With electrification delays and windscreen problems on the new Hitachi class 385 EMUs, passengers between Scotland’s two big cities have been waiting for some time for their promised new trains. As 16 of the class 170 DMUs that operate this route are being transferred south to Northern this year. Hence it looked like this service would get worse before it got better.
Now there is to be a full 8-car electric service between Edinburgh and Glasgow in July offering 27 per cent more seats. This will be possible as a result of ScotRail’s rapid introduction of displaced four-car class 365 EMUs as an interim arrangement. These units recently worked London to Peterborough services and have now replaced by Thameslink Class 700 EMUs.
They are known as the ‘happy train’ as a modification to fit cab air-conditioning included a ‘grinning’ cab front air intake.
As these units were not gauge cleared, the first three units were transported to Scotland by road with the first one arriving at the end of April to allow static training and modification work to start. Although there was some criticism of this road movement, it enabled preparatory work in Scotland to start as soon as possible to ensure an earlier introduction of the units.
Within a relatively short time of two weeks, the gauge assessment had been completed to allow the remaining units to come to Scotland by rail and for driver training to start.
This assessment showed that, to run in Scotland, the units required a bogie centre pivot packing piece to raise them by 20 mm and for their passenger doorway steps to be cut back by 45 mm. This work is being done by Knorr-Bremse RailServices at Springburn in Glasgow. Initially the units used for driver training have all their doorway steps removed to avoid the need to wait for a modified unit before this training could start.
The demanding programme to introduce these units in a short timescale involves ScotRail, Network Rail, DGauge, SNC Lavalin, Eversholt Rail, Knorr-Bremse RailServices and their previous operators, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) who have provided support for maintenance training at their Hornsey depot. ScotRail is also in close consultation with the trade unions concerned. All parties are working closely together to ensure that these units can be introduced as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the problem with the curved windscreens fitted to the class 385 EMUs is close to resolution. On 25th May, ScotRail announced that after trialling a unit fitted with a flat windscreen, feedback from all parties, including the driver’s union Aslef, is that this flat windscreen is fit for purpose. However, before they can enter service, the type approval process has to be finalised, mileage accumulations runs are required and the new flat windscreens need to be fitted to the units that have already been built. This is also to be done at the Knorr-Bremse RailServices depot at Springburn.
With the uncertain timescale to resolve the class 385 windscreen problem and existing units due to be sent south, ScotRail’s introduction of the class 365 units as an interim measure will ensure provide the required extra seats on the Edinburgh to Glasgow route as soon as possible. However now that there is a solution for the class 385 windscreen problem, it will be interesting to see which of these two types of units is the first to enter passenger service between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Read more: On board ScotRail’s new Class 385