FirstGroup and MTR order £895m new trains for South Western rail franchise

Tuesday 20th June 2017

Much needed extra seats for suburban rail services into London Waterloo moved a step closer today as new South Western franchise operators FirstGroup and MTR signed an order for 90 new trains (750 new carriages, in five and 10 car formations).

The £895m fleet of “AVENTRA” trains, providing a 46% increase in peak capacity on the suburban routes into Waterloo, will be manufactured by Bombardier Transportation in Derby. The new trains will enhance the travelling experience for customers with free reliable Wi-Fi, at-seat charging points, real time information screens, air conditioning, wide gangways and wide doors to improve ease of boarding and alighting. The new trains will start to come into service from mid 2019 and will all be in place by December 2020.

The new trains will operate on the Windsor, Reading and West London suburban routes. The fleet will be maintained at Wimbledon depot, with South Western franchise employees undertaking the maintenance, supported by Bombardier employees who will supply technical advice and spares.

FirstGroup and MTR included the plans for these new trains as part of their winning bid for the South Western rail network, with the new franchise due to start on 20 August this year. They will be capable of 100mph, be highly energy efficient and will contribute to reduced journey times.

Funding for the trains has been led by sponsor Rock Rail and partners SL Capital (part of Standard Life Investments) and GLIL Infrastructure LLP, who all provided the equity investment. The senior debt is provided by a consortium of UK, European and North American institutional investors.  The trains will be leased to the new South Western rail franchise.

Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: “We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will provide more frequent trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service that passengers across the South Western network expect.

“This multi-million pound investment in a new fleet of British-built trains is excellent news for South Western passengers and the British economy. This investment reflects our commitment, and that of train operators, to put passengers at the heart of everything we do, and will improve journeys and target congestion.”

Steve Montgomery, Managing Director, First Rail said: "We have exciting plans for the South Western rail franchise and these new trains are an important step on the way to delivering an improved journey experience for our passengers.  We know from listening to passengers and stakeholders that alongside improved performance, what they want to see is additional seats and we will deliver this via these state-of-the-art trains."

Jeremy Long, CEO, European Business at MTR, said: “We look forward to working together with FirstGroup to introduce this new fleet of trains.”

Richard Hunter, UK Managing Director, Bombardier Transportation, said “We are thrilled to have won this important contract.  It demonstrates further confidence placed in this market leading rolling stock, designed and built in Britain.  This order is a fantastic endorsement of our skilled workforce and the quality of the products we design, engineer and manufacture here in the UK.  It will ensure a stable, long-term workload for our staff in Derby. AVENTRA offers enhanced performance and increased passenger capacity, which will play an important part in helping FirstGroup and MTR satisfy continued levels of passenger growth on the South Western network.”

Mark Swindell, Chief Executive Officer of Rock Rail said: “Rock Rail are delighted to be funding and leasing these trains which will bring a step change to the travelling experience for so many commuters. Our funders are leading pension and insurance institutions from both the UK and overseas who are directly investing in the UK’s long term economic infrastructure, on a basis that delivers significant cost savings and value for money enhancement for UK operators. We look forward to working closely with FirstGroup and MTR and all our partners to bring these trains into service.”