New trains promise 'vast improvement' for First Capital Connect
Commuters and travellers will benefit from more frequent, newer and bigger trains on one of south London's most popular services.
First Capital Connect (FCC), which connects north and south London via the centre of the capital and a loop that takes in Sutton, Mitcham, Tooting and Wimbledon, has signed a contract with German firm Siemens.
It will mean FCC can deliver a new fleet of trains to run up to 24 trains per hour on the busiest parts of the route in a move described as "a vast improvement for the customer".
The new trains will replace the current stock, much of which was built in the 80s, and will be bigger and more modern with better heating and air conditioning.
FCC operations director Jackie Townsend said: "We will have many more trains than we have now.
"They will be much newer, they will have air con, they will have about the same seating but more space to stand. They will be the most hi-tech trains.
"The most we operate at the moment is 16 trains per hour,. That will go up to 24. It will make an absolutely huge difference, a vast improvement for the customer.
"It's a massive programme but these trains will be more modern and more reliable."
The new trains are being built in Germany at the moment. Once they have been built, FCC a selection of FCC drivers will go to Germany to learn how to drive them before all the rest of the drivers are trained in this country.
Ms Townsend said the new fleet should be on the rails and available for the public by 2018.
Ms Townsend also said FCC is working with Network Rail to improve the rail infrastructure around its routes and increase reliability.
The view from the driver's seat
Reporter Mike Pyle got to travel in the cab with an experienced driver and a driver in training between Sutton and London St Pancras to see the line from a different perspective.
As I stepped into the cab it was immediately obvious that the job of a train driver is munch more complex than I previously imagined.
"I thought most of what a train does is automated but the small room is covered in buttons and levers that do everything from speeding the train up and slowing it down to switching the electricity supply from overhead wires to electrified rails at the right time.
Driver in training Richard Mooney at the controls
Richard Mooney, who has been training to be a driver since September 2012, told me he was in the police for two years prior to becoming a train driver but said the training he is doing at the moment is the hardest he has done.
He said: "It's the concentration, it's constant from the moment you start to the moment you stop and then there's the pressure that 100s of people behind you are relying on you to do your job."
"The 50 minute journey takes the train through a number of stations and at each Mr Mooney arrives and departs bang on time, using his own watch and a system of cameras and mirrors to make sure everyone gets on board before he closes the doors.
"The experience left me with a new-found appreciation of the work of the train driver and will make me a little more understanding the next time I'm delayed in the morning."
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