Recognising Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane Plant #MadeInEngland

With a current order book of 2,225 vehicles, worth in excess of £3bn, the outlook for Bombardier Transportation’s Derby manufacturing plant has perhaps never looked better. The work guarantees the future of the UK plant until at least the early 2020’s, while the initial sales success of the AVENTRA, a train that was designed in Derby, specifically for the UK market suggests that further orders are likely.

The future of the historic Litchurch Lane site, which traces its history back to the very start of train building in the 1840’s has not always been so rosy. Back in 2011, then-Rail Minister, Theresa Villiers and the Department for Transport (DfT) announced on June 16, that the preferred bidder for the supply of new trains for the Thameslink route was to be Siemens Plc and Cross London (XL) Trains, a consortium comprising Siemens Project Ventures GmbH, Innisfree Limited and 3i Infrastrucure plc.

Whilst both the DfT and Siemens were keen to stress the creation of up to 2,000 jobs across the UK in component manufacturing and assembly, as well as in the construction of the new depots and subsequent train maintenance as part of their winning bid, the 1,140 new Desiro City carriages that were eventually ordered as part of the £1.6 billion contract, sealed on June 27, 2013 are all being built in Krefeld, Germany.

Bombardier had presented what the DfT viewed to be ‘an attractive proposal‘, with all of the trains to have been built in Derby. Perhaps unsurprisingly, less than three weeks after losing out to Siemens, Bombardier confirmed more than 1,400 job losses at the Litchurch Lane site, with its long-term future also uncertain

Fortunately, a pair of relatively small follow-on orders from Southern and London Overground, and the on-going production of 191 new S Stock trains made up of 1,395 vehicles for London Underground, the last of which rolled off the assembly line on December 18, 2015, was enough to sustain production at Derby until February 6, 2014 when the DfT and Transport for London (TfL) awarded the £1bn Crossrail rolling stock contract to Bombardier, which specified the delivery of 65 nine-car (200m long) AVENTRA electric multiple-unit (EMU) trains (585 vehicles) as well as the construction of a new depot at Old Oak Common for the provision of maintenance for up to 32 years.

Whilst there remains an on-going debate about manufacture vs. assembly, which I will address when I come to write about Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant, Derby is most definitely a manufacturing facility in the true sense of the word, with finished trains starting out as nothing more than  aluminium extrusions that require careful assembly and welding.

Train building, like car building is an international business with a global supply chain, but one in which the UK plays a vital part – whilst the bogies for the new AVENTRA trains are indeed manufactured at Bombardier’s Bogie Technical Centre in Siegen, Germany, a lot of their components come from the UK but most importantly, they were designed in Derby and it is that design expertise that is so vital to the continued success of the UK’s rail manufacturing renaissance.

Bombardier subsidiary, BTRoS manufactures a broad range of components in Derby for the AVENTRA trains, including the Drivers Cab and Inter End Assembly, Body End Cubicles, Underfloor Control Boxes, Underframe HV & LV Harnesses, Wiring Looms, Jumper Cables, Roof Harnesses & Cable Tray, Interior Fixings and Cab Back Wall Assemblies. Elsewhere, Gateshead-based, Petards manufacture the eyeTrain CCTV systems.

The first Class 345 test carriage was completed by Bombardier in Derby on September 10, 2015, with the first train taking to the Derby test track a little over 10 months later on July 29, 2016, in between which Bombardier also opened a new £12m Testing and Commissioning facility, known as the ‘V’ shop, on May 13 – subsequent testing was undertaken at Old Dalby, Leicestershire, whilst the front carriage of a test train was also sent to the Rail Tec Arsenal test centre in Vienna for three weeks of all-weather testing.

The first train to arrive in London was 345002, which left Old Dalby on December 8, 2016 behind DB 67013, operating the 2146 5X12 Old Dalby to Ilford EMU Depot, arriving at Ilford on December 9 – 345002 subsequently began night testing in London before making its maiden run in to London Liverpool Street on February 15, 2017.

Elizabeth line AVENTRA 345006 passes Stratford for testing


The first train to enter passenger service with TfL Rail, running between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield, Essex was 345005 on June 22, 2017. TfL’s plan is to have 11 trains in service by the autumn, all of which will initially operate as seven-car trains (160m) before being extended to nine-car sets in 2019, once platforms at Liverpool Street have been extended to accommodate them.

Shenfield station, which will be the eastern terminus for the Elizabeth line when the new service begins operating from December 2018, has seen both an additional dedicated platform (Platform 6) built, an extension to Platform 5 and the provision of three new sidings.

In the event that demand on the Elizabeth line exceeds estimates, TfL has smartly made provision for the future lengthening of both stations and trains to 11-car sets (240m long), with the final £1.3bn Crossrail contract, which was signed On February 19, 2014 including an option for 18 additional trains.

By way of comparison, the original order for 188 Bombardier Electrostar vehicles for London Overground, signed on February 20, 2008 included an option for 60 additional cars, which was exercised to provide a fleet of 54 four-car trains. This was increased again on May 7, 2013 when TfL ordered a further 57 cars, which were used to turn the existing four-car Class 378 trains into five-car versions.

London Overground 5 Car Train 378232 departs Caledonian Road & Barnsbury


On February 27, 2014, soon after announcing the initial contract award, joint Crossrail sponsors, the DfT and TfL instructed Crossrail Limited to extend the route to Reading in the West, which required an additional train set, taking the total to 594 vehicles (66 trains).

In a further boost to Derby, on July 13, 2017, TfL confirmed that off-peak services between Paddington and Whitechapel on the Elizabeth line would be increased from 16 trains as previously planned, to 20 trains per hour, and increased the number of trains required from 66 to 70.

Alongside the order from Crossrail, Bombardier is also set to manufacture 45 four-car AVENTRA EMU trains (180 vehicles) for London Overground as part of a £358m contract announced on June 19, 2015 and signed on July 3, which includes a 35-year train Service Agreement (TSA,) providing maintenance – that contract has a capital value of around £260m.

Again, there is an option for an additional 24 trains (96 vehicles), and to extend the maintenance support for a further five years. As a regular user of the ‘GOBLIN’ (Gospel Oak to Barking line) I would be amazed if the option for further trains is not exercised, given the severe overcrowding on the line.

Of the 45 new trains, designated Class 710, which are expected to enter service between December 2017 and October 2018, 31 will operate on the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford routes, which became part of the TfL network in May 2015, as well as eight on the other routes between Barking and Gospel Oak and eight between Romford and Upminster.

Artists impression of the new AVENTRA train for London Overground


Away from TfL, on August 10, 2016 Abellio was selected as the preferred bidder for the East Anglia rail franchise, which it will run from October 2016, with the contract confirmed on August 24. The new nine-year franchise, which runs until 2025 will see the replacement of the entire fleet of trains.

In further good news for Derby, on September 30, Greater Anglia awarded an £869m rolling stock contract to Bombardier for 665 AVENTRA EMU vehicles, which will be composed of 89 five-car and 22 10-car Class 720 trains, with the new trains expected to be delivered between January 2019 and September 2020. The deal also included a further £83m maintenance contract, which will run for seven years, and includes an option to extend in line with any franchise extensions.

The rolling stock will be funded by Angel Trains, who will partner with Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), and will operate on services between London Liverpool Street and Cambridge, Hertford East, Southend Victoria, Southminster, Braintree, Colchester, Clacton, Walton and Ipswich.

Artists impression of the new AVENTRA train for Greater Anglia


Finally, on June 20, 2017 Bombardier announced their largest ever AVENTRA order for 750 vehicles from FirstGroup and MTR, which formed part of their successful bid for the South Western franchise that comes in to effect on August 20. The £895m order, widely expected to have gone to Siemens, given their domination of the current South West Trains fleet, will be financed by Rock Rail and partners, SL Capital (part of Standard Life Investments) and GLIL Infrastructure LLP, with 90 new trains in place by December 2020, the first of which enters service from mid-2019.

Artists impression of the new AVENTRA train for the South Western rail franchise


Looking ahead and several forthcoming franchise renewals specify new trains as part of any contract award, whilst in the immediate future, c2c is set to appoint a manufacturer this summer for 17 four-car trains (68 carriages) due to enter service in 2019 as a direct replacement for the six Bombardier Class 387 Electrostar trains currently leased from Porterbrook, to which the AVENTRA already looks well suited.

Whilst I haven’t been to Litchurch Lane, it has been a real pleasure documenting the recent success story that is Bombardier and in particular the AVENTRA train, which is a testament to the strength of the Derby workforce, whilst living in London, I am greatly looking forward to seeing the new trains arrive. Next up, Hitachi…

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