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Ken chooses Electrostar and the Class 458 could be Brian's mcguffin
There were four bids for Transport for London's East London Line Extension fleet of new trains, the invitation to tender also sought offers to re-equip Silverlink Metro which becomes TfL's London Rail concession in November next year.
Odd one out was Porterbrook, backed by Alstom, offering the Class 458 fleet, suitably refreshed. They dropped out early on.
Next to go was Hitachi , leaving a shortlist of Bombardier and Siemens, with not much between them, bar a few tonnes on the tecnically obese Desiros. What seems to have clinched the deal was the earlier delivery offered Bombardier from an almost empty Derby works, which benefited whole life cost.
Worth £223m Bombardier Transportation's contract covers the manufacture of 44 Electrostar EMUs plus the first seven and a half years of a Train Service Agreement. There are options in the contract for a further 196 vehicles and the service contract to be extended up to 30 years.
Delivery will run from July 2008 to May 200 9, starting with a fleet of 24 dual-voltage three-car units to replace the 23 Class 313 EMUs currently in service on Silverlink Metro. This will be followed by 20 four-car units to equip the ELL which is scheduled to open in 2010.
TfL says that the options are intended to extend the three car units and increase the size of the ELL fleet. Clearly operation of the ELL and what TfL calls the North London Railway will be integrated, making the distinction between fleets irrelevant.
While based on the Class 376 inner suburban Electrostar, the TfL units will have an even higher density internal layout with longitudinal seating in all vehicles. This will offer even more peak capacity than the current Class 313s.
Readers in Williamsland may have been surprised to see Alstom Class 458 EMUs back in service on SWT. There's an interesting story behind this.
This column left the Class 458s grounded by the disability Taliban because their Passenger Information System (PIS) display screens has lettering 3mm less than the 35mm specified in the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations. ‘No matter', said SWT, ‘we won't need them after July anyway, since Desiro availability is improving'.
Meanwhile, Porterbrook, with the aid of Interfleet Technology had been beavering away at a cost effective solution to the PIS problem. The simple answer was to fit bigger ‘tiles' with more-widely spaced light emitting diodes.
This meant that the electronics driving the PIS sent out the same electrical signals, to the same number of diodes in the same configuration. Open up the apertures in the display housing and Robert was your avuncular relative – not 32mm, not 35mm but 40mm lettering.
As a pilot eight units were fitted and SWT promptly put them back into service. I assumed that the Desiro availability still struggling, but a check showed that on one day early in September SWT was running six Class 458s and had four Class 450s spare.
Now sometime between this column going to press and Modern Railways thundering through your letter box, DfT Rail is due to announce the preferred bidder for the new South Western Franchise. If Stagecoach retains the franchise, and I declined a £10 bet that it would the other day, it could be the Class 458 wot won it.
It goes like this. To win a franchise you need to get your premium/subsidy profile improving rapidly, which means quick cost cutting.
So, as the incumbent, SWT could, if it retains the franchise, decline to renew the lease on the 24 strong Class 442 fleet. Yes I know they offer the unparalleled Mk 3 ride and have English Electric traction equipment, but we roundheads don't do emotion.
Class 444 outer suburban Desiros take over the Class 442 duties and Class 450s are deployed to fill in the gap. And to top up the Class 450 diagrams and add some additional capacity, SWT airbrushes the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, declares that the Class 458s are the Birmingham equivalent of the Desiro and reminds Captain Deltic that the traction equipment was built at Preston .
So where's the cost saving? Well, remember that the Class 458s were acquired as a condition of Stagecoach being allowed to buy Porterbrook. One side effect was that the lease rentals were determined by inter-group trading rather than the cost of finance.
So Porterbrook made hay while the sun shone. Now the Class 458s have an uncertain future and the capital lease rentals have halved. Better 50% of something than all of nothing. In other words the Class 458s are cheap to lease and SWT can maintain them
This passes the headache to Angel Trains who have the Class 442 fleet on their hands with nowhere to go. Where could you exploit that combination of power, speed and ride?
How about the Brighton Line? Then Southern could release some Class 319s and this column has come full circle.
Oh dear, I seem to have run out of space before I could cover ORR's proposals for a new incentive regime, my latest analysis of railway costs, Network Rail's proposed budget or even the latest warning on soaring energy costs. I hope readers are not too disappointed
Meanwhile, a reminder that on the Monday of the week Modern Railways is published you can get an e-mail detailing the content of Informed Sources by signing up for my e-Preview. You can find the registration form at Alycidon Rail ( www.alycidon.com ). Where events have moved on e-preview also provides updates. The South Western franchise outcome could be embarrassing!