It seems that South West Railway is to bid farewell to the Class 442 “Wessex Electrics” trains, with the trains to be withdrawn and returned to the lessor
The Class 442 trains were in the process of being refurbished for use on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth route, with both internal refits and equipment refits, replacing the life-expired traction equipment.
However, with the project suffering setbacks in terms of re-entry into service, along with a downturn in traffic, these trains have not been in passenger use since March 2020.
South Western Railway leased 18 of the type – 11 of which have been re-tractioned and fully refurbished at the point where funding stopped for the refurbishment.
However, with the downturn in traffic, it seems these are no longer required, with South Western Railway to return the type to their lessor.
Powerful Plastic Piggies
The Class 442 – sometimes known as “Plastic Pigs” were introduced in 1988 by Network South East, with the body based on the popular Mark III body, whilst using traction equipment recovered from the 4-REP. In April 1988, one set the speed record for a 3rd Rail Train, at 108mph.
The trains themselves were five-car train sets, sometimes operating in pairs to create 10 car trainsets. Build as longer-range trains, these were more “Intercity” style, featuring air conditioning and plug-end doors (in an era when hopper windows and slam door stock was still popular).
After their introduction they spread their wings from the London-Weymouth route, expanding to the London-Portsmouth route where they remained until 2007.
They were then redeployed on the Gatwick Express and Southern networks to provide capacity between London and Gatwick/Brighton. They were then taken out of service in 2017, to be picked up by South Western Railway to provide extra capacity along the London Waterloo – Portsmouth route, planning for 2 x 2 seating.
However, after their reentry into service in 2019 (with numerous issues forcing their withdrawal)
Enter the Class 458
With Class 442 being withdrawn, South West Railway will take its refurbish the Class 458 trains.
These trains have been used for their suburban services, even though they’ve had less than a great history, with a troubled introduction, initial poor reliability before being extended in a costly project using Gatwick Express trainsets to enlarge and extend the fleet to 36 trains
The new plan calls for the type to reformed from 5 car trains to 4 car trains (to allow 12 car operation on the mainline) and regear them for 100mph operation, with 28 trainsets.
What next for Class 442?
Whilst the Class 442 have been offered for other purposes in the past (one proposal was to use them on Transpennine Express routes, which was rejected by franchise operators), as well as an open-access operation operating between Southampton and London.
There could be a preservation effort for one of the driving cars a driving car, with the Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board nominating one for preservation.
In the short term, expect the class to be hauled off into storage.
But in the longer term, they may face the crusher (as two of them have done so far), with limited demand for third rail units.
Welcome to Economy Class and Beyond – Your no-nonsense guide to network news, honest reviews, with in-depth coverage, unique research, as well as the humour and madness as I only know how to deliver.
Also remember that we are part of the BoardingArea community, bringing you the latest frequent flyer news from around the world.