07:20 Friday 10th April 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: I mentioned that we were going to be talking about some very exciting trains, second generation trains. They’re going to be able to carry more passengers. They’re going to be able to travel whatever the weather. And they are on course to hit Cambridgeshire’s railways next year. The trains for Great Northern and Thameslink groups also have improved access for people with disabilities, and will eventually run non-stop services between stations in Cambridgeshire and Brighton, going right across the capital. Roger Perkins is the Head of Communications at Govia Thameslink Railway. So Roger, tell us about these new second generation trains. What’s different about them?
ROGER PERKINS: Good morning, and thanks for having me on. Actually before I go any further I’d just like to say the trains have been put through some amazing testing in a chamber where they’ve been frozen right down, and shown that they still operate. They can work in all conditions. They’re fully climate controlled. They’re much better than the trains we have in service at the moment on Great Northern.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So this should mean no more delays due to snow.
ROGER PERKINS: Well the reason I wanted to pick that up is that clearly trains are still affected by what they’re running on, the track. And if you’ve got track packed up with snow or you’ve got a tree across the line, or a points that won’t allow you to switch from one side to another, or ice, that’s still going to affect the train, because obviously the train needs tracks and power supplies.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So where are we going to get the second generation tracks Roger?
ROGER PERKINS: Well let me tell you about the second generation trains. They’re going to start arriving on the Cambridge route into London next year. Now what’s really exciting is that these trains have been designed to actually run through a new tunnel that’s being built just outside Kings Cross. And it links on to the Bedford to Brighton Thameslink line. And that means from 2018, when London Bridge has been rebuilt and they’ve removed this bottleneck, we’ll be able to take the train that will start to run to Kings Cross to begin with, these new trains will run straight through this tunnel, and go through Faringdon where people will be able to pick up CrossRail to get to Heathrow, and then down to Gatwick, and then on to Brighton as well. And what we’re looking at is 3,000 extra seats from Cambridge into London by 2018.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what kind of journey time might you be looking at from say Cambridge to Gatwick?
ROGER PERKINS: Cambridge to Gatwick, one hour forty minutes. That’s about half an hour faster than it is today, when you have to get out at Kings Cross and get onto the Tube, get across London and get into another train.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Which is also, as well as long winded, it’s just a pain in the bottom, especially because when you’re going to an airport you’ve got all your bags,, haven’t you?
ROGER PERKINS: Absolutely. And these trains are very accessible. They’re designed to carry lots and lots of people. They’re also longer than a lot of the trains we have at the moment. And they come in twelve carriage format and eight carriage format. So in the morning rush-hour, the majority of our fast and semi-fast services from Cambridge will be twelve carriages long. So that’s lengthening some of our busiest eight carriage trains. And that really will make a big difference for passengers.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And I was quite interested to see that these trains haven’t been developed by one of the big engineering firms in a way. They’ve been developed by Siemens, which is better known as a technology firm.
ROGER PERKINS: Siemens is actually a very very big rail manufacturer, and they had to pitch for the business. And it was because they impressed the Government, which is sponsoring this programme, so much with the technology of these trains, which are 50% lighter than previous generation, so they cause less wear on the track, which is good news, and also much more efficient as a result, and it’s because they impressed the Government that they got the contract to build these. It’s 105 new trains are being built. Last week I was in Germany. I was actually riding one of them around a test track. They really are happening. They really are coming. They’re starting off on Bedford/Brighton services in Spring next year, and then later they’ll follow on to Great Northern between Peterborough Cambridge and Kings Cross. And then from 2018 they’ll start going through this new tunnel that’s being built, straight on to the Thameslink route. But people mustn’t forget that in central London we ‘re having Cross Rail built, so people from Cambridge will have a service that takes them direct to Faringdon, where they can get Cross Rail services every two and a half minutes, which will be going to places like Heathrow.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And Roger I just wanted to ask you quickly about another story which has cropped up in the news today.,David Cameron of the Conservatives pledging to freeze rail fares in real terms. He said he wants to prevent a quarter of a million commuters being ripped off at the ticket office. What’s your response to that?
ROGER PERKINS: Well I’m glad the Government’s taking the lead on that, or the Government that they would like to be, certainly. In the past few years Government has made a decision to freeze. It’s Government that sets the cap on the fares. These are the regulated fares, the season tickets. And in previous years they have said that the tickets can rise by the rate of inflation plus a certain extra percent, in order to fund investment in the railway. However in very recent years they’ve made the decision to keep it to the rate of inflation only. Obviously we welcome that. We welcome any announcement that would help our passengers and give them even better value for money.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Roger, good to talk to you this morning. That’s Roger Perkins there, who’s the the Head of Communications at Govia Thameslink Railway. So second generation trains could be coming our way by next year.