The last of the old Thameslink trains have been withdrawn from service as the rollout of cutting-edge replacements nears completion.
The Siemens Class 700s have replaced the mostly four carriage and eight-carriage twice-hourly service, creating 9,000 extra seats each weekday and more space for passengers at Gatwick and families travelling between London and the south coast.
The new trains run by Govia Thameslink Railway have wider doors and aisles, two-by-two seating, more luggage space, adaptive climate-controlled air conditioning, electronic signals showing which carriages have more space, fully accessible toilets, and spaces for full sized bikes in the off-peak and storage for fold-up bikes in the peak.
Already Thameslink has 50 per cent more carriages in services in the peaks on the network than before the new trains were introduced.
More 12-carriage trains will be introduced early next year when extra stabling facilities are built in Bedford.
Gerry McFadden, GTR engineering director, said: “Thameslink is now a Class 700-only route marking a significant milestone in our journey of modernisation towards a new high-frequency service through central London.
“Right now it means trains up to three times longer on the off-peak services between Brighton, Gatwick Airport and London Bridge and from May next year hundreds of thousands of new passengers from east Kent, Sussex, Cambridge and Peterborough will be plugged into the cross-London route when the Thameslink network expands.”
All the trains across Thameslink’s entire network are now new Class 700s. These travel between Brighton, St Albans and Bedford, Sevenoaks, Wimbledon and Sutton crossing central London via Blackfriars.
The trains have a spacious design and cutting-edge information systems that will tell passengers how London’s Tube trains are running and even which direction to walk to find more space on the train.
Paul Maynard, the Government’s rail minister, said: “I am delighted we have reached this significant milestone for the multi-billion pound Thameslink Programme. It shows how our investment in the railways is delivering better journeys for passengers across the network, as well as supporting jobs and growth.
“This new fleet of hi-tech trains is now making a real difference for passengers, giving them more space and more comfort. This investment will transform north-south travel across London and the south east by a providing a modern, accessible service in time for the expanded Thameslink network from 2018.”
Vernon Barker, managing director of the rail systems business at Siemens UK which manufactures and maintains the Class 700 trains, said: “We are really pleased to mark this major milestone in the introduction of the state-of-the-art Class 700, which is one of the largest and most technologically advanced fleets of trains ever introduced in the UK.
“With almost half of the high-tech fleet now in service, passengers will really start to experience the full benefits of these modern and innovative trains through more comfortable and reliable journeys in and out of London.”
Guy Stephenson, chief commercial officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “Gatwick continues to grow with record numbers of passengers travelling through the airport every month. These new carriages are ideally suited for air travellers and the longer trains will make a real difference to the increasing number of passengers using the airport and travelling by rail.
“The new Thameslink trains also form part of the exciting transformation of rail services at Gatwick. By 2018, rail capacity through Gatwick will have doubled in just ten years and our passengers will start to see the benefit of trains leaving the airport for London with Tube-like frequency every three minutes.”