A Strategic Rail Authority requirement decreed that the Class 375 units should be built with a dual-voltage provision, therefore have the capability to draw current from both a 750V D.C. third rail and 25kV A.C. overhead wires (a practice previously pioneered with the Class 365s). Thirty units were fitted with third rail collecting shoes and pantographs, and were designated 375/6, whilst all remaining units retained the provision for future installation of overhead gear. This capability would allow units to be redeployed with other franchises on routes with catenary, in addition to reducing - this increased operating flexibility also reduced the future financial risk to the leasing company. New units would also mean new power supplies, which would in turn mean huge expenditure on infrastructure. Many lines south of London required considerable upgrades to power supplies, an undertaking estimated at over £100,000,000. Much work on upgrading power supplies had been undertaken in the early 1990s for the ''Networkers'', coupled with additional power supply improvement in conjunction with the Channel Tunnel. On-board electronic systems for air-conditioning and power-operated doors, and a greater rate of acceleration were all factors adding to the power consumption of the Class 375 fleet - the greater weight of units compared to existing Mk 1s (as a result of new crashworthiness standards) added to this.
The first four-vehicle Class 375, No. 375001 was delivered to Ashford from Derby in April 1999, set to embark on an intensive testing programme before acceptance into service. In testing, the first four units delivered were required to cover 200,000 miles, with a maximum of three faults over the distance before being commissioned by Connex. All subsequent units were required to cover just 1000 miles with no faults, before acceptance. Testing of units passed into the hands of state-run South Eastern Trains in late December 2003 after the Connex South Eastern franchise was terminated prematurely, due to ''financial mismanagement''. Delivery of vehicles from Bombardier after the initial test examples was somewhat slow, although by the end of June 2004, just over half of the fleet had been accepted into service. Major improvements over older stock have been the incorporation of CCTV monitoring systems, improved crashworthiness and automatic doors, but perhaps at the cost of reduced legroom and the lack of a Guard's compartment for storage of large items such as bikes and suitcases.
First Scheduled Class 375 Workings (Summer 2001 Timetable)
07:55 Ramsgate to London Victoria
08:10 Ramsgate to London Victoria
09:59 London Victoria to Ramsgate
10:59 London Victoria to Ramsgate
12:55 Ramsgate to London Victoria
13:55 Ramsgate to London Victoria
18:35 London Victoria to Ramsgate
19:00 London Victoria to Ramsgate
No. 375820 is seen approaching the 'Chatham side' of Victoria on 22nd October 2004, forming
part of a seven-car formation. It will be interesting to see how long these units maintain their
''shiny'' appearance. David Glasspool
In some cases the shiny appearance is not long lasting! A somewhat grubby No. 375622 is seen
leaving Sittingbourne on 11th March 2004, forming the rear of an eight coach train to Thanet.
A Class 375 is seen trundling over Horton Kirby Viaduct, having just passed through Farningham
Road station, on a Faversham-bound service on 10th August 2005. David Glasspool
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