RDG says over half of UK trains upgraded or replaced in past 10 years

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The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has said that over half (54%) of all passenger trains on UK tracks have been replaced or upgraded in the  past 10 years, improving travel for customers.

Placed end to end, the total length of these new trains reaches more 132 miles – equivalent to the length of over 2,300 football pitches, and further than a journey from Newcastle to Sheffield or Cardiff to Coventry.

Many of the new passenger trains feature improvements in technology and design that offer a better experience to more people, whether travelling for leisure or business, introduced in consultation with a diverse group of passengers.

Collectively train operators and fleet owners including Greater Anglia, Southeastern, South Western Railway (SWR), LNER, GTR, and Avanti, alongside Angel Trains and Rock Rail, have made significant investments in better facilities on new and refurbished train to increase capacity, improve performance, provide more spacious and accessible carriages, create new luggage space or introduce at-seat charging. The rolling stock industry contributes at least £1.8 billion to the UK economy annually and supports around 30,000 jobs in the UK supply chain.

As passengers have become more reliant on mobile phones and technology while travelling, more trains now feature at-seat power points, WiFi and better connectivity. Over 80% of the national fleet is now equipped with air conditioning to provide more comfortable travel throughout the year.

The introduction of new trains has created opportunities to make rail more accessible. The rollout of features such as level boarding and accessible toilets is supporting more wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility to travel independently by train.

Greater Anglia’s new fleet of Stadler trains, which run across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and parts of Essex, includes the first mainline trains in Great Britain that provide level boarding at the national standard platform height, with lower floors and a retractable step at each door. A number of passenger groups were involved in the design phase, which included adding an additional alarm into each accessible toilet at ground level in case anyone falls to the floor.

SWR’s new fleet of Arterio trains includes regenerative braking and fully accessible bioreactor Controlled Emission Toilets (CET) for wheelchair users, which are the first to be rolled out on an entire UK fleet. The toilets, which are used in European countries including the Netherlands and Switzerland, biologically and thermally treat waste to produce wastewater that is compliant with EU bathing water standards.

New trains have been designed with sustainability in mind – an example being the new Class 345 Elizabeth Line trains and Greater Anglia’s Stadler fleet.[iv] Each Elizabeth Line train is constructed from lightweight materials and uses regenerative braking, harnessing energy and returning it to the power network when the train brakes, using up to 30% less energy as a result.

Since the introduction of LNER’s Azuma trains, its diesel consumption has reduced by 84% from over 30 million litres per year to under 5 million litres, which is the equivalent of 10 Olympic sized swimming pools, and halved its total carbon emissions.

GTR has introduced a new fleet of 8 and 12-cars on the Thameslink route. These people movers are capable of transporting over 1700 people in comfort and work on both the third rail and overhead lines, south and north of London.

Looking to the future, train operators are already testing the potential of battery powered trains with GWR trialling the FastCharge technology. This aims to solve the problem of delivering reliable, battery-only trains capable of fulfilling timetable services on branch lines, eliminating the use of diesel engines.

Improvements are also happening on longer distance routes, including LNER’s new tri-mode trains that will be able to run on overhead wires, diesel or battery power. Manufactured in County Durham using Japanese bullet train technology, the trains are made with lightweight materials and will help the company to reduce its emissions by 67 per cent by 2035.

Iconic trains built in the 1980s have been repurposed by schools as libraries or science labs, and by charities as space for information and community workshops.

Daniel Mann, director of rail industry operations at Rail Delivery Group said, “Over the past decade a huge amount of investment has gone into new and refurbished trains for our customers. People’s needs and what they expect on board have changed and we need to adapt with them.

“We have a made a huge amount of progress in renewing rolling stock and it shows what can be achieved when all parts of the rail industry are working together. We want to encourage people to travel by train, which is why investment in rolling stock is so vital.”

 Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “New and improved trains are a crucial part of attracting more passengers back to the railways.

“The past decade’s worth of investment has not only significantly bettered our trains but also supported thousands of skilled jobs around the country. This Government has also reaffirmed its commitment to UK rail manufacturing today by providing more clarity to the sector through publishing a pipeline of future requirements for trains.”

Image credit: Rail Delivery Group

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