A story we didn’t run at the time but back in January it was confirmed that Severn Lamb have won the contract to design, contract and install new trains for the Southend Pier Railway. It was expected that they would be ready to start operating in 2021 and would be “eco-friendly” trains to replace the life-expired vehicles which have been in service since 1986.
Severn Lamb were actually the company who supplied the previous trains which started running in 1986 with an expected life span of 20 years – a period which has obviously been surpassed as by the time the new trains start operation it will be 35 years.
At the time of the announcement it was planned that initial construction of the new trains – two will be supplied – would start in mid-2020, although whether this now gets knocked back as a result of Coronavirus remains to be seen. It is anticipated that replacement of the current trains will take place next year – 2021.
At the time of the announcement four nose designs for the trains plus three possible liveries were unveiled with the public being asked for their opinions on these. Whilst this period of consultation is now over you can still view the proposals on the Southend Council Flickr.
The new trains will be battery electric powered and provide increased capacity (244 up from 180) as well as giving increased wheelchair capacity (six spaces per train and each carriage being wheelchair accessible). There will be Wi-Fi on board, along with USB charging points, CCTV, speakers and display monitors, GPS triggered automatic announcements. There will also possibly be one carriage have a panoramic roof.
Matthew French, Sales and Marketing Executive for Severn Lamb, commented: “Severn Lamb are no strangers to the pier having commissioned the current train back in 1986, which was opened by Princess Anne on the 2nd May and has stood the test of time ever since. This project was a roaring success and our two diesel locomotives have proven to be extremely reliable for both the council and visitors alike for 33 years. We are honoured to be working on this project again after many years and these completely custom designs are shaping up to be something truly special.”
The new trains are part of a £3.5 million project to improve the Pier and its Railway. There has already been a new visitor entrance opened in summer 2019 and many damaged deck boards, sun shelters, hand rails and benches are also being replaced as part of regular maintenance.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, Deputy Cabinet member for Business, Culture and Tourism at Southend on Sea Borough Council, said: “Southend pier is iconic. It brings thousands of visitors to our town every year, and we know that part of that draw is to travel the length of the world’s longest pleasure pier on the traditional diesel trains. As we continue our drive to create a carbon neutral Southend, we are pleased that the new trains will be fully electric and produce zero emissions, which we know is something that is very important to local residents. This is in line with the council’s ambitions to be carbon neutral by 2030.”