Great Western Railway (GWR) has received the first train in the UK able to run on overhead and third-rail electric lines, as well as under its own diesel power.
The first of 19 Class 769 Flex trains, which are being supplied by Porterbrook Leasing, the new trains are expected to be introduced on services between Reading and Gatwick by early 2021.
Offering more carriages than the trains they are replacing, the Class 769 fleet was specially commissioned by GWR to be able to run under overhead wires in London and the Thames Valley, and to take advantage of third rail provision where it exists on the North Downs line.
The trains will support GWR to realise long-held plans to expand services over the North Downs line between Reading and Redhill and then through to Gatwick, and will enable the release of some of GWR’s diesel-powered Turbo trains to add capacity in the Bristol area and support the ability to launch new routes through the city.
The innovative fleet of tri-mode trains will operate in four-carriage sets which have been refurbished inside and out, with free Wi-Fi and power at each seat, air cooling, bigger luggage racks, and new seat covers. Equipped with new diesel engines and combined with their electric capability, each Class 769 will offer a quieter and cleaner experience for customers than the trains they are replacing.
Present plans will see the trains deployed between Reading and Basingstoke, Reading, Redhill and Gatwick, and on the Henley and Bourne End lines. The tri-mode nature of the train will give GWR additional flexibility to use them in other areas of the network should they be required in the future.
GWR Head of Fleet Production John Murphy said: “A lot of hard work has been done to make sure people feel that they can travel safely at the present time, and that includes running more trains and carriages to make extra room.
“Planning is well under way for a further uplift in services in mid-September, re-introducing even more services across the GWR network to help accommodate a return to travel for school, college or for work and adding some new services for the first time.
“This news shows we have not stopped looking at ways to further improve our service for customers.” On the GWR North Downs line, the trains will facilitate a return to usual Sunday frequencies of two trains an hour, and the ability to run three trains per hour from Reading to Redhill on Saturdays. GWR is working with industry partners to extend this to further off-peak weekday services as well as extending these through to Gatwick Airport, as works at the station