Alstom, the train manufacturer, has confirmed that it’s in “intense discussions” with the government and Transport for London (TfL) about a fresh order of new trains for the Elizabeth line.

Elizabeth line trains in Old Oak Common depot (c) ianVisits

Alstom has warned that its Derby factory could close due to a gap in production with no new orders expected, and that could see 1,300 staff made unemployed and some 15,000 jobs in the supply chain put at risk. The company has future orders for HS2 trains but can’t mothball the factory while it waits for those contracts to start in late 2025. It needs a small stopgap contract to keep the production lines active.

As it happens, TfL has been lobbying the government to support it in buying more Elizabeth line trains which will be needed when HS2 opens, to carry people between HS2’s London terminus at Old Oak Common and central London.

Based on the initial expected service of three HS2 trains per hour arriving at Old Oak Common and Elizabeth line at 24 trains per hour, TfL’s current projection is nearly 53,000 Elizabeth line passengers between Old Oak Common and Paddington going east in the morning peak (7am-10am), and 49,000 Elizabeth line passengers going west between Paddington and Old Oak Common in the evening peak (4pm-7pm) while it’s the terminus for HS2.

That increase in passengers means TfL expects to need at least four additional trains to cope with the extra demand.

Alstom has previously said it needed an order of 10 trains to restart production lines, so it’s possible that the talks could involve ordering more Elizabeth line trains than is needed just for the HS2 stopgap. That wouldn’t be entirely unexpected as the Elizabeth line is now the UK’s busiest single railway line and is almost full at peak hours. With talks already about extensions to the line around the Heathrow area, and the potential for the Heathrow Express open access operator license renewals in 2028, ordering more trains now offers more flexibility in the future.

Although TfL is now expecting to break even in terms of its day-to-day operations, it will rely on the government to fund investments in new trains and has warned that it needs confirmation from the government that funding will be offered to buy the additional Elizabeth line trains.

In a recent Commissioner Report, TfL confirmed that the Department for Transport (DfT) has “endorsed the strategic case to procure additional class 345 Elizabeth line trains”, and at the moment, TfL is working with the DfT to confirm the necessary financial support.

In a statement, Alstom said that “We are now in a period of intense discussions with the UK Government and Transport for London about a potential train order for the Elizabeth line, given the levels of passenger demand. This could help secure the future of our Derby Litchurch Lane site.”

“All parties have agreed to conclude discussions as soon as possible – and no later than the end of May. We will be making no further comment at this time.”

An order for new Elizabeth line trains placed this year would smooth out the order spikes a little bit and preserve the jobs in Derby while future rolling stock orders for other parts of the UK are sorted out.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper also confirmed that he had a meeting with Alstom’s CEO to discuss the future of train manufacturing in the UK and said that “Intensive discussions are taking place, to conclude no later than the end of May.”

UPDATE 17th April – Has been confirmed that the negotiations are for 10 new Elizabeth line trains, subject to terms being agreed.

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10 comments
  1. Ed says:

    In addition to the extra trains, perhaps the extra carriages should be built, to extend the trains fron 9 carriages to either 10 or 11. The central underground stations were built to accommodate 11 carriages. Whereever posssible, the other stations should be extended to cope with the additional carriages.

    I suspect when HS2 opens and terminates at OOC, the current forecast of transfers onto the EL, will be an under estimate and more EL capacity will be needed than currently forecast.

    It will be cheaper to build the extra carriages now, than wait a few years and find out they are needed.

    • Keith says:

      Preferably including an accessible toilet in at least one of the additional carriages for each train.

      TFL’s excuse of stations being only a few minutes apart is all well and good until the train gets stuck for an extended period (e.g. outside of Paddington). Slightly surprised the lack of any on the trains is not a breach of the disability discrimination act.

  2. Julian Walker says:

    Presumably it is not a breach or toilets would have been provided, together with emptying and cleaning facilities at depots and carriage sidings and extra staff to clean, empty and service them.

  3. David Jones says:

    A rare example of common sense winning out. Give that four trains were needed to support HS2 terminating at OOC, I wonder what service improvement would come from the other six.

    • ChrisC says:

      Well the decision to order the trains hasn’t been made yet so common sense hasn’t yet been applied!

      Serviced improvements?

      Extra services to / from LHR once the HEX concession ends (as mentioned)

      Should train paths be available more east – west through running rather than reversing some trains at Paddington.

    • Ed says:

      Hardy common sense as its either a minimum of 10 extra trains, or none, as it isn’t viable to restart production for just 3 or 4 trains. Alstom have TFL and the government over a barrel, as the trains are needed because of the debacle at Euston. Other trains cannot run on the line, as the central area station have platform doors, so only class 345 can operate on that line, as their doors line up with the platform edge doors.

  4. Brian Wood says:

    So, who is expected to pay- ‘the taxpayer’, Londoners, TfL ‘customers’? Why should not some other rail company stump up, for stock they DO need (or don’t?). Perhaps it will be a ‘cost’ attributable to HS2, or to the cancellation of parts of HS2, or the changing and delayed development of Euston, or effects of Covid, and Working From Home. Not me, gov?

  5. c says:

    They could probably be used on the Southend Victoria services too, if they had to find another home. Compatible and the right length – and interworking easy enough at Shenfield/Stratford.

    Or use them for the Didcot 387s – and move those elsewhere.

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