Passengers using South West Trains are to benefit from a newly-launched £40 million upgrade of its Class 455 train fleet, which is already the most reliable in the UK.
The upgrade will deliver even greater reliability for services which operate on the Metro area from London Waterloo to Reading, the Hounslow loop and the Shepperton branch.
The 91 Class 455 trains, which are already the most reliable trains in the country, will be fitted with new traction equipment which promises to enhance performance and improve reliability even further.
The programme – which will be rolled out over the next three years – involves removing the existing DC traction equipment, including the motors, and replacing it with an even more reliable modern AC traction system.
Regenerative braking is the dominant factor in the business case for new traction as projections show it will return over 20% of traction electricity on inner suburban services and around 10% on main line services. The new traction units will also be lighter, reducing the amount of wear and tear on the rail infrastructure.
An additional benefit of the new traction units is the increased mileage that can be carried out between major servicing and maintenance works, which will increase from 10,000 to 15,000 miles. This will therefore mean that the Class 455 trains will spend less time in Wimbledon depot and more time delivering services for passengers. A longer term benefit of this maintenance improvement will mean that space will be freed up at Wimbledon depot, enabling South West Trains to look at future capacity developments.
Over the next 20 months, South West Trains will be introducing 100 more carriages onto its services to provide capacity for an additional 23,000 peak-time passengers every day. Plans for developing longer term capacity enhancements are also underway.
Christian Roth, Engineering Director for the South West Trains – Network Rail Alliance, said: “Our Class 455 trains are already by far the most reliable fleet in the country, however we are not complacent and we want to make sure these excellent results are sustained and improved even further.
“The new traction motors will help us to improve the reliability of these trains for our passengers at the same time as delivering environmental benefits through the reduced electricity supply.”
The prototype train will be fitted at Wimbledon depot with the remainder of the fleet fitted at Eastleigh depot. The project should be finished by Spring 2014.
The investment is being delivered in partnership with the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, Porterbrook and the Department for Transport.