The £1 billion-plus order for 66 nine-car Class 345s for the landmark Crossrail project was the first order Bombardier won for its Aventra platform.
Aventra is the new electric multiple unit (EMU) offering the company is taking to the market; one that it believes will prove every bit as good as its predecessor, the Electrostar, the final trains of which will be delivered this year, 17 years after the first unit went into service.
In 1999, c2c and Connex took deliveries of Class 357 and 375 electric multiple units. These marked the start of an Electrostar delivery programme that now enables 632 trains either in traffic or on order. That equals 2,517 vehicles by the end of 2016, an impressive testament to the success of these high performance trains.
The final Electrostars are either on the production line for Gatwick Express, Porterbrook or Great Western Railway, and all will be in traffic by the end of the year. After that, production will switch to its successor, the Aventra.
Bombardier Head of Bids Engineering and New Tube for London, Niall Simmons explains: “Aventra is the latest EMU development platform. Crossrail will be the first project to use that platform. Aventra has been evolving over the years, but Crossrail will be the first customer to operate these trains.” The Aventra has been in development since 2009, with the design finalised in 2013. Feedback from the industry has helped form the plan for Aventra, which, just like other manufacturers’ products, can be tailored to suit certain needs, be they metro, commuter, inter-regional or high speed.
Bombardier is also taking its experience from Electrostars and incorporating that into the Aventra. Says Simmons: “We’ve proved the reliability of our EMU performance with the Electrostar, so we’ve carried forward and further developed that philosophy with the Aventra.” While there are 21 sub-classes within the Electrostar designs, there are certainly many similarities. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it? Simmons explains: “The ‘379’ vehicle , is, in many respects, the same vehicle as a ‘376’ but you wouldn’t know it at first glance. From a purely mechanical perspective it’s an Electrostar. But you wouldn’t think it. Even if you look at a Class 379 versus a ‘377’, they are very similar, apart from the interiors.
“You’ve got luggage racks in the ‘379,’ plus the great two-plus-one first class seats. But board a ‘377’ out of Victoria down to Brighton and there is three plus two seating.” And that’s the only difference? “Yes, essentially,” says Simmons. And the Aventra platform gives us that same flexibility of having a generic platform, that can be adapted to the needs of different operations.