Class 375

Electrostar

 

With impending privatisation of the railways, the 1982-conceived British Rail sectors were split into much smaller shadow franchises, these of which private companies would bid to operate. Motive power and rolling stock had previously been sold off to leasing companies in 1994 at a fraction of their true value. Two more years down the line and operating divisions formerly run by the BR sectors were being franchised off to the highest and most attractive bidder from the private sector. In October 1996, French-owned ''Connex Transportation'' (which bid under ''Connex Rail'') won a fifteen-year franchise to operate all railway services on 606 miles of track which formerly constituted most of the South Eastern Division. As part of the deal to make the company an attractive bidder for the franchise, Connex made the bold decision to agree on the introduction of a large fleet of new electric multiple units, the first examples envisaged to be in service by 2000, thus initiating the process of replacing 1960s slam-door stock (a process which Network SouthEast had begun with the ''Networker'' project). The same company had also been awarded the franchise to operate services on the former South Central Division, although the comparatively short-term nature of this (seven years) initially deterred the procurement of new stock on those lines.

 

During 1997, Connex began looking for a manufacturer to construct a new fleet of EMU vehicles for the South Eastern franchise, subsequently offering companies tenders. Eventually, on 16th July 1997, Adtranz was selected to produce 120 new EMU vehicles at Derby. The franchise holder negotiated the design and electrical constitution of the new vehicles with Adtranz, with many of the fundamental concepts based on previous experience gained from Network SouthEast's  ''Networker'' project. Like the Networkers, the initial batch of new EMUs were specified to be four-vehicle formations (the initial order totalling thirty such units), capable of operating on 750V D.C. third rail, with each separate train unit extracting a maximum current of 2250 Amps at any given time. It was agreed with the manufacturer that the level of electrical current should be capable of being varied to suit alternate lengths of trains. Whilst assembly of units was undertaken at Derby, manufacture of traction motors, train control and communications equipment was to be completed at Bombardierís plant in Vasteras, Sweden.

 

In 1998, ''HSBC Rail'' assumed the liability for the outright purchase of all 120 vehicles from Bombardier (which had since been renamed from Adtranz), for subsequent leasing back to the franchise holder; purchase was completed on 2nd July of this year. Each vehicle had an individual cost of £1,000,000, but the Connex order was reported as being worth £100,000,000, thus a saving of £20,000,000 had been achieved, in light of economies of scale. With finance now secured for the initial batch of vehicles, Connex placed a further order with Bombardier on 4th September 1998 for the delivery of another ninety vehicles, this time to constitute thirty 3-vehicle formations to replace the operator's 4 Cig Mk 1 units. Meanwhile, unrest among Connex South Eastern and Connex South Central passengers was rapidly emerging, and with the latter franchise up for renewal soon, Connex began taking measures to make it an ideal candidate for being re-awarded with the operation. Thus, on 20th June 2002, Connex placed a fourth order with Bombardier for the production of a further 228 vehicles for the now-designated Class 375 units, this time just for the South Eastern franchise. A fifth and final order for another 180 carriages was placed by Connex on 23rd July 2002, making an ultimate total of 618 separate vehicles having been ordered to date, at a value of £506,000,000, HSBC Rail once again purchasing the vehicles outright from Bombardier and leasing them back to Connex.

 

Interestingly, there would be another twist of events. The Connex South Central franchise was due to terminate in May 2003, but on 29th May 2001, an independent concern known as 'Go-Via' bought-out Connex South Central Limited, thus taking over the operating of train services on the South Central Division. When the franchise officially came up for renewal in May 2003, Connex subsequently lost the bid and a proportion of Class 375 units originally ordered by Connex (part of the third batch) and destined for South Central, were taken over by Go-Via.

 

Four car set consists of:

Three car set consists of:


 

No. 375710 at Farningham Road

On 18th September 2004, No. 375710 is seen at Farningham Road, with a stopping service to

Faversham. Farningham Road Retains its original station buildings, although the austere modern

footbridge you can see above the Class 375 is a result of a road/rail vehicle crane demolishing

the original structure. Temporary scaffolding was initially put in place, until the present day

structure was completed. David Glasspool

 


 

A sparkling clean No. 375806 is seen at platform 3 of Dover Priory on 3rd November 2004. These

units use twice the amount of electrical current compared to the Mk 1 EMUs. The cost of infrastructure

upgrade for the new fleet was estimated at £100 million. Since the units were being delivered faster than

the progression of upgrade work, they were put into secure storage at Ministry of Defence locations.

David Glasspool

 


 

Main line stock on the commuter North Kent Line is not unusual, but their appearance is on

empty stock workings rather than revenue-earning services. These units can regularly be seen

stabled at Slade Green Depot in a small form, outnumbered by ''Networkers'' and Class 376s.

On 23rd January 2006, No. 375830 is seen heading eastwards through Dartford, empty stock.

It will rejoin the main ''Chatham'' line by means of the connecting spur, just before crossing the

Medway. David Glasspool

 


 

Next: the History Continues >>

 


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