After much speculation during the week and one false start, yesterday afternoon 22/05/2019) TfL confirmed (attached) that the first two Class 710 EMUs would enter passenger service today on the Barking - Gospel Oak route.
This follows a successful test of a software drop (No. 33) at Network Rail's Asfordby test centre two weeks ago and further sucessful testing of a tweaked version (33.1?) on units at Bombardier's Willesden depot last week. It is understood that a further authorisation has been received from the ORR but details are not known.
It is planned that the first two units will start from Gospel Oak station at 11:36 and 12:05 and continue in service until the 21:20 and 21:48 from Barking.
The three 'borrowed' 4-car Class 378 EMUs will continue to operate the temporary half hourly timetable with the Class 710s operating in some of the paths cancelled in mid March when the last Class 172 DMUs transferred to West Midlands Trains.
From Friday 24 May the two Class 710s will enter service from Upper Holloway working the 07:09 and 07:39 departures from there to Barking and finishing at the same times as today.
Once the Class 710s at Willesden have all received the updated software and demonstrated sufficient reliability additional units will be put into public service, restoring the 15-minute interval service and then allowing the three 'borrowed' Class 378s to be restored to 5-car formation and allowing the Euston - Watford Junction service to move to a 15-minute service from its current irregular three trains per hour 'Interim timetable'.
So far around a third of the drivers have been trained on the Class 710, those trained before the latest software drop will have to have a further day training before being 'passed out' to drive the units.
Secretary of the Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group, Glenn Wallis, said, "Passengers have waited 14 months for this belated entry into public service of the Class 710 and endured a deteriorating service in the meantime. It is to be hoped that all the software issues have been finally resolved and that the units prove reliable in service so that the full 15-minute interval timetable can be restored as soon as possible."
"BGORUG looks forward to an early meeting with TfL to discuss the month's free travel to be provided by Bombardier as compensation to regular travellers for the inconvenience they have suffered."
Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group
Thanks for the updates on this Glenn. They have been appreciated.
Geoff Marshall vid here:
Why is there so much reliance on 'software' on modern trains? What did software drop 33 actually do?
Aren't trains designed to be failsafe so that if all else fails on the train's onboard systems, it is still driveable (and stoppable) on purely mechanical systems?
Similar to your motor, really. Thirty years ago everything could be fixed with a couple of tools and a new part. These days to even diagnose the problem your mechanic or AA man will plug a computer into your car. The guy at the garage I use often bemoans how it’s all changed.
There’s no question of safety - all modern trains are designed to come to a stand if a system failure compromises the train’s performance, especially in terms of stopping.
^ this was a month ago and suggests that not all the problems have been ironed out, but the manual workarounds are fine - for example at least two of these refer to working in multiple which wouldn’t happen in passenger service.
Pleased they’re here and hope they do the business - they look smart and much more appropriate for the route than the 172s ever did... but TfL and Bombardier have a lot to answer for and it goes way beyond a free month of travel in the Autumn...
"Similar to your motor, really. Thirty years ago everything could be fixed with a couple of tools and a new part. These days to even diagnose the problem your mechanic or AA man will plug a computer into your car. The guy at the garage I use often bemoans how it’s all changed."
That's precisely why the youngest car I drive is a 1990 J-reg Ford - you can fix it yourself!
But with so much automation and 'software assist' on modern trains, isn't the driver's role in danger of becoming deskilled in the same way as Victoria line train operator's jobs did when the line was opened in the 60's, with most functions on a moving train being controlled by a 'program roll' in the Victoria line control centre near Drummond St?
Good or bad, today's passenger trains have micoprocessors to control practically all systems on the train and they need a 'Train Management Control System' to manage all these interfaces. Getting the TCMS to work has been reason for the delay to the Class 710.
The 'programme roll' machines controlled junctions at numerous locations on the Underground, not just the Victoria Line. I'm not sure there are any still in service. The Victoria Line's 1967 stock was controlled by 'coded track circuits' with coils underneath the front of the train picking up commands. THey still had 10mph & 25mph manual driving available to the train operator though.
It is easy to automate a self contained railway, where all the trains are identical to each other. Less so on a system with junctions and branches, as TfL has found out trying to automate the Circle/District & Metropolitan Lines.
It is even more difficult to automate the main line railway where lots of different types of trains use the same tracks, but it is coming.