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New timetables and planned disruption

Engineering Northern's modernisation plans

06 July 2017
An update on train operator’s £580million new trains programme
In April 2016 Northern, The UK’s largest train operator outside of London, announced it was investing £580million in 98 new Class 331 electric and Class 195 diesel trains.


Just over a year later a new Engineering Director and a new Head of New Trains have been recruited to oversee the project, the design of the new trains has been finalised and construction of the 281 carriages is now underway.

Earlier this year, Ben Ackroyd joined Northern as Engineering Director after fulfilling roles at Midland Metro, c2c and Angel Trains. Ian Hyde, the train operator’s new Head of New Trains, joined the company in November 2016 from CrossCountry.

Northern’s new recruits recently visited train manufacturer CAF’s sites in Irun and Zaragoza, Spain with representatives from train owner Eversholt Rail to inspect the first carriages coming off the production line.

 “It was great to get out to Spain to take a look at the first unit in production. The engineering team at Northern has been working hard for the past year or so to finalise the designs and get all the paperwork signed off. Since I joined in March it’s been really rewarding to see the final designs come together, but it all really came to life for me when we stood inside one of the first bodyshells in Spain,” says Ben.

The bodyshell construction is aluminium with an open gangway design that will give a spacious feel to the new rolling stock. All vehicles will have 1/3 2/3 double leaf doors supplied by IFE to allow maximum space for exit and entry. The interior will have Fainsa seating with a power socket at each pair of seats. Running gear and bogies have been designed and manufactured by CAF. For coupled operation, Dellner has been selected as supplier. All units will be fully air conditioned and capable of 100mph running.  The DMU power pack will be supplied by MTU with a ZF transmission and final drive assembly. The EMU will have an ABB transformer with CAF power traction package.

With 43 electric and 55 diesel trains to build, test and launch into full service by December 2019, the task ahead of Northern is significant. The design of the new units is substantially different to the specification Northern’s customers have experienced historically.

All services will have free wifi provision. The units will be equipped with passenger information systems that will use TFT screens rather than scrolling displays. This will be linked to Darwin to give as up-to-the-minute running information as possible to Northern’s customers. There will be the ability to reserve seats both before and during the train journey. CCTV will be used to promote passenger safety and allow the traincrew to monitor the saloon environment.

“This is a once in a generation chance to significantly improve the quality of rail services in the North; we’re enhancing the overall on-board experience. The introduction of these units will contribute to increasing our fleet and our overall capacity, bringing more flexibility and allowing us to offer more and faster services,” explains Ian.

Currently a series of empty body shells are in various states of finish, the first new train will be completed in the autumn and will then go for testing in Vellim in the Czech Republic next year.

The testing will consist not only the basic running of the EMU and DMU units, but will also check the integration of all the unit systems for functionality.

It is anticipated that the first new train will make its way to the UK in spring of 2018, which brings with it its own engineering challenges.

Ben said: “The new trains, and the technology on board them, mean a whole new maintenance regime; there will be fewer spanners and more software updates. So, while the new trains are being built we also have to make major updates to the depots and train the employees who will be undertaking that work (Allerton near Liverpool and Newton Heath near Manchester). In addition, we have to get all of our on-train crews trained, ready to take the units into service in December 2018.

“These are exciting times to be working for Northern and I am proud to be overseeing such a massive programme of change. The end of next year may seem like a long way off, but there is a lot to deliver before then and for our customers, it will be worth the wait.”

Andy Course, Chief Operating Officer, Eversholt Rail said “As the owner of the Class 331 and Class 195 new trains, we are delighted to be working in partnership with Northern and CAF on this exciting programme.  We have invested £492m in these new trains, which are a fantastic addition to our growing portfolio.  We are working hard with Northern to help get them into service as quickly as possible to offer a much improved service to their passengers.”

Jose María Muguruza, CAF’s UK Project Manager, said: “We have been working hard and very closely with Arriva Northern and Eversholt to ensure CAF delivers a design of train that satisfies their requirements and expectations.  The aim is to have reliable trains with a high performance and an aesthetic design to provide the best possible service to the passengers.  All the key stakeholders: ORR, Network Rail, SNC Lavalin (NoBo, AsBo & DeBo) are deeply involved in the approvals process and have been very collaborative, helpful and supportive during the entire process.  There are a lot of activities still to carry out during the coming months including manufacturing, testing and approvals activities, so we must continue working hard and collaboratively to ensure we meet our common goals.”

The first new trains will enter service in December 2018 and all 98 will be carrying Northern’s customers around the network by 2020.

The new and refurbished trains form just part of Northern’s modernisation plans, which also include more services, faster connections, better stations and improved customer service.


Ben Ackroyd

Ben joined Northern from National Express where he was Director of their light rail business Midland Metro, he oversaw the extension of services and introduction of new trams into the heart of Birmingham, giving rise to a 30 per cent increase in passenger journeys.

Prior to Midland Metro, Ben spent four years as Engineering Director at c2c, spanning two franchises and leading mobilisation of major fleet projects. He began his railway career at rolling stock company Angel Trains where he joined as a graduate engineer and latterly managed leases and maintenance activities across a portfolio of more than 2,200 rail vehicles.

Ian Hyde

Ian joined Northern from CrossCountry, where he was Head of Fleet and Engineering; responsible for the safe and reliable operation of the train fleet and for improving levels of train availability and presentation. He also delivered the Driver Advisory System implementation across the fleet and the wifi fitment project to the Class 170 fleet. 

Prior to CrossCountry Ian was Head of Projects at Interfleet Technology responsible for a number of new trains projects across Europe, India, China and Japan.  Ian’s design, build and test project management in the successful introduction of the Javelin fleet, the first Hitachi fleet into the UK, led the way for a number of other significant new train projects.

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