The Anonymous Widower

What Will Happen To Great Western Railway’s Class 387 Trains?

I have been looking at the services that Great Western Railway run using Class 387 trains.

Current services run by these trains are.

London Paddington And Didcot Parkway

This service has the following characteristics.

  • The frequency is two trains per hour (tph)
  • Services are run by two trains working as a pair.
  • Intermediate stops are Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, West Drayton, Iver, Langley, Slough, Maidenhead, Twyford, Reading, Tilehurst, Pangbourne, Goring and Streatley and Cholsey.
  • Journey time is one hour twenty-three minutes, giving a three hour round trip.

I estimate that twelve trains are needed to run this service.

From the 15th December 2019, this service appears to run to a similar timetable.

London Paddington And Reading

This service has the following characteristics.

  • The frequency is two tph.
  • Services are run by two trains working as a pair.
  • Intermediate stops are Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, West Drayton, Slough, Burnham, Maidenhead and Twyford
  • Journey time is fifty-seven minutes, giving a two and a half hour round trip.

I estimate that ten trains are needed to run this service.

From the 15th December 2019, this service will be run by TfL Rail using Class 345 trains.

Reading And Newbury

This service has the following characteristics.

  • The frequency is one tph.
  • Services are run by two trains working as a pair.
  • Intermediate stops are Reading West, Theale, Aldermaston, Midgham, Thatcham and Newbury Racecourse.
  • Journey time is  twenty-nine minutes, giving an hour round trip.

I estimate that two trains are needed to run this service.

From the 15th December 2019, this service appears to run to a similar timetable.

Current Trains Needed

Summarising the trains needed gives the following.

  • London Paddington and Didcot Parkway – twelve trains
  • London Paddington and Reading – ten trains
  • Reading and Newbury – two trains.

This gives a total of twenty-four trains.

Trains Needed After 15th December 2019

Summarising the trains needed gives the following.

  • London Paddington and Didcot Parkway – twelve trains
  • London Paddington and Reading – no trains
  • Reading and Newbury – two trains.

This gives a total of fourteen trains.

Heathrow Express

Heathrow Express will use twelve Class 387 trains in the near future.

Great Western Railway’s Future Need For Class 387 Trains

Summarising the trains needed gives the following.

  • London Paddington and Didcot Parkway – twelve trains
  • Reading and Newbury – two trains.
  • Heathrow Express – twelve trains.

This gives a total of twenty-six trains.

Great Western Railway have a total of forty-five Class 387 trains. Wikipedia is a bit confusing on this point, but I’m fairly certain this is a correct figure.

This means that Great Western Railway have nineteen trains available for expansion of services.

Great Western Railway’s Class 769 Trains

Great Western Railway have also ordered nineteen dual-voltage bi-mode Class 769 trains.

These are for the following routes.

  • Reading – Redhill or Gatwick Airport
  • London Paddington – Reading and Oxford

As the spare number of Class 387 trains is the same as that of the bi-mode trains, was it originally intended, that these routes could be run by the Class 387 trains, after Network Rail had joined the electrification together.

But the extra electrification never happened.

So Great Western Railway ordered the bi-modes trains.

Great Western Railway’s Dilemma

The Class 769 trains appear to be running late, so Great Western Railway are running the Gatwick and Oxford services with diesel multiple units, that they’d like to send to the West Country.

Bombardier appear to have moved on with their battery technology, that was successfully trialled using a similar Class 379 train in 2015. I wrote about the possibility of battery Electrostars on the Uckfield Branch last month in Battery Electrostars And The Uckfield Branch.

I believe that both routes would be within range of a battery-electric Class 387 train.

Reading – Redhill or Gatwick Airport

The various sections of the route are as follows.

Reading and Wokingham – Electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

Wokingham and Aldershot South Junction – Not electrified – 12 miles

Aldershot South Junction and Shalford Junction – Electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

Shalford Junction and Reigate – Not electrified – 17 miles

Reigate and Redhill/Gatwick – Electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

To my mind, this is a classic route for a battery-electric train, as it is mainly electrified and both gaps are less than twenty miles long.

Some or all of the Class 387 trains are dual-voltage.

London Paddington – Reading and Oxford

The distance between Didcot Parkway and Oxford is under twelve miles, so a return trip should be well within range of a battery-electric Class 387 train.

There are also plans at Oxford station to put a new bay platform on the London-bould side of the station. This could be fitted with a charging station to avoid any range anxiety.

A Gatwick And Oxford Service

Could the Oxford and Gatwick services be joined together to make a direct Oxford and Gatwick service via Reading?

  • I estimate that the service would take around two hours.
  • Assuming a fifteen minute turnround at both ends, a round trip would be four and a half hours.

Running a half-hourly service would need just nine trains.

Or eighteen, if they were to run as eight-car trains!

Could this explain the order for nineteen trains, as it’s always a good idea to have a spare?

Conclusion

Great Western Railway can dig themselves elegantly out of a hole of Network Rail’s making by converting the spare Class 387 trains to battery-electric trains.

I’m sure Bombardier have the design available and would be happy to oblige after they have  finished conversion of the Heathrow Express units.

There might also be an argument for fitting all Class 387 trains with batteries.

  • A more unified fleet.
  • Train recovery in the event of electrification failure.
  • Better safety in depots.
  • Direct services between Paddington and Henley and Bourne End.
  • Would it allow Class 387 trains to run between Paddington and Bedwyn?
  • Reduced electricity consumption.

It’ll be a decision for the accountants.

One collateral benefit of a successful conversion program for the Great Western Railway, is that it would enable Great Northern’s twenty-eight trains and c2c’s six trains to be easily converted to battery-electric versions.

  • Great Northern’s coulde be used by sister company; Southern on the Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Line.
  • c2c trains are soon to be replaced by new trains.

I’m sure that quality four-car battery-electric trains won’t wait long for an operator.

October 16, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. C2C already operate some 387 trains in 12 carriage formations during rush hours and would no doubt like some more so they can lengthen some of their 357 trains released by extra 12 carriage trains until their order for Aventra trains arrive .

    Comment by Melvyn | October 16, 2019 | Reply

    • I have updated the post and very much feel that there is a high chance that the spare Class 387 trains will be converted into battery-electric units.
      The Great Northern units aren’t working hard and Southern needs a solution for Uckfield and Marshlink.

      There’s no obvious home for the replaced c2c trains, but add batteries and they could be deployed in a lot of places.

      Comment by AnonW | October 17, 2019 | Reply


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