Shiny new trains are heading for our stations, but are they top of the class? Or is it a case of 6/10, must try harder? Michael Woodhead from Crofton Park Transport Users Group and Vicky Foxcroft, MP for Lewisham & Deptford got in the cab of a Class 700 and drove hard to get the lowdown.
Room To Move
The Class 700s have 30% more passenger capacity than the existing trains - which is key as some of our services are hugely over capacity as it is. They are also open so you can walk right from one end of the train to the other, making it easier for everyone to board and move downside.
Don't Split Us Up
The new trains are all fixed units and can't be split into less than 8 carriages; which is a great news as it will put an end to the short weekend services and the 4-carriage-service roulette that causes chaos on weekday mornings.
Display boards inside the trains show the next stop as well as information about tube services - handy for onward connections. These displays will eventually indicate where there is space on the train, so people can move to a less congested part of the train.
In the Driver's Seat
Cameras on the outside of the trains allow the driver to clearly see passengers getting on and off so they know its safe to close the doors.
The Class 700s also have in-car signalling, which means the trains can pretty much drive themselves through the core part of the network between Elephant and Castle and St Pancras International. This feature will enable Thameslink to run 24 trains an hour through the central route (although sadly they wont all serve Crofton Park!)
But Hold On...
There are some downsides to the Class 700s in the form of fewer seats, which is disappointing and currently there aren't enough grab rails either. We have raised this with Thameslink to see if they can add more rails to allow more people to hold on safely.
There have also been some teething problems with the new trains and Thameslink are working with Siemens the manufacturers to iron these out, and the reliability is improving week on week.
What's the Verdict?
Overall, we think the Class 700 trains are a good thing for our route: the extra capacity is much needed and other features mean our services can run through Central London up to St Pancras so all in all, the new trains are a class act.