British Rail Class 700

British Rail Class 700 Desiro City

700110 at London Blackfriars on a training run

Class 700 Thameslink interior
In service 20 June 2016 – present [1]
Manufacturer Siemens Mobility[2]
Built at Krefeld, Germany[2]
Family name Desiro City[2]
Constructed 2014
Number under construction 55 twelve-car units (660 vehicles)[3]
60 eight-car units (480 vehicles)[3]
115 units in total (1129 vehicles)
Formation 8 or 12 carriages per unit
Fleet numbers 700001 to 700060 (8 car)[3]
700101 to 700155 (12 car)[3]
Capacity 427 (52 first, 373 standard) seats, 719 standing (8-car)[3]
666 (52 first, 614 standard) seats, 1,088 standing (12-car)[3]
Operator(s) Thameslink
Depot(s) Hornsey, Three Bridges[2]
Train length 162.0 m (531 ft 6 in) (8-car)
242.6 m (795 ft 11 18 in) (12-car)
Car length 20.2 m (66 ft 3 14 in)
Width 2.80 m (9 ft 2 14 in)
Floor height 1.10 m (43.31 in)
Wheel diameter 820 to 760 mm (32.28 to 29.92 in) (new/worn)
Maximum speed 160 km/h (100 mph)
Weight 278 t (274 long tons; 306 short tons) (8-car)
410 t (400 long tons; 450 short tons) (12-car)
Power output 3.3 MW (4,400 hp) (8-car, at wheel)
5.0 MW (6,700 hp) (12-car, at wheel)
Electric system(s) 25 kV 50 Hz AC Catenary
750 V DC Third rail
Current collection method Pantograph (AC)
Contact shoe (DC)
UIC classification 8 car: Bo'Bo'+2'2'+Bo'Bo'+2'2'+2'2'+Bo'Bo'+2'2'+Bo'Bo'

12 car: Bo'Bo'+2'2'+Bo'Bo'+Bo'Bo'+2'2'+2'2'+
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Sources : Desiro City data sheet
Except where noted

The British Rail Class 700 is an electric multiple-unit passenger train being built for Thameslink as part of the Thameslink Programme in the United Kingdom.

A fleet of 60 eight- and 55 twelve- car trains is expected to enter service between spring 2016 and 2018. Associated rolling stock depots are being built at Hornsey and Three Bridges. The first train was delivered in late July 2015.

In 2011 the consortium Cross London Trains (XLT) consisting of Siemens Project Ventures, 3i Infrastructure and Innisfree was announced as preferred bidder with Siemens to manufacture the trains. The decision was politically controversial as the trains were to be built in Germany, while the competing consortium led by Bombardier Transportation had a train factory in the UK. Both the procurement process and final close of contract were significantly delayed, resulting in the expected first delivery date moving from 2012 to 2016. The £1.6 billion contract to manufacture and provide service depots for the trains was finalised in June 2013.

The first unit was introduced on 20 June 2016.


The Department for Transport began its procurement process (Thameslink Rolling Stock Project, or Thameslink Rolling stock Programme) on 9 April 2008, with the aim of introducing more passenger capacity on Thameslink lines to match expected demand. In addition, the bidders were to provide depots for vehicle maintenance and storage, and finance for the rolling-stock project whereby revenues would be generated from the long-term leasing of rolling stock to the operating train operating company and associated maintenance payments.[4]

The general specifications included: high reliability, short station dwell times, integrated information technology including passenger information and information for vehicle maintenance, a top speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) and high acceleration and deceleration performance in line with a high-frequency timetable.[note 1] The trains were to be designed for low weight, low track forces and high energy efficiency. A standard-length train was to be about 240 metres (790 ft) long, with some services using trains limited to 162 metres (531 ft).[4]

The passenger accommodation was to include versions for both "metro" and "commuter" trains,[note 2] based around a 2+2 seating arrangement, with fold-up seats and designed for high levels of standing passengers.[4] Ride quality and noise levels were expected to equal or be better than those of current vehicles. Climate control (air-conditioning) was to be fitted.[6] The vehicles were to be fitted for driver-only operation, and to include GSM-R communications radio, as well as AWS, TPWS and ERTMS level 2 safety systems. The ability to be used in a "driverless" mode (automatic train operation) was also specified.[6]

Vehicles were to operate on 750 V DC and 25 kV AC electrification systems, with regenerative brakes. Maintenance time was to be reduced by the use of modular components, remote diagnostics, and the avoidance of over-complicated systems.[6] The Department for Transport gave a target of 384 tonnes (378 long tons; 423 short tons) when empty for a 243 m (797 ft) train.[6]


In July 2008 the Department for Transport shortlisted consortia including Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi and Siemens as train builders.[7] The invitations to tender were issued to the four bidders in November 2008.[5]

Hitachi exited the bidding process in April 2009.[8]

In July 2009 Siemens unveiled the Desiro City, a development of design and technology used in its British Desiro range and the Desiro Mainline range.[9] Development of the design began in 2007, with an investment of about £45 million.[2][10]

In September 2009 Alstom unveiled the "X'trapolis UK, unusually an articulated vehicle, using 15.6 metres (51 ft) cars, with individual carriages proposed to be supported at one end by a bogie, and at the opposite end by a linkage to the next carriage. The shorter vehicle allowed a slightly wider design; the smaller number of bogies was to have resulted in a train approximately forty tonnes lighter than a conventional design.[11] However, the design would have resulted in a higher axleload. The bid was rejected in October 2009.[12]

Bombardier Transportation offered the Aventra, a design incorporating a development of the FLEXX Eco inside frame bogie with bogie-mounted traction motors.[13]

Both Bombardier's and Siemens' rolling-stock designs were conventional EMUs incorporating inside frame bogies and modern passenger and rolling stock information systems.[2][9][10][13]

Contract decision and financial close

Full size mock-up of the class 700 at ExCeL

The contract for the order was originally planned to be signed in summer 2009, with the first vehicles in service by February 2012, and squadron service by 2015.[4] The award of the contract was delayed by the 2010 general election,[14] and the subsequent spending review, following which the procurement was announced to be proceeding in late 2010.[15]

On 16 June 2011, Cross London Trains Ltd, a consortium formed by Siemens Project Ventures GmbH, Innisfree Ltd., and 3i Infrastructure Ltd., was named preferred bidder for the PFI contract, and the targeted entry of trains into service was rescheduled to 2015–2018. The vehicles would be manufactured at Siemens' plant in Krefeld, Germany, and maintenance depots were to be built at Hornsey (London) and Three Bridges (Sussex).[2] Because the trains were to be built outside the UK, the decision to award the contract to Siemens proved controversial: there was widespread criticism of the UK government's bidding process and perceived lack of support for British manufacturing,[16][17] which in turn led to a review of governmental procurement mechanisms.[18][19][20][21]

The contract was significantly delayed: initially Siemens had hoped to reach agreement in early 2012;[22] by late 2011 commercial close was hoped for by the end of the year, and financial close in early 2013.[23] Key aspects of the commercial contract were reported to have been finalised by December 2012.[24]

As a result of the delays to the procurement, in late 2012 train operating company Southern began procurement of 116 new dual-voltage EMUs from Bombardier that would be used temporarily on the Thameslink route until 2015; the order contract was finalised in July 2013[24][25][26][27] In mid-2013 the National Audit Office reported that the contract delay could negatively impact the delivery of the entire Thameslink Programme.[28]

The £1.6 billion contract to finance, supply and maintain a 1,140-carriage fleet of passenger rolling stock was finalised between the DfT, the supplier Siemens and the Cross London Trains consortium on 14 June 2013.[29][30][31]

To finance the work, loans were arranged with nineteen banks, with Lloyds, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, KfW and BTMU acting as mandated lead arrangers; the European Investment Bank also provided a debt facility. Loans for the construction of the rolling-stock depots were through Siemens Financial Services.[32]

In 2014 the National Audit Office reported on the handling of Intercity Express and Thameslink rolling-stock procurement projects by the Department for Transport. The report questioned the DfT's attempt to take leadership in the project, contrary to general policy, without any prior experience of large-scale rolling stock procurement; the NAO also said the DfT had handled communications with bidders poorly, increasing the likelihood of a legal challenge to its decisions.[33][34]

Additional orders

In addition to the Thameslink fleet, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) announced upon winning the franchise that it would seek to replace the existing Class 313 units in use on services to and from London Moorgate, with up to 25 six-car units intended to be procured.[35][36] In December 2015, GTR announced that it had selected Siemens to provide this new fleet as a follow-on order from the main Class 700 run, with entry into service expected from 2018.[37][38] The order was finalised in February 2016.[39] These will be known as Class 717s.[40][41]

Manufacture, design and introduction


SF7000 bogie

Development of a new bogie type began in 2007; the design was intended specifically for the UK market as a replacement for the SF5000 bogie. To reduce energy consumption and track access charges, a key feature of the design was reduced weight: weight-saving design elements included short wheelbase, inboard frames, a bolsterless bogie design, and hollow axles. Total bogie weight is 6.3 tonnes (powered) and 4.4 tonnes (trailer), a reduction of around one third from the SF5000 design.[42][43] The decision to procure a train with a new bogie design untested in the UK was challenged by several observers at a parliamentary investigation into the train procurement; rival bidder Bombardier already had a proven low-weight bogie.[44]

The primary suspension system uses layered rubber, with pneumatic secondary suspension. The bogie wheel base is 2,200 mm (87 in) (motor bogie) with 820 mm (32 in) wheels. Braking is by tread brakes, and regenerative braking on power bogies, and by two axle-mounted disc brakes per axle on trailer bogies.[42][45]

Prototypes of the new SF-7000 bogie were completed at Siemens' bogie plant in Graz, Austria in late 2011.[46]


There has been criticism of the seating arrangements in the Class 700s.[47] There are 666 seats on the 12-car versions of the new trains, compared to 714 on the TL's Class 377/5[48] and 807 on the GN's Class 365[49] they replace, although there will be more seats overall as services will run more frequently. The reduced number of seats is to allow for more room for passengers to stand on busy commuter trains into central London, prompting complaints from those who travel long distances on the trains. The lack of any tables (outside of First Class) has drawn similar criticism, comparing the experience to travelling on the London Underground.[50]

Manufacture and introduction

Manufacture of pre-series production trainsets began before formal financial close of the project in mid-2013.[51]

A mockup of the train was unveiled at the ExCel centre in January 2014, and then displayed at various stations in London and the surrounding area;[52][53] and testing of a 12-car unit at the Test and validation centre, Wegberg-Wildenrath began in March 2014;[51] a completed unit was presented by Siemens in Krefeld, Germany in April 2015.[54]

The first delivered train arrived in the UK by the end of July 2015, and was delivered to the Three Bridges depot.[55] The first test run on the Brighton Main Line took place in December 2015.[56]

The first train in service was unit 700108 forming the 1002 Brighton to London Bridge service on 20 June 2016. All units will have entered service by 2018.[1][57]

Fleet details

The new rolling stock was given the TOPS code 'Class 700' in 2013.[3] This was divided into Class 700/0 for eight-car units, and Class 700/1 for twelve-car units.[24][58]

In July 2013 Eversholt Rail entered into an agreement with Cross London Trains to provide long-term (22-year) asset management for the fleet of trains.[59]

There will be 60 eight-car units, and 55 twelve-car units.[60] Each set is to be a fixed length continuously gangwayed vehicle.[3] The initial livery will be "light grey with pastel blue doors and a white diagonal flash at the carriage ends".[3]

An additional 25 six car trains were ordered by GTR (2015, confirmed 2016) on winning the Thameslink franchise.[39][38]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Unit Unit nos.
Class 700/0 Thameslink
Great Northern
60 2014–2019 8 700001-700060
Class 700/1 55 12 700101-700155

Formation details

The Class 700/0 units are formed of DMCO-PTSO-MSO-TSO-TSO-MSO-PTSO-DMCO, and the Class 700/1 units are formed of DMCO-PTSO-MSO-MSO-TSO-TSO-TSO-TSO-MSO-MSO-PTSO-DMCO.[61]


In 2008 the Department for Transport commissioned a study into the location of depots for the future Thameslink rolling stock: Network Rail preferred two depots based on an expectation that at times the central area of the Thameslink route would be closed for maintenance outside commercial operational hours, with no workable alternative electrified routes available; as a result, depots on either side of the central Thameslink area were required, enabling trains to reach a depot on a nightly basis without passing through central London. A single-depot solution was also investigated, but no suitably large sites were identified for such a facility.[62]

Sites were considered at: Wellingborough (including sidings used by GB Railfreight); Hornsey (adjacent to the existing Hornsey EMU depot then operated by First Capital Connect); Cricklewood (on development land associated with the planned Brent Cross Thameslink railway station); Selhurst (on the site of the existing Selhurst Depot used by Southern); Three Bridges (a split site on either side of the main line), and Tonbridge.[63] By late 2008 the sites had been narrowed to Hornsey, Three Bridges and Tonbridge; finally Hornsey and Three Bridges were selected as a two-depot solution.[64]

In late 2009 the Hornsey depot was refused permission on grounds of its scale damaging a local conservation area.[65] In 2011 revised plans were submitted for both the Hornsey and Three Bridges schemes, with the Hornsey scheme reduced in size, and the Three bridges scheme expanded;[66] the Three Bridges depot was to be located on either side of the London to Brighton main line, with a five-road carriage shed; the Hornsey depot, to be located next to the East Coast main line, was to have a three-road carriage shed; the depots were expected to be opened in 2015 and 2016 respectively.[1]

In mid-2013 VolkerFitzpatrick was awarded the approximately £150 million contract to build the two depots.[67][68]

Three Bridges

51°06′44″N 0°09′42″W / 51.1122°N 0.1616°W / 51.1122; -0.1616 (Three Bridges rolling stock depot (Thameslink class 700)) In 2009 Arup acting on behalf of Network Rail submitted a planning application for a rolling-stock depot south of Three Bridges railway station, with facilities on either side of the Brighton Main Line.[69][note 3] The development was on a 13 ha (32 acres) site owned by Network Rail 1.5 km south of Three Bridges railway station.

The development site was on land historically used for railway use;[note 4] unbuilt on prior to railway developments; by 1910 sidings had been built east of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (Brighton Main Line), as well as an engine shed and turntable adjacent west of the site;[72] In 2008 the western development area comprised underutilised sidings and hardstanding with the site east of the mainline including operation sidings, as well as offices; tenants included English Welsh & Scottish Railway, BAM Nuttall, Colas Rail and Balfour Beatty.[73][74] The western side of the proposed development included a single-ended 280 by 23 m (919 by 75 ft) three-road maintenance shed, 13 m (43 ft) high, a wheel lathe, electricity substation, and sidings for eight 12-car trains; the eastern side included stabling for four 12-car trains, and an underframe-cleaning facility; both sides of the development were to have separate 325 m2 (3,500 sq ft) train-washing facilities, waste storage, and controlled emission toilet facilities. Site offices and warehousing were to be in a 2,857 m2 (30,750 sq ft) three-storey building northwest of the main shed.[75][76][77]

Planning permission for the development was granted in November 2009,[78] but in December the associated Hornsey depot application was blocked by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Network Rail submitted revised plans for both sites in 2011, with a smaller Hornsey scheme and an expanded Three Bridges scheme.[66] In the same period as the new application, Network Rail submitted plans for a large railway operations and signalling centre to be built adjacent to the Three Bridges depot.[79] (see Three Bridges rail operating centre).

The revised plans added additional carriage stabling on the EWS/DB Schenker freight depot to the west of the original site;[80][81][note 5] with stabling for five 8-car trains, and with CET facilities – and total stabling on the western site was increased to eleven 8-car trains. Additional major changes included expansion of the main depot to a 5-road building, 40 m (130 ft) wide; stabling on the eastern site was increased by one to five 8-car trains; and additional office and accommodation space was specified.[83]

The depot was officially opened by Patrick McLoughlin (MP) in October 2015.[84] The completed main facilities building (MFB) was 256 by 40 metres (840 by 131 ft) with five roads, each with full underfloor inspection facilities, and a light (2.5t) crane. One road had two bogie drops, and a road was fitted with 25kV AC electrification for static tests though the main building was unelectrified (third rail). Wheel lathes and carriage washes were outside the MFB.[85]


51°35′29″N 0°06′51″W / 51.5914°N 0.1142°W / 51.5914; -0.1142 (Hornsey rolling stock depot (Thameslink class 700))

Network Rail submitted a planning application in August 2009;[86] the development was split across sites east of the main railway line: the main maintenance building was north of Hornsey railway station and the A504 road (High Street/Turnpike Lane); storage sidings were located south-east of Hornsey station, adjacent to the pre-existing Hornsey EMU depot.[87]

The northern site was on rail sidings ('Coronation sidings'/'Hornsey sidings') which had been developed on made embankments from the later 19th century to early 20th century, the southern stabling area was on land that had been extensively developed as railway sidings since the early 20th century.[88][89][90]

The proposed development required bridge widening of the crossing of Turnpike lane, and additional embankment work and extensions.[91] The main maintenance building was a six-road 40 by 280 m (130 by 920 ft), 13.4 m (44 ft) high single-ended train shed, with an adjacent train wash (west) and a two-storey 12 by 117 m (39 by 384 ft) warehouse adjacent to the east.[92] The southern site included sidings for eleven 12-car trains and two 8-car trains, with cleaning and controlled emission toilet facilities.[93]

In 2009 John Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government blocked the development of the depot – the development had been subject to local and council objections on grounds including negative impact to a conservation area, as well as a potential negative impact to Haringey Council's "Haringey Heartlands" redevelopment project.[65][94]

A revised two-depot plan was produced: the southern (Three Bridges) depot was expanded to a five-road shed, while estimates for total maintenance roads required had been reduced from nine to eight. The northern depot was required to be only a three-road depot; the depot was to be suitable for 12-car trains, with wheel lathe, cleaning, warehousing and stabling facilities. Potential sites for the northern depot were reassessed and possible options reduced to three: a main depot at Coronation Sidings Hornsey; a main depot adjacent to the existing depot at Hornsey; and a site at Chesterton, Cambridge – a depot reduced in size on the site of the original plan was chosen as the best option for Network Rail.[95] The revised plan was submitted in 2011, with the main depot reduced approximately 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in height, and nearly half the area, and with estimated employment figures reduced from 270 to 120 people.[66] Rail union RMT criticised the loss of employment opportunities due to the reduced scale of the plans,[96][97] stating "Without anyone trying, Haringey has lost 150 jobs";[98] the revised scheme continued to produce significant opposition from local residents, with concerns including noise and light pollution during night working, as well as visual impact and traffic.[97][99]

The main depot was a 278 by 21.6 m (912 by 71 ft) three-road 11.3 m (37 ft) high single-ended shed, with a two-storey 182 by 12 m (597 by 39 ft) warehouse adjacent east, and a 50.6 by 6.5 m (166 by 21 ft) train-washing building adjacent west; facilities at the depot were to include equipment for heavy overhaul, with overhead synchrononsied lift cranes on one road. The southern site, adjacent to the pre-existing First Capital Connect (FCC) EMU depot, would include CET facilities, another 50.6 by 6.5 m (166 by 21 ft) train-washing building, a 260 by 7 m (853 by 23 ft) underfloor cleaning building, and shunter's cabins. Wheel-lathe facilities were to be shared with a pre-existing installation at the FCC depot. Existing sidings adjacent to the FCC depot were to be rebuilt to provide 16 roads – four arrival and departure roads, and 12 storage roads. Civil engineering work included bridge-widening across Turnpike Lane (A51) and a culverted waterway, as well as minor embankment works, and rebuilding of a footbridge at Hornsey station.[100][101][102]

The plan was given permission in late 2011.[103]

See also


  1. Up to 24 trains per hour in central London.[4]
  2. The 240 m long trains were expected to be of "outer-suburban" or "commuter" type, while the 162 m trains were expected to have both "metro" and "surburban" passenger accommodation types.[5]
  3. The development was a 'permitted development' under Part 11 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995; the application still required local council approval for certain aspects of the works including the main maintenance building and bridge widening.[70]
  4. The site is located in the 'fork' between the 1841 London and Brighton Railway; the Arun Valley Line (built by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) 1848); and the 1855 Tunbridge Wells West Railway (see Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells Central Line).[71]
  5. The new sidings required the demolition of an existing shed used for stabling of Bombardier Voyager trains.[82]


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