From the archives: A project at the heart of the nation

  • This feature was first published in RAIL 793, in February 2016. The Crossrail order has since been increased to 70 units.

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has referred to them as ‘sleek’, ‘feature-packed’ and ‘eye-catching’ machines.

The Class 345 electric multiple units (EMUs) on order for Crossrail are something, to quote Johnson, “that showcases the best of British design and engineering”.

Ordered in February 2014, 66 of these 200-metre-long nine-car trains will enter service on the £14.9 billion cross-London scheme from 2017, including the extra train that was ordered following confirmation that Crossrail services would be extended to Reading.

Peter Doolin, Bombardier Transportation’s Vice President Projects, Crossrail & London Underground, said: “Bombardier is delighted to be working with TfL in designing, manufacturing and testing these iconic new trains for London - all done here in the UK.

“The Crossrail trains are based on our very latest Aventra product platform, which we’re proud to say has been designed and developed as a technology leading train for the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to work together with TfL on this flagship project to deliver these new trains for London.”

The Class 345s will be used, initially in 160 metre long formation, on the Shenfield-Liverpool Street Metro services, replacing EMUs dating from the early-1980s. It will mark the beginning of a significant improvement in service quality.

The design was unveiled in late 2015, the result of a close collaboration between Bombardier and Crossrail, and Johnson said of the Class 345s: “It’s fantastic to think that these sleek new trains will soon be transporting millions of people across our great city and beyond.

“They’ll add vital capacity to our rail network and will help to ensure our economy continues to get stronger. The largest construction project in Europe is another tantalising step closer to becoming a new working railway for the Capital.”

The Crossrail project is designed to help a city desperate for an increase in capacity. It will boost central London’s rail capacity by 10% while also supporting regeneration, and cutting journey times across the city. It is estimated that, annually, 200 million people will use Crossrail services.

The railway itself will be more than 100km long, running from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will run underneath central London through new tunnels, and using existing infrastructure on the Great Eastern and Great Western Main Lines.

A maintenance facility is being constructed at Old Oak Common for the new fleet, with servicing initially undertaken at Ilford where Bombardier already has a presence.

Crossrail will bring an extra 1.5m people to within 45 minutes of central London, link London’s key employment, leisure and business districts, including Heathrow, the West End, the City and Docklands, and enable further economic development to the tune of £42bn for the UK’s economy.

While Class 345 will begin running on the Great Eastern route from May next year, the first through services under London will begin in late 2018.

The new Class 345s are being constructed by Bombardier at its Derby Litchurch Lane site; cars are already on the assembly line and the first train will start its high speed testing this summer. The contract benefits not only London, but also employment in the East Midlands, directly supporting 760 jobs and 80 apprenticeships. It is estimated that when complete, Crossrail will have had a positive impact on 55,000 UK jobs throughout the supply chain.

Each train has space for 1,500 passengers in the nine fully-interconnected, walk-through carriages. At over 200m in length, they are over one and a half times longer than the longest Tube train. They are around the length of two full-sized football pitches, or 18 new Routemaster buses.

Initially they will enter traffic next year as seven-car trains because of capacity constraints at Liverpool Street. When those platforms have been extended, the trains will be extended accordingly. The first nine-car trains will run between Heathrow and Paddington in 2018, and all 66 trains will be running as nine-car trains by the end of 2019.

Transport for London (TFL) said that Bombardier rose to the challenge to keep the Class 345 train fleet’s weight low and energy efficiency high while delivering high levels of performance and customer comfort.

The trains will automatically adjust lighting levels and heating and air conditioning to suit the ambient conditions and will feed electricity back into the power network when braking, effectively using up to 30% less energy, as well as delivering faster journey times than the old Class 315 EMUs they are replacing between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

Crossrail’s Class 345s feature large, clear areas around the doors that will allow quicker and easier boarding and alighting. A mixture of Metro-style and bay seating will be available throughout the train which, TfL says, will provide choice and comfort for customers. This is different to the Class 378s in use with London Overground, built by Bombardier, which feature all-longitudinal seating like most Underground trains.

The Crossrail Class 345s will be driver-operated, and will feature on-train passenger information systems delivering real-time travel information. This will enable passengers to plan onward journeys while on board. Free WiFi will be available on the trains as well as on the platforms, and people will have access to 4G networks too.

TfL also says that the “interior design and colour palette has been carefully selected to provide an accessible and welcoming environment. The design includes darker floors and natural finish materials that will wear in, and not wear out, ensuring they retain their high-quality feel for years to come.” It adds that: “the light coloured ceilings also maximise the feeling of height and openness inside the new trains. The material and colour choices also align with Crossrail stations for a consistent customer experience.”

The trains will be wheelchair accessible too, with four dedicated wheelchair spaces per nine-car train. Additionally there will be multi-use spaces available where seats can be tipped up for pram and pushchair storage or bulky luggage.

Rail Minister Claire Perry says: “I am delighted that these British-built trains have been designed with customers at their heart, with onboard facilities that are fit for a truly 21st century rail link.

“The spacious layout and longer trains will provide a significant boost to London’s rail capacity, meaning better journeys for passengers, and transforming the way people travel between east and west. I look forward to seeing the first train off the Derby production line, where this contract is supporting hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships.”

Howard Smith, TfL’s Operations Director of Crossrail, says: “The trains will have walk-through carriages, each with three wide doorways to enable people to get on and off quickly at stations. They will have air-conditioning and use the latest technology to provide customers with real-time travel information to help them plan their onward journeys.”

Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, design advisers for the Crossrail train, said: “This is an exciting civic project and a key component of London’s transport future for the next 100 years. We are honoured to be making a contribution to its design.”

The project itself is making good progress, according to Bombardier Head of Bids Engineering and New Tube for London Niall Simmons. He says that cars are now being assembled for the first train. “We’ll be starting to test the trains in the first quarter.” Initially, they will be tested in Bombardier’s factory before being moved to Old Dalby for high speed testing, as per the S-Stock, before being dispatched to the capital for more test running. They will be maintained initially at Ilford, before moving to their bespoke depot at Old Oak Common in West London from 2018. Simmons continues: “From the long-term maintenance perspective, Old Oak Common is the only facility we’re planning to use.”

The Class 345 Aventra being delivered for Crossrail is the first of the new design of EMU that will be delivered to the UK following a significant evolution of the company’s previous mainstay product, the Electrostar. Simmons explains: “Aventra is a platform for the future, which is the culmination of consultation and evaluation of the requirements of the market place. We’ve been working on it and refining it for a number of years, but Crossrail will be the first railway to use it.”

So, can Bombardier adapt its new standardised train platform to suit TfL’s specific passenger-environment requirements, including a ‘look-and-feel’ that uniquely identifies it with Crossrail?

Simmons knows they can: “We’ve proved that we can do it before, so we’ve taken the philosophy from the Electrostars - a fantastic product. You wouldn’t believe that the Class 379 vehicle was intrinsically the same vehicle as a Class 376. Even if you look at a Class 379 versus a Class 377, they are very similar, apart from the interiors. There are luggage racks in the Class 379 and the spacious two plus one first class seats. But then you jump on the Class 377 commuter EMU out of Victoria down to Brighton and you will find three plus two seating. From a mechanical perspective they’re all  Electrostars, the point being that you can have the same reliable product and good flexibility on how the train can be configured to suit ridership requirements. The Aventra platform allows us to have that same flexibility.”

The decision to offer Aventra as opposed to the Electrostar, was down to compliance regulations. Simmons explains: “Electrostar would need to be compliant with the new generation of European Technical Standards for Interoperability (TSI) that have come into force. Taking into account the design changes we would need to make to Electrostar to be compliant it made sense to take this as an opportunity to make something even more energy efficient, with a more flexible interior. We’ve learnt so much from Electrostar, but this is the next generation.”

Bombardier has invested hugely in its Aventra product for Crossrail. While all most people will see will be the new trains, there are other investments and benefits, too; an all new ‘V Shop’ and Test facility is being built on the Derby site, a Crossrail legacy that will live on for future projects, and a positive impact on employment and apprenticeships as well, not just at Derby but also London at the new maintenance depot.

As Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said when Bombardier unveiled the prototype Class 345 bodyshell: “It is great to see Bombardier’s progress in delivering the first test train carriage. These new trains showcase British engineering at its best. They will transform travel across the capital. But our investment in Crossrail is also helping to boost local economies by creating jobs and apprenticeships around the UK.”

Crossrail is exciting for the UK, and, just like the new Tube trains transforming travel beneath the streets of London, Bombardier will design and build the trains in the UK. And that in itself is something to be proud of.

  • This feature was published in RAIL 793, which is available digitally on Android and iPad.
  • For the latest on the Crossrail fleet, read RAIL 846, published on February 14, and available on Android and iPad from February 10.

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  • AndrewJGwilt1989 - 05/02/2018 03:53

    In fact there will be 70 Class 345’s that will be operated on the Elizabeth Line.

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