BRITISH operator Southeastern has issued an invitation to negotiate to five manufacturers shortlisted in its tender for a new commuter fleet to replace its Networker EMUs.

The five shortlisted bidders are:

  • Alstom
  • CAF
  • Hitachi
  • Siemens, and
  • Stadler.

As well as new trains, the tender specifies a range of options that include existing trains cascaded from elsewhere or upgrading the existing Networker fleet that operates Southeastern Metro commuter services in southeast London and Kent.

Taking traction current at 750V dc, the Networkers first entered service in 1992. Ordering a fleet of new trains to replace them could represent the largest investment in the Southeastern network since the introduction of high-speed services in 2009, the operator says, while at the same time avoiding the increasingly expensive cost of maintaining the Networker fleet and reducing energy consumption. It would also reduce the amount of government subsidy required by Southeastern.

Precise details of the new fleet will be developed during the next stage of the procurement process. Southeastern says that improvements on the current Networker fleet could include better accessibility to maximise unassisted boarding, developed in conjunction with Britain’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), infrastructure manager Network Rail and train manufacturers.

Timescales for the introduction of the new trains will also be developed as part of the procurement process, but Southeastern says it has set the bidders “challenging targets to deliver as soon as possible.”

“As part of our commitment to building a better, more reliable and sustainable railway we are pushing forward with our plans to develop our Metro operation into a high-performing railway,” says Southeastern managing director, Mr Steve White. “The final piece of the jigsaw will be the replacement of our ageing Metro fleet.”

“Modernising rolling stock is crucial to delivering a sustainable, reliable and growing rail network, encouraging more people to travel by train, and I’m pleased millions of passengers will be able to benefit from this investment for generations to come,” says rail minister, Mr Huw Merriman.

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