This is a ‘Happy Train’ or a Class 365 Networker. They date from the mid 1990’s and have been suggested as a solution to Scotrail’s lack of trains available for The Edinburgh and Glasgow mainline (via Falkirk) route.
The ‘Happy Trains’ are coming off lease after replacement by new class 700 units for Thameslink/Great Northern.
They are 4 carriage 20 metre long units.
Scotrail’s lease arrangements for a number of diesel units is up and these are due to move south, some have already been received at Northern.
The Hitachi class 385 units that were to replace them have been held up due to an issue with vision in the drivers cabs through a curved Windscreen.
The Happy Trains are one of the few available electric multiple units that Scotrail might get their hands on.
Some online forums have speculated on a cascade of the existing Siemens Desiro Class 380’s from Inverclyde and Ayrshire to fill in.
These are already used in two sets of seven carriage formations for selected journeys on the E&G.
E&G passengers have already complained about the stub tables on the 380’s for their ‘essential laptop working’, and there’s mutterings on the lack of first class on the units and that’s there’s no particular time benefit from running in a mixed timetable with diesel units also preset on the line.
Conversely, there’s an issue for Inverclyde commuters. At times, a forty minute or longer journey is carried out by Class 314’s that don’t have toilets and the comfort or facilities of the 380’s.
Local press and politicians in Inverclyde have been noisy about the downgrade.
Rumours and speculation are abound and there’s been mention of a wholesale transfer of 380 units as well as more 320/4’s created from class 321’s.
Certainly there’s a plan for more conversions of 321’s but this may only be five units.
Perhaps, a more Simple answer for Scotrail is to procure a replacement fleet for the E&G as all infrastructure on Ayrshire and Inverclyde lines is set for the 380’s.
That’s where the Happy Train and a series of questions comes in.
Firstly, should the 380 fleet transfer over to E & G duties?
It must tempt Scotrail, but the fleet and it’s working diagrams are based out of Shields depot to the West of Glasgow.
The limited transfer of units for use on the E&G was supposed to be temporary.
A long term transfer east of the fleet would give issues and not least in terms of Ayrshire and Inverclyde passengers losing ‘their trains’.
Theres a further question of resourcing suitable units to replace the 380’s and work with the infrastructure and equipment on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes.
Secondly, the issue is on the E&G, isn’t it?
Proposed schedules for completion of the EGIP electrification slipped and these delays should have made sure that the introduction of the proposed rolling stock was on time.
At present, not all units are complete and not all units have been delivered.
Therefore, can Scotrail come up with rolling stock for the E&G and stop a knock-on effect on other routes and their usual unit allocations.?
Units intended for EGIP were also meant for the Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa services and for a fleet strengthening to ensure that the class 314’s could be retired in 2018.
So what should happen now?
There’s only so long that a temporary solution can be found and like any other business, Scotrail will have income to derive from its services and will want some certainty.
The question is how long it takes to resolve the issues with the 385’s, and how long to fix a solution to the window issue and have all units ready in service.
There’s a time and familiarity issue for train crew, drivers especially, and even a temporary fix in using another class of train would mean time and expense.
I’m unconvinced that it’s worthwhile for Scotrail to go to the lengths of bringing up a ‘new to Scotland’ class of electric multiple unit and train staff in using it, before converting all E & G route journeys.
The only way this might happen is if the frontages of the class 385’s need entirely replaced and with two windows on each cab end and 70 units total means 140 ‘fixes’ and quite possibly, that issue might take a bit of time and effort.
This image by Thomas Nugent clearly shows the difference in window size when compared to a class 380. Thomas Nugent Geograph
When seen together, it shows the difference in design used by Hitachi.
The original design was without a gangway between units.
The visual was later altered to Scotrail livery before the design with gangway was added.
In overall terms, it’s quite a change and there’s even a difference to the test units as captured above with the Siemens 380.
Hitachi have also had to endure some criticism of their Intercity Express Programme units introduced on the Great Western routes, however, the issue with these units isn’t at a great time and is at a point when rival manufacturers CAF and Siemens are building UK plants and where Bombadier have been introducing their Products to a number of franchises.
As to the ‘Happy Train’ Networker, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be the expense of time and effort to bring them to Scotland especially if a solution to the 385’s problems is months away.
Then again. I’ve been wrong before.