The first new Class 700 train from Siemens has arrived through the Channel Tunnel for delivery to Thameslink. It has taken years of planning and preparation by the train builder, by the train operator and by Network Rail. A new depot has been built at Three Bridges (RAIL 774), tracks have been altered, and staff have been trained.
Yes, it is later than once planned. And it is not without its critics. But it will transform a rail service that has repeatedly languished towards the bottom of National Passenger Survey league tables. For hundreds of thousands of travellers, these trains will serve on the daily commute for the rest of their working lives. It is the last visible link in a project we once knew as Thameslink 2000, named after its intended completion date.
Could the brand new train start carrying passengers as soon as it arrives?
“Not quite. But we are just about ready,” says Network Rail’s Chris Curtis. He describes his job as pouring oil on the troubled waters of Thameslink, making sure that the project does not cause problems for the operational railway while trying not to impose restrictions on the construction team.
“The train sits at Three Bridges depot for a week or so while various people check that the Germans have done all the right things. Then it starts testing, progressively between Bedford and Brighton. The intention is to have it in passenger service early next year - January or February. But if testing goes well they might try to bring that forward.”