West Midlands Railway (WMR), London Northwestern Railway (LNR)
The new state-of-the-art Class 730 Aventra electric multiple units (EMUs) are being built by Bombardier Transportation at its Derby Litchurch Lane site in the UK.
The new electric Class 730 trains will be operated by West Midlands Railway (WMR) and its sister concern London Northwestern Railway (LNR), which are the brands of train operating company West Midlands Trains.
WMR will operate the trains on Birmingham’s Cross-City Line service, which runs between Lichfield, Bromsgrove and Redditch, via Sutton Coldfield and Longbridge, while LNR will run the EMUs on the West Coast Main Line between Liverpool and London via the West Midlands.
Bombardier unveiled the first completed train of the Class 730 Aventra EMU fleet for the Cross-City Line in September 2020. The vehicle is currently undergoing testing at the Velim test facility in the Czech Republic ahead of its anticipated deployment into passenger service next year.
West Midlands Railway’s Class 730 Aventra fleet is expected to start operations between 2021 and 2022. LNR’s new trains will enter passenger service in 2022.
Class 730 Aventra orders and deliveries
Bombardier was contracted by Corelink Rail Infrastructure and West Midlands Trains to supply 333 new Aventra vehicles for operation on the West Midlands Trains franchise in the UK in December 2017. The parties also inked a contract for maintenance and support services.
West Midlands Trains is a joint venture (JV) between Abellio UK, East Japan Railway Company (JR East), and Mitsui, while rolling stock lessor Corelink Rail Infrastructure is a JV between Deutsche Asset Management and Infracapital. Delivery of the new trains is scheduled between 2020 and 2022.
Bombardier will manufacture and maintain 333 electric carriages configured as 36 three-car trains for metro operations and 45 five-car trains for outer suburban and long-distance configurations.
West Midlands Railway will run the 36 three-car trains comprising a total of 108 carriages, while London Northwestern Railway will operate the 45 five-car trains, including 225 carriages.
Design and features of Class 730 Aventra EMU
Based on the Bombardier Aventra platform, the new Class 730 electric trains will be available in three or five-car formation. WMR’s three-car configuration trains will replace the Class 323 EMUs and deliver a two-fold increase in the passenger capacity on the Cross-City line. The three-car trains will have a speed of 145km/h and five-car train sets will run at 177km/h.
The trains will feature a smart air conditioning system that responds to the number of passengers travelling on the train, free Wi-Fi, as well as in-seat plug sockets and USB ports.
Each train will accommodate tables, including seat-back tables, reserved areas for persons with disabilities with the capacity to house up to two wheelchairs, and three toilets. The vehicles will also offer space for the storage of up to three bikes and passenger information screens.
The Aventra trains will improve passenger travel experience on the West Midlands Trains franchise by reducing travel times and enhancing reliability.
West Midlands Railway is developing a new depot to meet the parking, cleaning, and maintenance needs of the new electric trains. The development is a part of the West Midlands Trains’ plan to invest £1bn ($1.3bn) into the franchise to improve infrastructure and procure new trains.
The depot will be built at the former Bescot freight yard in Wednesbury which is a strategic freight site that serves the West Midlands rail freight traffic and accommodates the Traction Maintenance Depot (TMD).
A public meeting to present the concept of the proposed depot was held in February 2020.
Financing for the new train fleet
The JV comprising Abellio, JR East and Mitsui is investing £700m ($914.47m) in the procurement of the 81 new trains (36 for WMR and 45 for LNR) along with 26 new Class 196 diesel trains.
To be operated on the Birmingham-Hereford and Birmingham-Shrewsbury routes, the trains will be supplied by Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF). The financing is led by Corelink Rail Infrastructure.