TWO new British train fleets that were due to enter traffic in 2020 will start carrying passengers from next year, more than two years later than planned.

West Midlands Trains (WMT) has 26 CAF class 196 Civity DMUs and 81 Alstom (formerly Bombardier Transportation) class 730 Aventra EMUs on order, a total of 333 vehicles. Abellio has operated WMT since December 2017.

“The delayed introduction of both fleets is down to the impact of Covid-19, both on the manufacturing and testing processes and also on driver training,” says WMT spokesman, Mr Andrew McGill.

Franchise documents for WMT state that 14 four-car DMUs would begin to enter traffic from January 5 2020, with the two-car DMUs entering service from May 3 2020. The final trains were due to begin passenger operation on June 28 2020 and August 23 2020, respectively. Although 17 of the 26 DMUs have been delivered by CAF and the British regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) authorised the trains for service on August 26 2020, not one has yet carried a passenger.

“We are expecting the first class 196 to enter passenger service in the middle of next year on the Birmingham - Shrewsbury line,” McGill says. “The first units in traffic are expected to be four-cars.”

WMT has three sub-classes of the Alstom class 730 EMU on order, with 36 three-car sets due to have begun entering service from May 3 2020, followed by two five-car fleets entering traffic from October 18 2020. All should have been service by May 2 2021. These EMUs are from the Aventra design, with the order placed with Bombardier Transportation prior to its sale.

Testing of the class 730s has begun, but from an order of 81 trains only seven have been completed.

“Progress is continuing, and we are expecting the first class 730/0 unit into passenger service towards the end of 2022 / beginning of 2023,” says McGill. “These three-car units will serve the Cross City Line (Lichfield  Birmingham - Bromsgrove/Redditch).” He gave no date for the five-car EMUs.

This is the fourth consecutive Aventra order to be heavily delayed following the London Overground class 710s, Greater Anglia class 720s and South Western Railway class 701s. The latter are also almost two years late having been due to enter traffic in December 2019. Software problems are the cause of the delays to these fleets.

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