They are, it can be politely said, to be a bit late in arriving, but last week there was a chance to see inside South Western Railway’s new Arterio class of trains.

The trains are officially the British Rail Class 701 Aventra supplied by Alstom, and were ordered in 2017 with the first expected to go into public service in the middle of 2019. However, there’s been a lot of problems getting them approved for use with South Western Railway, and the first trains are now expected to go into service towards the end of this year.

One of the new trains paid a short visit to Waterloo station last week, for the station’s 175th anniversary, giving a chance to see what the new trains will look like when they eventually enter passenger service.

As with most modern trains, they’re fully walk-through, with air conditioning, modern display screens and several bays for wheelchairs, bikes or luggage.

There are toilets on the train. They’re also the first UK trains to come with bioreactor Controlled Emission Toilets, which cleans the wastewater using anaerobic liquid treatments, so cleaned water can be expelled from the train, while training the solid waste for removal later. Removing the liquid means the trains can hold more waste and need emptying less often.

Do notice the passenger alarm close to the floor, for people who fall over and need assistance to get up again and would otherwise struggle to reach the usual alarm button.

A slight curiosity is that there are three grab poles by the doors, which gives plenty to hold on to, but the middle pole does feel as if might be an obstruction to people with luggage or wheelchairs at times. A nicer touch is that there are double grab poles on either side of the doors, so plenty to hold on to when arriving at a station.

Slightly unusual for a new train design, the door buttons on the inside of the train are on either side of the doors instead of in the middle. There’s been a trend to putting the buttons outside on either side of the doors, and the buttons inside in the middle — which slightly speeds up how people get on and off the trains.

There are quite a lot of facing seats on the train, with the half-tables which are popular these days. And each row of seats has a mains plug underneath.

For many drivers, the big improvement in the cab is the full-width window. Many commuter line trains have the driver to one side to allow space for the connecting corridor and emergency exit to be built into the front of the cab.

The problem of lining up seats with windows hasn’t been fixed though, leaving some people with a lovely view of a grey wall. There are some awkward looking gaps next to some of the doors that do end up looking as if something was missed out or the seats not quite lined up with the windows properly.

Quite how we’re still building trains with seats that don’t line up with windows is a mystery.

The train that visited Waterloo, officially number 701043, has also been given a special roundel to mark the station’s 175th anniversary.

The Arterio fleet will be phased in to eventually replace all of SWR’s Class 455,  456,  458 and 707 trains. Once the first train arrives on the Windsor & Eton Riverside route, the roll-out of the entire fleet of 60 ten-car and 30 five-car trains is expected to take up to two years.

Below is a map of every station the new Arterios will stop at once they are fully in service:

More Photos


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  1. John B says:

    They look like ironing board seats again. Glad I don’t go any distance on SWR

  2. NG says:

    Would that TfL had that searing arrangement on their class 710 units!

  3. Ben says:

    Great photos and post Ian. Wish they didn’t make train interiors so sterile and clinical, they all look like my local dentists. At least Crossrail had a splash of personality.

  4. Adam Edwards says:

    Gaps by the doors are to encourage people to stand back and not block them so 2 people at a time can get on or off.

  5. tomloxton says:

    Why wouldn’t the new trains service to places like Weymouth?

    • Adrien says:

      These are commuter trains designed for more intensive, stop-start services – i.e. lower top speed, better acceleration & braking. They wouldn’t be well suited for longer distance journeys where you’re going long periods of time between stops.

  6. Dan says:

    Why is there no level boarding?

    • David says:

      Mainly because there are many different platform heights. If the train is built for level boarding at one station it will not be for all of them that it serves. The alternative is to rebuild the platforms at every station, which then may make them unsuitable for other trains that use them.

  7. Jon PENNYCOOK says:

    I wonder if the new trains will carry bicycles? SWR seem to be trying to reduce provision for bikes on trains (not to mention luggage)

  8. Alex says:

    Lovely train, but it’s a shame the floor is still well above platform height. Ideally all new trains would have level boarding without requiring manual ramps.

  9. Simon says:

    I wonder how ‘clean’ the cleaned water is? Will track workers still get hit by it? Is the RMT OK with this?

  10. Rowan says:

    “…several bays for wheelchairs, bikes or luggage.”

    This grouping, and omission of anyone using the wheelchair, feels typical of the disregard that is a barrier to equitable travel for disabled people.

    • ianVisits says:

      How is providing space for wheelchairs an omission of someone using a wheelchair?

    • Rowan says:

      I’ll clarify. Wheelchair users (myself included) are often referred to as “wheelchairs”. This, combined with lumping us with bikes and luggage, feels dehumanising – an experience all too familiar in relation to rail travel.

    • ianVisits says:

      I think it’s fairly obvious that the sentence in question isn’t referring to the person who uses the wheelchair, any more than my saying “bikes” is implying that the cyclist is being sat on their bike at the time either.

    • Tom says:

      But Ian, the person using the wheelchair is usually sitting in their wheelchair during their journey. The space is for wheelchair users in their wheelchairs. It’s true that this dehumanising language is common on the railway, guards will say “I’ve got a wheelchair” and not “I’ve got a passenger using a wheelchair”

  11. Charles Marsh says:

    The grab rail in the middle of the entrance is not a masterful decision for wheelchair users and will they still be put beside the toilet. I wonder how much knee room will be available for we who are 6ft++ tall I think I can guess.

  12. Ian walmsley says:

    It’s easy to overlook one problem when the train is empty. – no spaces between the seats. That means passengers will “manspread” into the aisle making it narrower than if 50mm spacers has been fitted.

  13. Renata says:

    Just saw one of these stop by Barnes Bridge station with the “testing this train” banners by the doors. Still 5 ish months to start running? 🙁

  14. Patricia isle says:

    Older people need level boarding for embarking and disembarking. Has this problem been addressed?

    • Tom says:

      That would be a much bigger project to standardise the height of platforms at stations and to standardise how the different rolling-stock interacts with the track and platforms at those stations.

    • JohnC says:

      There’s a chasm between the train and the platform on parts of the curved platforms at Raynes Park. My wife and I now sit near the rear of the train where the gap is least. Now sure what could be done about this apart from relocating the platforms at enormous cost.

  15. tomcat says:

    “so cleaned water can be expelled from the train, while training the solid waste for removal later.”

    Amazing what you can train these days.

  16. Gazza says:

    These trains are 3 years late and customers are having to put up with old rolling stock and a lack of seats to fill the gap Great looking trains however they should have been in service in 2019. SWR appears to have miss project managed their introduction. The railway industry really does need to deliver on its baseline programmes and promises. Too many projects are late and over budget as this one is, and it’s us the customers that have to put up with poor service provision.

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