The Anonymous Widower

Nineteen Tri-Mode Flex Class 769s For GWR

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

This brings the number of  Class 319 trains to be converted to Class 769 trains, to thirty five.

  • These trains for Great Western Railway (GWR) will be tri-mode trains and able to operate on 25 KVAC  overhead and 750 VDC third rail electrification and diesel power.
  • The Rail Magazine article, says they will support the introduction of refurbished Class 387 trains on Heathrow Express and on services from Reading to Gatwick and Oxford.
  • The trains would release diesel Class 165 trains and Class 166 trains to be refurbished and improve services in the Bristol area.

Although, there appears to have been so sighting of a Class 769 train on the UK network, the trains must have shown up well in testing, as no-one would order nineteen trains, that didn’t meet the specification.

According to the Future section in the Wikipedia entry  for the Class 319 trains, there are forty-five of the trains sitting in sidings off lease.

So there won’t be a shortage of trains to modify.

Good Design Always Wins!

I do find this story rather heartwarming.

When the Advanced Passenger Train project fell well behind schedule, Terry Miller and his team at Derby, came up with a short-term proposal for a High Speed Diesel Train, which when launched in 1975 was known as the InterCity 125.

Forty years later most of these iconic trains are still in service

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The design of the Mark 3 carriages of the InterCity 125, was used by British Rail to build large numbers of less iconic electric and diesel multiple units, of which the Class 319 train was just one of seventeen classes of train based on the Mark 3.

The legacy of Terry Miller and his team is echoing down the years.

The Class 769 train is one of the ultimate echos.

How Will GWR Deploy The Class 769 Trains?

Nineteen trains is a substantial order and train companies don’t buy trains to stick them in sidings, so how will they be used?

Before answering the question, I’ll put in a few facts.

  • According to Porterbrook’s brochure, Class 387 trains are four twenty metre coaches.
  • According to Wikipedia, Class 319 trains are four twenty metre coaches.
  • Both trains can be configured to work on 25 KVAC overhead of 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Porterbrook’s brochure says that Class 387 trains have a lot of modern features like, information systems for driver and passengers, air conditioning and passenger counting. The brochure also says that Class 387 trains will be ERTMS-ready.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Class 769 trains given a quality refurbishment, very much in excess of that Northern have given to their Class 319 trains.

Remember, that GWR must have massive experience about improving Mark 3 carriages from forty years of work with InterCity 125 trains.

GWR were also behind the superb refurbishment of a Class 150 train, that I wrote about in What Train Is This?. So they have form!

The quality must be in excess of that of the Class 165 and Class 166 trains, that they will often replace. And those two classes are not crap, just diesel, too slow for some routes and often lacking in capacity.

In Could A Three-Car Class 769 Train Be Created?, I showed that if a three-car Class 769 train is needed, that this is possible. But it would lose about sixty seats and the universal access toilet, if it follows a similar route as converting a four-car Class 321 train to a three-car Class 320 train.

Covering For Class 387 Trains Going To Heathrow Express

This page on the First Group web site, is the original press release about the procurement.

This is said.

Initially, the fleet will support the introduction of refreshed trains on Heathrow Express services, but will be predominantly be used on routes between Reading and Gatwick, and Reading and Oxford, where the train’s tri-mode can be used to its fullest. However, the tri-mode nature of the train will give GWR maximum flexibility to use them in other areas of the network should they be required.

The purchase of nineteen trains will surely be enough to cater for the loss of Class 387 units to Heathrow Express duties to replace the Class 332 trains.

I wrote about this in GWR Announces Plans To Replace Class 332s As It Takes Over Heathrow Express Service.

I estimated that if each Heathrow Express train eventually becomes two Class 387 trains working together as opposed to the current pair of Class 332 trains, that fourteen Class 387 trains will be needed for Heathrow Express.


  • GWR have forty-five Class 387 trains in their fleet.
  • If Heathrow Express needed to be be worked by twelve-car trains, this would increase the number needed to twenty-one. That would still leave GWR with twenty-four trains for other services.
  • There are plans for Southern and Western access to Heathrow, which could mean a need for more Class 387 trains for Heathrow Express .
  • c2c could release their six Class 387 trains in the early 2020s, when their new Aventras arrive.
  • Great Northern might be persuaded to release some of their twenty-five Class 387 trains.

It certainly looks, that all possibilities are covered for Heathrow, who are probably paying a substantial fee to GWR to run the service.

Reading And Oxford

The First Group press release mentions that Class 769 trains could be running between Reading and Oxford stations.

So does this mean that the current two trains per hour (tph) service between Paddington and Didcot Parkway station will be extended to Oxford and run by Class 769 trains?


  • A new South-facing bay platform is planned at Oxford station, that could be sized for a trio of Class 769 trains.
  • All services between Paddington and Oxford will become electric or bi-mode.
  • Class 387 and Class 769 trains are based on twenty metres carriages, so there should be no platform issues.
  • A number of Class 387 trains would be released for modification.
  • Several Class 165 and Class 166 trains will be released on other parts of the GWR network.

The only problem I see is that some passengers may complain about losing the Class 387 trains, with their comfortable seats and tables..

GWR must get the interior of the Class 769 trains spot-on!


Reading And Bedwyn

This is another route, where Class 769 trains could be used to advantage.

The turnback siding at Bedwyn station would need modification to incoporate a bi-mode Class 800 train, but a Class 769 train would fit the existing infrastructure.

Reading And Gatwick

If ever the Victorians designed a route that would be ideal for a tri-mode train it is GWR’s service between Reading and Gatwick Airport.

  • It has sections with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • At Reading, it could be extended using the 25 KVAC electrification along the Great Western Main Line to perhaps Oxford.
  • Currently, the service is run by Class 165 trains.

Could a way be found to take the trains into Heathrow as an alternative Western terminal, when the Southern and Western rail routes to the Airport are built?

This route has needed a bi-mode train for decades.

Cardiff to The South Coast via Bristol, Bath, Salisburu and Southampton

This over three hour route is currently run by Class 156 trains.


  • This route has significant overcrowding according to Wikipedia and my personal experience
  • Cardiff to Bath should eventually be electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Brighton to Southampton is electrified with 750 VDC third rail.
  • GWR run this route and have Class 800 trains.
  • Running at over 100 mph is only possible in a few places.
  • Dual voltage Class 800 trains must be possible, but at five-cars, they may be too long for some stations.

To run this route efficiently, GWR would need an appropriate number of  dual voltage bi-mode trains.

GWR will soon have two trains that could handle the route; Class 800 trains or Class 769 trains.

I suspect that the Class 769 train would be most suitable, especially as at busy times like the summer, they could run eight-car trains.


Transwilts is a Community-run rail service in Wiltshire. This page on the Transwilts web site, shows the rail routes in their area.

Currently, most local services seem to be run by two-car Class 150 and one-car Class 153 trains, so when passenger numbers increase, larger trains including Class 679 trains may be used.

I was in this area once a few days before the Glastonbury Festival. You couldn’t have squeezed ia chihuahua onto the train!

Slough And Windsor And Eton Central

Class 769 trains could work this short branch line. But they might be need to use a three-car version.

Henlry Branch Line

The Henley Branch Line has the following characteristics.

  • The branch is not electrified.
  • The branch is only single track.
  • There is a single-track bridge over the Thames.
  • Most services are shuttles between Henley-on-Thames and Twyford stations.
  • In the Peak and during the Henley Regatta direct trains operate to and from Paddington.
  • Crossrail will call at Twyford with a frequency of four tph between London and Reading.

I have just flown my virtual helicopter along the line and it looks like there is insufficient space to create a complete double track railway, that could work at a very high frequency.

But there is space to add a passing loop or loops, that would allow a four tph frequency on the branch to match Crossrail.

Class 769 trains would be able to work the updated branch using their onboard diesel generators.

  • Modern signalling would probably be needed to be installed on the branch, as it will certainly be on the trains, as they work between Paddington and Reading.
  • Selective door opening or platform extensions will be needed at intermediate stations, so that two Class 769 trains working as an eight-car train could use the branch.
  • Trains could either run as shuttles or direct to Paddington.

In my view, there is a simple solution in there, which is much better than mine.

But the residents of and visitors to Henley will get the quality service they desire.

  • Comfortable, air-cooled trains with wi-fi.
  • Four tph with a change at Twyford to Crossrail.
  • Direct electric trains in the Peak and during the Henley Regatta.

Maidenhead And Marlow

The Marlow Branch Line must be a particular problem for GWR.

  • The line is single track.
  • There is no electrification.
  • The one tph shuttle trains between Marlow and Maidenhead take around 20-25 minutes, with a reverse at Bourne End station.

This extract from the Wikipedia entry for Bourne End station described the Services.

Bourne End is a terminus but effectively acts as a through station, with the driver having to change ends to continue to the next station. During peak hours service frequency is increased by having two trains work the line, each using Bourne End as the terminus: one runs Marlow – Bourne End and one Maidenhead – Bourne End, with passengers changing trains at Bourne End. Four trains per weekday operate between Bourne End and Paddington in the morning peak and coming back in the evening peak.

This Google Map illustrates the problem at Bourne End station.



  1. The line to Marlow curves out of the Western side of the map.
  2. The double-track to Maidenhead goes in a South-Westerly direction out of the Southern side of the map.
  3. The Class 165 or Class 166 train in Platform 1 of the station is formed of two twenty-three metre carriages, so it’s forty-six metres long.
  4. Platform 1, is connected to both Marlow and Maidenhead, whereas  Platform 2, is only connected to Maidenhead.
  5. A four-car Class 769 train is eighty metres long, with a three-car Class 769 at just sixty metres.

Just looking at the geography, I have my doubts that the existing track and platform layout at Bourne End could handle the reversing of a four-car Class 769 train. It’s might be too long to clear the junction, so would be unable to reverse and take the other route.

But I suspect with a bit of innovation, this might be possible.

Track realignment is the obvious possibility.

The other possibility would be to use a three-car Class 769 train, which is just fourteen metres longer than the current trains.

Four-car Class 769 trains could also be used for a direct service between Bourne End and Paddington in the Peak.

Greenford Branch Line

In Could Three-Car Aventras Run Services On The Greenford Branch?, I tried to answer the question in the title.

This was my conclusion.

Three-car Aventras could provide a good service on the Greenford Branch Line, but there are issues and it may be more complicated than anyone thinks to run a service, that is acceptable to passengers.

I was assuming three-car Aventras with batteries, but three-car Class 769 trains, which carry much more energy in their diesel tanks, might do it.


Nineteen Class 769 trains will find a lot of work to do.

I also feel that three-car trains will also be needed for routes like the Green and Marlow branches.





April 20, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. confirms that 769s will be running Reading-Gatwick from the timetable change in December, though it also says that they are still ‘awaiting their arrival’. Not sure what they need tri-mode for, though – perhaps just for flexibility. There’s no mention of any continuation on to Oxford. The article says they’ll be deployed temporarily on Heathrow Express, but that is uni-mode.

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 11, 2019 | Reply

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