Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited Stewarts Lane depot on 30 July to view the first Southern class 377/6 to be delivered.
The visit coincided with the an announcement that the contract with Bombardier to supply a further 116 vehicles has been confirmed in a deal worth £180 million. News of the new contract will provide a boost to workers at the Derby plant.
Reflecting on this Mr McLoughlin told 46 railstaff, ‘I think Bombardier has put it behind them. There was disappointment and I shared that disappointment, but the amount of investment we’re putting into the railways means that there are more orders coming including the order for Crossrail trains that will be determined next year. I think there’s every opportunity for Bombardier to compete.’
The class 377/6 is the latest in a series that dates back to 1997. The design philosophy behind the Electrostars stems from rail privatisation when train builders had the opportunity to ditch a made for measure approach and opt for an off the shelf design that was a non-specific, go almost anywhere type of train.
Improvements in the 377/6, which makes use of the class 379 body design that is compliant for crashworthiness and tunnel operation, include the use of traditional windows as opposed to ribbon glazing and there is a slight difference in body profile at floor step level. The train also has new software for the Orbita maintenance management system.
Before the first class 377/6 can enter passenger service it has to accumulate 1,500 miles of trouble free running and undergo compatibility tests to ensure that it can operate with earlier variants of Southern class 377s. The first unit is expected to enter service in September, with the whole fleet ready for the December timetable change.