Whilst we’re dealing with a pandemic still, there is progress on the UK Rail network – with the trains destined for Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) cleared to work past Heathrow Junction and into the Heathrow Airport complex.
The new trains – Bombardier Aventra Class 345 – have had their onboard ETCS signalling equipment cleared for use by Office of Rail & Road.
Currently, there are 70 of these train sets that will be utilised once Crossrail fully opens (currently, they are being used between London Paddington and Reading, and London Liverpool Street and Shenfield). The Class 345 trains will replace existing Siemens Class 360 trains used by TfL Rail on local services between Heathrow and Paddington.
With the new signalling equipment live and trains using it, it will facilitate the entry into service of the replacement Heathrow Express trains. Currently – these are the Siemens Class 332 trains that were introduced when the line opened.
These will be replaced with Bombardier Class 387 trains that are coming from Great Western Railway (who will also operate the service), which are being retrofitted to have ECTS installed.
As for the onboard experience, it’s going to be a little different. Whilst the older Class 360 trains had a mixture of airline and facing seats, Class 345 have a mixture of facing seats and longitudinal seating
Also, don’t expect a toilet onboard these new trains – as these are primarily for moving people from A to B (rather than moving A to B in comfort).
Moving to a unified fleet
When TfL Rail came into existence (the precursor to Crossrail/Elizabeth Line), older trains were the name of the game. Whilst Crossrail is nowhere near open, the new trains are ready to go and are operating across the network. The Class 360s – whilst comfortable trains, stood out like a sore thumb, operating to one destination on the network.
The real benefit of these trains will be when the Crossrail tunnels open – allowing travel from Heathrow Airport to the heart of London, without having to change at Paddington station.
Hopefully, this will be between late 2021 and 2022…
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