New trains for the Pier and refurbished Pendoes

Sunday 14th August 2022

I wrote about the lovely two new trains for Southend Pier after my visit back in May when unfortunately teething problems meant they weren’t out on the tracks so was pleased to be able to fit in time to take a ride on my recent trip to Foulness Island when one of the trains was in service.

They really are a great improvement on the old faithfuls and their splendid nod to nostalgia green and cream livery is a great touch.

As I reported previously there’s a great forward view from the front carriage (and rear view from the rear) which wasn’t possible on the old trains….

…. and wider doors create much more space inside for passengers.

Internal screens can display messages and there are spaces for wheelchair users.

They’re certainly worth a ride if you’re in Southend-on-sea.

And if you do, don’t leave the shore end of the Pier without a visit to the Pier Museum.

It’s a treasure trove of nostalgia, not least as there’s one of the original green and cream liveried trams on display to really bring back memories for those of us who used to visit Southend regularly for holidays in the 1960s.

The entire railway comprised double track right down the pier including a signal box at the midway point.

Meanwhile on the West Coast Main Line, Avanti West Coast’s programme of refurbishing its entire former Virgin fleet of Class 390 Pendolino trains is progressing well with more now out on the network.

I had my first ride on one on a recent journey back from Birmingham and although I must admit I’ve never been a fan of the Class finding the shallow windows and body style slightly cramped and claustrophobic, there’s no doubt this makeover is an improvement on what went before.

The seats have been upgraded with the same style as used in First Group owned Lumo in standard class compete with winged head rests.

Their slightly more comfortable than the old seats they’ve replaced but it’s still a little cramped. Leg room is the same as before and is adequate.

Obviously there’s still the issue of non-window window seats…

,,,, because you can’t rebuild a coach in a refurbishment.

One thing you can do is install the much welcomed power and usb sockets which are now available at the base of every seat in standard class whereas before you had to make a dash for the window seat on the tables to enjoy such a luxury accessory.

Talking of tables, the flip up tables continue …..

….. although not everywhere – I’ve never been sure why some tables are fixed and some flippable.

New internal screens promise updated information for passengers although the system hasn’t been initiated yet.

Luggage racks have had a makeover and offer the all important flexibility to accommodate the ever increasing size of those wardrobes on wheels people travel around with these days. Something that other First Group subsidiary, Lumo, really needs to sort out.

The shop in coach C has had a compete redesign and better suits contemporary needs of customers and the company.

The toilets are much the same as before except all references to balloons (ex Virgin) have gone in favour of a rather in-your-face Avanti colour scheme in the accessible toilets.

Spaces for wheelchair users have been clearly delineated in both standard class….

….and first class.

As previously reported in a recent blog one of the former first class/standard premium coaches has been converted to standard class significantly increasing the number of seats …

….while the standard premium coach has head rest covers to denote its different from ….

…. the otherwise exact same standard in the next door first class coach (which can be reclassified as standard premium as required by the addition of appropriately worded headrest covers) but both classes now sport wireless charging options on the tables for those smartphones so enabled.

Finally, the doors all now have much improved external signs indicating the departure time, where the train is going and the next station the train stops at.

It’s an improvement and a timely one after around 20 years of intensive service but I’m still not an ardent fan. All we need now is more extensive timetables on which they can run.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

15 thoughts on “New trains for the Pier and refurbished Pendoes

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  1. You were lucky to find the new Pier train running, it has been out of service for a while now, the second battery one has not yet entered service (as far as I know) and even the remaining 1986 diesel failed during last week (but is repaired again now), meaning no service one day except by the single coach “tram” for wheelchair users and the really infirm. Typical Southend, at the height of the season! Oh, and did I mention that the lift from the prom to the top of Pier Hill’s also broken – again?
    Avanti’s refurbs look interesting but since they have withdrawn all reservations and won’t publish a timetable for the next month, I’m not sure when I will be able to ride on one. I need to book seats to/from Birmingham for early next month and was astonished to find that it is simply not possible at all at present. Not good enough!


    1. Richard . . . try LNWR: with 1 change at Rugby, a 2 hour journey time is possible . . . and probably at a half of the Avanti price!!

      I remember the 1960s trams on Southend Pier . . . back then I stayed there with family several times a year, and a ride on the Pier Railway was demanded each time!! And those varhished flip-back seats . . . ah, memories!!


    2. I cancelled a recent plan to visit friends in Preston as 2 weeks in advance there were no advance fares available. I guess it was because they were planning to cut the service. Going away with Ryanair instead. They let you book in advance and operate!


  2. I really like the look of the new Southend Pier trains, especially the green and cream livery. We need more green and cream in our lives!

    As to the Pendalinos, (and most other trains), windowless seats are unacceptable. The last trains with seats aligning with endows were the BR Mk2ds I believe. When you travel in Mk1 stock on heritages lines with bays of four (sprung) seats aligned with huge windows you see what we have lost. I had a journey tp London on one of the GWR high speed trains a couple of years ago. Over an hour next to a blank panel where the door pocket is, and opposite a luggage rack. In comparison, a previous journey by Megabus with leather sears, massive legroom with footrest and huge windows, I think coaches offer a better ambience than trains.


    1. Not exactly luxury for long distance services. Basic and cramped is what comes to mind

      The MK1’s on heritage lines show the much better standard of travel back then
      Now it is all about how many seats they can ram in. Thats fine for short commuter services but not long distance


      1. It’s our choice isn’t it? We have chosen a travel lottery for cheaper travel. In the good old days we paid for our luxury. Nowadays we don’t expect to pay for anything if we can avoid it. We pay the price, in other ways. The truth is always unpalatable. But at least it gives us something else to moan about and gives us sommat to do!


  3. Branson’s balloons survived in the toilets on some LNER loco hauled sets not that there are many of them left and I think that a few are to be found on the Leeds King’s Cross run.I think that Cross Country was lost too early to Virgin to have gained the balloon and flushing goldfish down the toilet nonsense? I’d guess that Sir Richard, mustn’t forgot his Sir, must inflate the balloons using his own ego!


  4. My first trip to Southend was on a country area LT trip from Watford to Tower pier on an RT in the early sixties then on the Royal Daffodil to Southend pier. This was the most expensive LT trip at 25/6d. I then explored the town and photographed rebooted wartime buses in the town. Se years later I made another trip this time by train, and Rode the original pier trains. It’s time I made another visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. However “exciting” the new trains on Southend Pier may be, I cannot but help think of the Drivers stuck working the line day in and day out without variation. Rather like being condemned to drive Compass Travel’s 900 (Crawley Bus Station to Asda) for the rest of your working life taking just seven minutes for an entire rounder. Probably putting it up in the “shortest route” competition!

    I too, in spite of enjoying free rail travel, find the top deck of a Megabus infinitely more enjoyable than a claustrophobic and crowded Pendolino, frequently amidst those who find “relaxing” with alcohol an enjoyable pastime.


    1. One is surprised that the trains aren’t automated – like (for instance) the Gatwick shuttle. After all, it’s hardly a complex system!


  6. The underlying cause of Pendilino windows not matching up in Standard class is the use of identical body shell as first class where the bigger seats align with the windows. It was similar on Mark 3 stock where an extra row of standard class unidirectional seats became popular as long distance commuting grew.
    Times change with the growth of leisure travel where there is a need for more space for luggage which could be placed between standard class seats allowing passengers to be close to their luggage and enabling the windows to match up. Sadly this opportunity appears to have been missed in the refurb.
    If services are so popular then it should justify more journeys or longer trains.
    Sadly modern buses can be just as uncomfortable where seats don’t match up with window pillars or there is insufficient legroom.
    Experience tells me those who sit at tables are drawn by legroom not by the view both on buses as well as trains.
    Even the most basic motor car has bigger seats and more legroom.

    The article brought back nostalgic memories of the race down the ramp to catch Mark 2 stock at Euston when trains platform was announced… that I could plug my laptop into the one socket in a coach…..actually there for vacuum cleaner in depot!


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