Tuesday 17th May 2022
Southend-on-Sea’s famous pier has recently seen the arrival of two new eco-friendly trains for its iconic three-foot narrow gauge railway so I popped over yesterday to take a look.
Sadly, neither were in service. One train has yet to be made ready for service and the second had some ‘teething troubles’ while out in service on Saturday and was having its batteries charged up.
So Sir William Heygate was still doing sterling service, while the other former train – Sir John Betjeman – has now been repurposed with its carriages dotted around the end of the pier as reminders of a soon to be previous pier train era.
However all was not lost as Pier Railway boss, Richard, kindly showed me around the two new trains stabled on the spare track at the land end station and gave me a great preview.
Like the diesel trains dating from 1986 they’re replacing, the trains were built by Alcester based Severn Lamb, manufacturers of transport systems and equipment for the extensive leisure market notably Disney and many theme parks.
Work on the £3.25 million project which includes improvements to pier facilities as well as building the new trains was delayed due to the pandemic. Originally planned for a summer 2021 launch the two new trains arrived last month and as explained one is still having its final fit out, particularly the flooring. Both will be on the tracks this summer.
The trains are powered by a series of lithium batteries – one per carriage – and come fitted with audio visual displays, usb charging points and a hearing loop system.
In a nod to the past they’re carrying a lovely heritage green and cream livery following a public vote on the city council’s social media page.
And in a nice touch, the one that’s seen service has been named after Sir David Amess, the city’s MP tragically murdered last October.
They have provisions for wheelchairs at either end and each carriage has much wider doors giving greatly improved access.
The six carriages per train are longer than their replacements increasing capacity to over 200 passengers per train.
But this has meant the station platforms being extended slightly to fit the new trains in.
The battery charge will last all day so overnight charging will be done with six dual chargers installed between the tracks in the tunnel immediately beyond the land based station so both trains can be charged up.
A real bonus is the front coach gives a view ahead for passengers through the driving cab as the train trundles up and down the pier which will always ensure the front coach is the one to be in. This is a much welcome improvement on the old trains where you got to sit behind the engine with a blocked view.
The cab itself is very smart with simple controls and an impressive control panel.
There’s a specially designed ‘stock’ container half way along the train formation which is just the right size to take the large wheelie bins down to the pier end and back as well as other supplies as needed on trolleys.
Previously these were carried in a compartment behind the engine in the locomotive.
These splendid trains will no doubt prove their worth this summer and in many years to come and will be well worth a ride.
Make it a weekend visit during school term or any day in the holidays to combine the visit with a trip on the open-top Ensignbus route 68 which is running again this summer.
And talking of platform lengthening, for die hard fans of extended platforms, yesterday was a day for lots of excitement as the next stage of the Bank station upgrade project saw the Northern Line City Branch formally reopen for business again after its five month closure (It actually sneaked back open on Sunday afternoon) …
…. and the new southbound section of track and extra wide platform open ….
…. with the old one …..
….. filled in to make for a much needed circulation area ….
….. between the north and southbound platforms.
Sadly the northbound platform is still the same narrow width it was before but that circulating area will make all the difference ….
…. and the southbound plaftorm is definitely much much better.
Fans of escalators and travelators are eagerly anticipating the unveiling of more as the station upgrade progresses.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS.