The Anonymous Widower

A First Ride In A Class 385 Train

Yesterday, I finally got a ride in a Class 385 train between Linlithgow and Glasgow Queen Street stations.

These are my observations.

Ride, Seats And Tables

I have written in many commuter trains all over Europe and these trains are very much towards the top in these important three areas.

Ride seemed to my innocent and not-so-well-padded posterior to be fine and very similar to the closely-related Class 800 trains.

It certainly didn’t pose any problems to this well-balanced stroke survivor, when I walked around.

Seats were certainly better than some other trains.

It was also pleasing to see lots of tables, which is very much a British tradition, that seems to have really kicked-off in the InterCity 125s.

In some ways sitting there, it reminded me of Great Western Railway’s Class 387 trains.

Both are certainly a very good standard for a commuter train with a journey up to perhaps ninety minutes.

Large Windows

The trains seem to follow Bombardier’s Aventras, Stadler’s Flirts and some other new trains in having large windows.

It would be very difficult to prove, but I wonder, when trains have big windows aligned with the seats, it increases ridership amongst occasional travellers. Anything that improves the experience must increase the change of repeat journeys.

Quirky But Good Interior Design

Some of the design details are quite quirky.

  • The priority seat covers are different and make a bold statement.
  • There are labels everywhere, advertising the features.

And there are good features too.

  • Plenty of bins for the rubbish, that commuters discard.
  • Sensible sized luggage racks.
  • Wide lobbies and doors.
  • There might be space between and under the seats for medium-sized cases.

The design is not bland and boring like a Class 700 train.

Spacious Trains

Someone described the trains, as having more space. I think that’s down to generous lobbies and large windows.

I also don’t think, the trains have not been designed for a maximum number of people, but for a maximum return on investment.

These are different things.

I suspect that a maximum return on investment is obtained, with a comfortably-full train, operating like that all day.

Overcrowded trains do the following.

  • Encourage passenger to use other modes of transport.
  • Lengthen station dwell times, which make trains late.
  • Make it difficult for less able passengers to use the trains.

But getting the balance right between train capacity and route is a complex problem.

Step-Free Access

Hitachi don’t seem to do good step-free access, where wheel-chairs, buggies and wheeled-cases can just roll in and out.

These trains are no exception Although, it could be that ScotRail has so many different types of trains, that the standard platform height hasn’t been defined yet!

Stadler have said, that all their trains used by Greater Anglia and Merseyrail will have this property, so I would have thought that other manufacturers would follow.

Passengers will demand it!

Train Formations

There is a document on the Hitachi web site, which is entitled Development of Class 385 Semi-customised/Standard Commuter Rolling Stock for Global Markets, which gives insights into Hitachi’s thinking.

This is the introduction.

The Class 385 is based on the AT-200, which was developed for global markets with the aim of providing flexibility of configuration while making maximum use of standardisation. It is a semi-customised model of a type common in global markets, with fewer components and greater standardisation of components achieved by adopting the “mother design” developed for the AT-300 (a typical example of which is the Class 800) and competitive lead times achieved by shortening the specification-setting process.

Note the close relationship between the Class 385 and Class 800 trains.

The document gives a detailed graphic and states that the four-car units have the following formation.

  • DMCLw – Driver Motor Composite Lavatory with 20 First Class seats, 15 Standard Class seats, a Universal Access Toilet and Wheelchair Space
  • TPS – Trailer Pantograoh Standard with 80 Standard Class seats
  • TS – Trailer Standard with 80 Standard Class seats
  • DMSL – Driver Motor Standard Lavatory with 62 Standard Class seats and a space-saving toilet.

Note.

  1. The coach designations on the delivered trains has been taken from this page on scot-rail.co.uk.
  2. This gives a total of 257 seats as against 273 seats in Wikipedia.
  3. The difference of 16 seats is twice the number of doors, so it could be that Hitachi have squeezed in a few more seats, between the provisional and final design.

The three-car trains would appear to have the following formation.

  • DMSLw – Driver Motor Standard Lavatory with about 50 Standard Class seats, a Universal Access Toilet and Wheelchair Space
  • TPS – Trailer Pantograoh Standard with 80 Standard Class seats
  • DMSL – Driver Motor Standard Lavatory with 62 Standard Class seats and a space-saving toilet.

Note.

  1. This article in Rail Magazine, says that all trains have Universal Access Toilets and two wheelchair spaces.
  2. This gives a total of 192 seats as against 206 seats in Wikipedia.
  3. Add in two seats for each of the six doors and the difference is two seats.

I should have read the numbers from the side of the train on my visit to Scotland.

If you type “Class 800 regenerative braking” into Google, you will find this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

This is a paragraph.

Trains have a unit configuration of up to 12 cars,
including the ability to add or remove standardized
intermediate cars and the generator units (GUs)
(generators with diesel engines) needed to operate
commercial services on non-electrified lines. Along
with the A-train concept, developed in Japan, the
new rolling stock is also based on technology from the
Class 395 rolling stock developed by Hitachi for the
UK High Speed 1 that entered commercial operation
in 2009, providing compatibility with UK railway
systems together with high reliability.

This is also said about the Automatic Train Identification Function.

To simplify the rearrangement and management
of train configurations, functions are provided for
identifying the train (Class 800/801), for automatically
determining the cars in the trainset and its total length,
and for coupling and uncoupling up to 12 cars in
normal and 24 cars in rescue or emergency mode.

It’s all very Plug-and-Play.

Although, these two extracts come from a document describing the Class 800 trains, both these trains and the Class 385 trains are members of the Hitachi A-Train family.

If you look at the train formations of Class 800 trains, Wikipedia gives them as.

5-car: DPTS-MS-MS-MC-DPTF
9-car: DPTS-MS-MS-TS-MS-TS-MC-MF-DPTF

Note.

  1. DPTS and DPTF are Driver Pantograph Trailer cars, with Standard and First Class seats respectively
  2. MS, MF and MC are Motored cars with Standard, First and Composite(mixed Standard and First Class), seats respectively.
  3. TS is a Trailer car with Standard Class seats.

Trains use two standard Driver cars and then add a number number of Motored and Trailer cars in between, to get the required train length and capacity.

I would be very surprised, if the formations of the Class 385 train were to be very different.

There appear to be the following Driver cars.

  • DMCLw – Driver Motor Composite Lavatory with 20 First Class seats, 15 Standard Class seats, a Universal Access Toilet and Wheelchair Space – Used in four-car trains
  • DMSLw – Driver Motor Standard Lavatory with about 50 Standard Class seats, a Universal Access Toilet and Wheelchair Space – Used in three-car trains
  • DMSL – Driver Motor Standard Lavatory with 62 Standard Class seats and a space-saving toilet – Used in both three- and four-car trains.

As with the Class 800 trains, I suspect you can create a train of the required length and capacity by adding the appropriate number of trailer cars between the two driver cars.

According to this page on the Hitachi web site, the AT200 trains have an operating speed of up to 125 mph. So perhaps for the greaster power, that might be needed for higher speeds, motored cars can be added as well.

I am puzzled about the length of the current trains.

At the present time, the Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley route can accept seven-car trains, which are formed from a three-car and a four-car working together.

But when platform extensions are complete at Glasgow, eight-car trains will be possible, which will be formed of two-four-car trains.

So why didn’t Abellio ScotRail use a Crossrail-like solution, where seven-car trains were ordered and these were then lengthened by an extra car, after the extension of the platforms?

  • The current train formations waste space with two unused drivers cabs in every train.
  • Do trains running on the half-hour journey across Scotland need two Universal Access and two space-saving toilets?

By comparison Abellio Greater Anglia‘s ten-car Class 720 trains have one Universal Access and two space-saving toilets for 1,145 seats. The seats/toilet for the three trains are as follows.

  • 10-car Class 720 train – 382
  • 3-car Class 385 train – 103
  • 4-car Class 385 train – 137

ScotRail obviously need both three- and four-car Class 385 trains to replace some of the older trains on other routes.

I do find it strange, that two divisions of Abellio have gone for such different solutions.

Gangways

The pictures show that the train has end gangways.

I intended to walk through between the two trains, but the train was full and I couldn’t get near the door.

If the trains were the correct length for the route, then you have to wonder, if the complication of gangways between trains is worth the extra weight, expense and driver’s visibility problems.

But the gangway does aid staff access between different trains.

But I do wonder, if the ability to add and remove cars that seems to be a feature of Class 385 trains, means that gangways between trains may be an unnecessary feature.

Consider these other train orders.

Gangways seem to be going out of fashion, unless they are needed fpr emergency use.

If some of ScotRail’s services need trains with gangways, these could always be run by the current Class 380 trains.

Conclusions

The Class 385 trains appear to be a well-designed train, that should do an excellent job.

But I do question the need for the gangways between trains.

It should also be born in mind, that Scotland is planning more electrification, which will need more trains.

By perhaps converting pairs of four-car sets into eight-car trains, by replacing two Driver cars with appropriate Trailer or Motored cars, two more complicated Driver cars would be liberated, which could form the basis of the extra trains.

There are probably endless combinations, one of which will give ScotRail, the optimal fleet, that will deliver the required services for the best price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 7, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

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