: To comply with disability regulation changes, part of the refurbishment of HST trailer cars for CrossCountry included the challenge of building an accessible toilet in the train. The picture shows how this large facility has been installed in the first class carriage. The train also carries a portable wheelchair ramp. CROSS COUNTRY TRAINS
April 2009 • The Railway Magazine • 25