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Eversholt takes the initiative

Scotland is a major customer for Eversholt Rail Group, and one in which the rolling stock leasing company is investing heavily. ScotRail’s current train fleet includes 121 EMUs and 5 DMUs equalling 126 units from Eversholt Rail. After upcoming cascades have been completed, in both directions across the border, Eversholt Rail will be supplying 128 EMUs once Class 321s are cascaded to Abellio ScotRail.

Eversholt Rail Group Head of Relationship Development Steve Timothy explains what the company is doing to improve the train fleets: “Scotland is a major customer. We are committed to Scotland and Abellio ScotRail. We are investing £40 million extra in the fleet to bring it up to standard. 

“We committed to Scotland before the franchise change. We took the opportunity to get the work done even though there were no guarantees for the future. We knew that the incoming franchisees would be pushed for reliability and improved performance straight away and we had to match that.”

He adds: “All the work we are doing to the ‘three’ series trains is substantial modification work. And we are funding it.

“We are doing this to support the franchise. The franchise was driven by Transport Scotland, which specified the minimum functionality requirements for each type of service, and quality had to be improved. 

“In the franchise Invitation to Tender (ITT), Transport Scotland wanted service groups and we looked to provide over and above what the bidders wanted.” He highlights the Driver Advisory Systems (DAS) which has been included as an upgrade not in the original specification, but is work funded by the ROSCO to benefit the customer.

“The ROSCO’s work started before the franchise began. We took the decision before the franchise competition that we may as well do the work to make the trains PRM-TSI (Passengers of Reduced Mobility - Technical Specification for Interoperability) compliant.” The Class 320 trains were made compliant  between 2011-2013 at Doncaster. 

A major scheme for the Scottish EMU fleet is the introduction of seven Class 321s. Exact dates around the programme remain under discussion, but it is expected work will begin in October on a £3.5m scheme to deliver seven three-car units. 

Modifications committed to by Eversholt Rail include re-configuring the trains from four to three cars, fitting PRM-TSI compliant interiors and interior refurbishment work. Passenger counting equipment and power sockets will be fitted, along with forward-facing CCTV and an Ethernet backbone. Cycle spaces will be provided while the trains will be upgraded with a wheelslip protection system. Abellio has committed to fitting Wi-Fi and DAS to the trains, which will join the ‘320’ fleet working in and around Strathclyde. They will be interchangeable with the ‘318s and ‘320s’. The ‘321s’ have to have the PRM-TSI work carried out on them to make them similar to the ‘318s’ and ‘320s’. The franchise stipulates that they have to be standardised.

A programme was started with the Class 318s and 320s before the new ScotRail franchise was won by Abellio. There was no guarantee new bidders would want the trains, and that new fleets might be required instead. Eversholt Rail believed modified trains with improved interiors compliant for the PRM-TSI deadline of January  1 2020, combined with improved reliability, would be attractive to new bidders and cut the risk of the trains being replaced. 

Any reliability commitment is from Abellio supporting Transport Scotland’s priorities. Better availability of trains is one objective, and modifications to improve reliability are being carried out on the fleet. Work began on the 21 three-car Class 318s in October 2013 and is due for completion in July 2017, after which any retrofitting of trains treated at the start of the programme will be carried out. The contract, placed with Wabtec Rail, is worth £9m. The work committed to by Eversholt Rail includes making the trains PRM-TSI compliant. They are also undergoing an interior refresh and gaining passenger counting equipment, power sockets, CCTV and an Ethernet backbone. There will be additional spaces for bikes. Wi-Fi, Driver Advisory Systems (DAS) and energy metering will be fitted to the trains.  

Subject to negotiations, a programme will start on the 22 three-car Class 320s which is estimated to cost £7m. This will most likely start next year after the end of the ‘321’ project, although it could be delayed until the end of the Class 318C6X scheme. No end date is yet planned. The trains will visit Wabtec Rail Doncaster’s facility and receive the same work as the Class 318s, with the exception of the PRM-TSI modifications which have already been completed. 

Work started this year on the Class 334s. This mid-life programme, worth £16m, is being carried out by Alstom at Polmadie and creates jobs as well as improving the interior, which dates from 1999-2001. The programme began in January 2015 and is due for completion in August 2017. A C4 overhaul project for the trains is still to be determined. 

Modifications included in this work, as committed to by the ROSCO, include fitting passenger counting equipment and power sockets. Autocouplers (like those used on Class 380s) will also be fitted, as will LED lighting. A saloon air conditioning system will be fitted along with forward-facing CCTV. Driver Only Operation CCTV is being fitted, along with an Ethernet backbone and Alstom train tracer system. Cycle spaces are also being included as part of the work. Eversholt Rail is also carrying out a trial on the ‘334s’ with variable stiffness radial arm bushes which are expected to cut track damage and improve ride quality by reducing the forces between the wheels and the track. Wi-Fi is also being fitted to the trains through an Abellio commitment. 

Scotland’s newest trains are the 38-strong Class 380s, built by Siemens and delivered between 2009 and 2011. The EMUs are to be fitted with DAS and LED lighting and undergo a light refresh. This will equate to £25,000 per vehicle. Funded by Eversholt Rail, expenditure on this project will total £3.25m. However, full details are yet to be agreed, with no date confirmed for the start of the work.

The Class 380s are also likely to be used on some services between Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street when electric trains start running via Falkirk next year. This is an example of how Eversholt Rail is supporting the growth in rail north of the Border. 

Very soon, refurbished trains will be moving passengers around the West of Scotland in one of the busiest areas outside London in terms of customer demand. Eversholt Rail has prepared for this and is delivering on its promises.

  • This feature was published in the Scottish supplement of RAIL 783 (September 16 - 29 2015)


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