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British trains have the oldest carriages since records began, says research

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British trains have the oldest carriages since records began, says research

Rail passengers in Britain are travelling on the oldest carriages since records began, research has found.

Customers are using trains that were typically built in the mid-1990s, making them 21-years-old on average.

That is older than at any point in publicly available records.

The findings come as passengers face a rise in fares by an average of 3.4% – the biggest in five years – as of tomorrow.

The Office of Rail and Road, which produced the statistics, has previously said older trains can mean worse reliability, less comfortable journeys and poorer performance.

Travellers using the Caledonian Sleeper service between London and Scotland have to put up with Britain’s oldest trains at 42 years.

Merseyrail has the second-oldest fleet at 38 years. Stephen Joseph of the Campaign for Better Transport said it shows “just how far the railways have to go to modernise”.

He said: “We’ve been promised new trains by several train operators... we now want to see these promises turn into reality."
Many lines, like the Hallam line linking Sheffield - Leeds via Barnsley, Wakefield and Castleford, and Sheffield - Huddersfield have 35 year old Pacers running on them, whose scrapping was promised in 2010, in sharp contrast to the investment London and the South East gets. And we know there will be similar horror stories elsewhere.
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Almost none of that is accurate, even if you ignore the London Underground fleet. The sleepers date from 1982/83, the day coaches from 1975. The same vehicles are used by DRS in Cumbria and Anglia, so those trains are on average older than the sleeper fleet. The Chiltern and Anglia mk3s date from 1975 and the class 313s used on Great Northern and Southern from 1975/76, so are several years older than the Merseyrail fleet. And of course the oldest of all are the 1938 Bakerloo stock now running on the Isle of Wight.

Not that old carriages always means bad, it depends on how good a design they were in the first place and how they are maintained. The Chiltern mk3s can offer an excellent journey experience.
British trains have the oldest carriages since records began, says research

Many lines, like the Hallam line linking Sheffield - Leeds via Barnsley, Wakefield and Castleford, and Sheffield - Huddersfield have 35 year old Pacers running on them, whose scrapping was promised in 2010, in sharp contrast to the investment London and the South East gets. And we know there will be similar horror stories elsewhere.
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Indeed - some of the earlier class 313 units working on Great Northern suburban lines and also on Southern Coastway are already well past their 42nd birthday. And there are also five mk3 vehicles still in service on the GWML/ECML dating from spring 1972 that were part of the prototype HST set. Some will soon see their 46th birthday in service.

Plenty of ex BR stock will be in service well into the 2020s.

Looking further ahead, it is inevitable that some mk3s will go well past their 50th with Scotrail - and possibly with Chiltern too.

And as for locos.... the oldest two in frontline service will be 56 years old this year! :lol:
The average life expectancy of these trains and carriages is normally between 35 and 40 years, so there's nothing odd in 30 to 40 year stock being still around. .
That was Ian Walmsley, who used to be involved with procuring rolling stock for Porterbrook, so he knows what he is talking about. The present situation is weird to say the least, some electric rolling stock with plenty of life left in it is being cast aside needlessly (for example the SWR class 458s which are barely 15 years old). Meanwhile diesel class 150 sprinters dating from 1986-88 are expected to soldier on for years yet in many parts of the country and are getting extensive corrosion repairs. Yet in Anglia everything (including 1980s diesel sprinter units) are being replaced.

There is no coherent policy across the country and (for example) the premature replacement of the high quality IC225 trains on the East Coast will mean higher ticket prices to pay for the lease of expensive new IEP trains.

British Rail was generally consistent and logical. Reliable and fit for purpose rolling stock was often cascaded onto the lesser routes when replaced by newer trains, giving an uplift in quality. Generally BR aimed to keep commuter diesel trains running for up to 30 years and electrics up to 40 years.
In a recent article in Modern Rail magazine a writer was complaining that rolling stock owners were scrapping trains far too early. I think it was a mixture of them, the operating companies and the government who were just losing the head of themselves in the search for shiny new train orders. They also came in for criticism for not having enough ambition to sell their disused stock to other companies/ countries. Why privatisation has led to this spendthrift attitude I don't know, or at least can't remember what the article implied.
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Let's get this right. THE only trains running anywhere in Yorkshire that are 35 years or older are High Speed trains forming VTEC or Cross Country services. Local diesel trains built for BR date from 1986 to 1991, so they are between 27 and 32 years old, not 35 or 36. It is also complete rubbish to say all trains in Yorkshire were hand me downs from elsewhere. In early 1993 I travelled from York to Scarborough and back on almost new 'Provincial' liveried class 158s. Ten years later I travelled on a brand new TPE class 185 from Leeds to York. Yorkshire also saw brand new class 170s delivered early this century while West Yorkshire got brand new class 333 electrics about 20 years ago.

It may be the case in early 2018 that trains in the south east are on average a bit younger, but 15 years ago (before many mk1 electrics were scrapped) Yorkshire had a much younger fleet. And when the new CAF and Hitachi trains are delivered for Northern and TPE in 2019 it probably will again.

The north has no really old trains. A few months ago I had to travel from Heathrow to Barnet. Most of the journey was on a Piccadilly train built in 1973 or 1974. At Finsbury Park the class 313 I caught was also ancient - dating from 1975 or 1976.

Pacers of course are very poor trains, but they will be withdrawn next year and brand new replacement air conditioned trains will be introduced onto many Northern routes. In contrast that old tube train from Heathrow will continue running for at least another six years, no air con ever happening for them!
The investment has largely been down in the South East. Up North and in the South West, most of it is old and worn out. Our trains are already 35 years old. They'd go apeshit if our Pacers started running in the South East. And as for new trains, all we can expect are hand me downs from other parts of the network. That isn't good enough. The last time we did get brand new trains in our area that weren't hand me downs was back in 1959 - almost 60 years ago!!!!
Actually Northern does have some old vehicles forming a few services, albeit owned and run on their behalf by DRS in Cumbria. The two rakes of loco hauled mk2 stock date from 1974/75 and when working correctly give a much better passenger experience than any other trains that Northern operate!

In reply to 1M14, there are some instances where an operator may need to ditch stock that still has useful economic life - the Thameslink 319s for example, not enough performance and not enough of them to run the enhanced service. So the new Siemens 700s were justified in that case. Leasing charges tend to be lower for older stock, but higher maintenance and energy bills or increasing unreliability and unattractiveness to passengers can also swing the case towards new build.
Although I suppose the hidden corrosion issues on the 458s would have surfaced sooner or later, so perhaps their re-engineering by Wabtec stopped the rot in good time - so to speak.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the 458s once SWR are done with them. A fleet of 36 modern air-conditioned 5-car units is a big wedge of people-carrying capability. Wonder if they have space for underfloor diesel engines like the 319s? Could potentially solve various issues on the lines to Uckfield, Marshlink etc. :)
Indeed. The 458/460 rebuild was a nightmare when the level of corrosion in some of the units was uncovered. Now they're going to be surplus to requirements long before the ROSCO's recouped the investment.

Refurbs are frought with difficulties. I visited the Arriva depot at Crewe late last year with RAIL mag for a feature on the work they do. There was a lot of unplanned work being done to some units because of the corrosion that was found once the units had been stripped back.
The first of the brand-new EMU and DMU fleet being built on behalf of Northern trains has been displayed today by manufacturers CAF in Spain.

This current order will see the withdrawal of many knackered 1980s vintage trains, especially the class 142/143 pacers. And it will considerably reduce the average age of the rolling stock being used in the north of England. Interesting to note that these 3-car and 4-car EMUs can be extended to five cars if necessary.
Arguably the delay in binning pacers in Wales is essentially down to the WAG, who didn't seem to have grasped the pressing need to decide what they are going to do with the South Wales commuter lines. We still have no idea if they want (or indeed could afford to pay for) electric heavy rail or electric light rail etc. They could have ordered diesel / battery hybrid class 230s with bogies and toilets from Vivarail, which would have been a decent upgrade compared to the class 142 pacers - especially as aircon is now an option.

Pacers of all types are definitely history in northern England by the 2020 deadline - as long as CAF successfully get their trains into reliable service. The plan for the single car 153s as I understand was to splice them into class 150/156 units - which will have PRM compliant toilets.
Currently the age of UK train fleets are a very curious mixture, and logic seems in short supply. We have high quality mk3 carriages in diesel High Speed Train sets for Scotland that will easily pass their 50th year in service, yet large numbers of mk3 electric regional trains of barely 30 years age seem to be destined to be scrapped by 2020.

Our mk3 sleeping cars are only 35-36 years old, yet many of these excellent vehicles (with air conditioning) are about to be replaced. More than 50 of them in fact. Perhaps Romania should buy these?
1) Railway rolling stock is expensive so that's why it will be used for a long time;
2) If they think those cars are old, they should come to Romania. The can see the glance of old sleeping cars... 'cause we have some former D.B. (German Railways, former West German) sleeping cars made between 1959 and 1972 (most of them are made after 1962, but I once had the chance to spot one from 1959). They are nasty if there's too hot (no air conditiong), but they are superbe! Look for WLABmh 174 and 175 or vagoane de dormit 71-31.
The points you make regarding anticipated life-time costs and obsolete electronics dating from the 1980s/1990s are very pertinent. Other factors influencing the favoured procurement of new trains are the current low level of interest (making it easier to finance new train fleets) and the ability of modern electric trains to regenerate electricity back into the wires. The typical energy saving of 15% adds to up to very large savings over a number of decades.

Even so this is not by any means a perfect free market and some rather perverse outcomes are happening. So thirty year old class 150 diesels are receiving very expensive corrosion repairs to allow them to stagger on for another ten years, while recently re-tractioned class 455s of similar vintage are soon to be replaced by new Bombardier units despite the costs that are now sunk into the modern AC motors.

In some cases the vehicle owners (ROSCOs) are facing significant financial losses with even their fairly modern fleets now looking for a new home (especially in Anglia). This may not seem concerning to the tax payer, but this will have an effect on future train orders by ROSCOs if a much higher level of risk is perceived. Which will mean higher leasing charges and either higher fares or lower repayments to government.

Not sure why the class 319 to class 769 conversion has seemingly stalled - I'm sure bodywork corrosion issues were sorted a long time ago. It seems to be complex technical issues with adding diesel engines to a straight electric.
It's market forces rather than logic, with a bit of government intervention on top. The cost of constructing a train fleet is an increasingly small proportion of the lifetime cost of it. That means the 'waste' of replacing reasonably new fleets can be justified economically. The newest trains are designed to be so much more efficient and maintainable that there's a compelling reason to replace trains only a decade or so old.

A factor people start to forget is that privatisation was more than 20 years ago. For a lot of railway-minded people this was an epoch, with everything before being old, and everything after being new. The simultaneous move to apply accessibility regulations adds to that. Therefore, when we hear about post-privatisation fleets being replaced (like the Class 458s) we think it's a great waste since they're still 'new'.

A notable factor in this is that trains from the late BR/early privatisation period came at a time of rapid technological development when we hadn't quite settled things. We moved from very traditional big-chunks-of-metal traction systems to semiconductor systems, which have now been succeeded by even better technologies. This means that mid-life trains are likely to be actually more expensive to maintain than older ones using more rudimentary technology. It's easy to keep something going indefinitely if a well-equipped workshop is all you need to make any replacement parts. Early semiconductors aren't produced any more, and they can't be replaced piecemeal with new systems.

Speaking of old trains, one of the things we are seeing is less than spectacular success in refurbishing them to a modern standard. A big reason for this is that the cost of a new train is largely the complex components inside rather than the bodyshell and other big heavy bits of metal. When you refurbish an old train, you end up stripping it back to these big bits of metal and then install new components. If the components are most of the cost, then the process of refurbishing is actually going to involve most of the cost of building a new train, but without the 30-40 year service life ahead of it and with the complexity of shoe-horning components into an often-rusted body not designed for them. The Class 319 and 321 refurbishment programmes aren't going well at all for exactly that reason. The HST refurbishments aren't so bad because all that really needs done are the new doors and the retention toilets, as the traction systems are all in the power cars and were replaced only a decade ago anyway.
You don't get something for nothing and there will be consequences eventually for rail users - although my heart isn't bleeding too much for the original ROSCOs, who as you said had plenty of good times. Whether the new ROSCOs will make the payback they expect on new trains remains to be seen - except those guaranteed of long leases by government.

It is looking like curtains for all the 1970s PEP units and probably most of the suburban mk3 EMUs dating from the 1980s. In the 21st century UK passengers increasingly expect their train to be air conditioned and quiet. This can be done (see the class 321 Renatus conversions), but it is more cost and complexity which may not financially work for older stock.

The UK will soon see some very large displaced modern EMU fleets from the privatisation era, including:

5-car Alstom class 458s (presently DC only).
4-car class 360 Desiros from East Anglia.
5-car class 360 Desiros from Heathrow Connect.
4-car class 350 Desiros from the West Coast
4-car class 379 Electrostars from West Anglia
5-car class 707 Desiro City from SWR (presently DC only)

Will be interesting to see where all these fleets end up. And then seeing if other high quality fleets such as the 365s have a future. Not sure I would put money yet on class 321 hydrogen units, but they may work out if the supply can be sorted. Viva Rail with their ex District Line class 230 looks to have a big lead over the major builders, with affordable battery technology that they can quickly supply as working trains.
The government is happy to see this level of competition. The ROSCOs made too much money at privatisation and they're now facing the consequences. Most of these amazing new rolling stock introductions are funded by new entrants who have nothing to lose from leasing costs going down.

The difference between London commuterland and the rest of the country is about the value of optimisation. Outside of London there's plenty of enhancements to be made just by adding a few more trains to the track and making them a bit longer. Around London these are no longer possible, due to packed timetables, maxed out platform lengths and depots that can't take more trains. The only way to increase capacity is to replace the existing trains regardless of how modern they may be.

Some of these ex-London trains are probably going to end up used elsewhere through novel schemes. Porterbrook are working with Alstom on hydrogen power packs for their 321s, which would make them useful on much more of the network. Batteries, hydrogen and diesel engines are novel things which the traditional ROSCOs are going to end up plowing a lot of money into, as otherwise their assets will simply be worthless. There's not enough electrification happening or planned to absorb ex-London trains now. For a while that's what the ROSCOs were planning on - they even thought they could send nearly 40-year-old EMUs displaced by Crossrail over to Cardiff.
Some of the very oldest carriages still running on the mainline in normal service belong to the Caledonian Sleeper fleet - the 'day' coaches with seats are British Rail mk2s dating back to 1974 or 1975. The sleeper carriages are actually a bit younger, dating from 1982 or 1983.

Within a few months all these BR carriages are due for replacement by a £100 million new fleet, built in Spain by CAF. Testing started in Scotland last year but today the first rake has been to Euston - in daylight.
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Plenty of images - some old, some new. By just putting 'Caledonian sleeper carriages' into Google Images. Also try 'Caledonian sleeper mk2'.
Hello. Do you have any picture with those old carriges?
313001 dates from late 1975 I believe, so over 43 years old... Southern seem happy with theirs, including that one - they presumably have nice low lease rates. Plenty of more modern EMUs coming off-lease soon, we shall see if the 313s make it to 45. They have been a good design, efficient and reliable over the decades.

The oldest passenger carrying vehicle used in service trains on the mainline IIRC is a mk2D coach on the Fife Circle commuter trains, dating from June 1971.
Finally. I really wan't to try the Sleeper but I'm waiting for the new carriages ;)

If we at the subject one of the old British trains, we have to mention class 313 of Great Northern which should be soon gone as class 717 is finally getting introduced on services to Moorgate Station.

BTW, any news when are they going to remove class 313 from Southern operations? They are around 40 years old...
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