SWR Class 707 Finale

SWR Class 707 Finale

The British Rail Class 707 Desiro City is an electric multiple unit passenger train. Siemens Mobility built 30 five-carriage sets. Initially leased by South West Trains, its franchise successor South Western Railway began moves towards phasing them out of their network – and that even though the full compliment had not yet been delivered. Since September 2021 18 have entered service with Southeastern. The remaining 12 are due to be transferred to Southeastern by late 2023. (Wikipedia). Just to add, the 707s should have been transferred entirely to Southeastern a long time back, however various factors have seen to it that the Siemens units have stayed much longer with SWR. One of these has been the numerous issues with the new Class 701 Arterios which has ensured more than a year and a half extra stay for the 707s on SWR. The Arterios are now more than four years late being introduced on SWR’s services! And in a nutshell its why the 707s have enjoyed a stay of extended duration on SWR.

Curiously the 707s first units entered service not with SWR but with the older South Western company! They were first seen towards the end of 2016 but did not enter service for quite a few more months. These units worked passenger services for three whole days under the old South Western company – on 20th August 2017 SWR took over the franchise for the lines out of Waterloo. Before the entire compliment of 30 units had even been employed on the SWR the decision to replace them with the 701s was made. As the Evening Standard wrote back in 2018, the idea of this occurring – of brand new trains being replaced by even newer ones – was due to the madness of ROSCOS and train leasing.

If you are reading this on a South Western Railway service on the Windsor line out of Waterloo, the chances are you’re sitting (or standing) in a brand, spanking new carriage. Built by Siemens in Krefeld, Germany, it is known as a Desiro City Class 707 and only entered service in the past few months. The previous operator of your line, South West Trains, decided to order 30 of them back in 2014 to expand the Waterloo fleet. Trains take a while to build, so deliveries only began towards the end of last year, with the last one expected to be finished and carrying passengers in the next couple of weeks. Lucky you. But don’t get used to them. For, despite the fact that trains are built to last at least 30 years, these 150 carriages will be out of service by the end of next year. Why? Because the franchise changed hands and the new operators (FirstGroup and MTR) have struck another deal to replace them all with an even more brand new set. Thanks to the bizarre nature of the train world, it has become cheaper for them to get an entirely new batch of rolling stock than to continue with the present ‘new’ ones. (Evening Standard).

In fact it was Southeastern who found the soon to be discarded Class 707s to be a bargain that simply couldn’t be missed. The superior units were a massive levelling up compared to the Electrostars and Networkers that have been running on the system since the days of Connex. The introduction of the 707s on Southeastern has no doubt improved the quality of train stock on most of the services that run past Metropolitan Junction through London Bridge and beyond – the similar Class 700s operated by Thameslink have been operating over Southeastern metals for a good few years now.

On board the cab during a trip I made on the City Beams’ first days of service. 009/010 on a Cannon Street circular – this unit was the first to begin work on 27 September 2021.

The first units were transferred to Southeastern in January 2021 and these became the then franchise’s new ‘City Beam’ services, mostly working out of Cannon Street or Charing Cross. These services in fact began in September 2021. As noted in my previous post the entire lot were to have been transferred over from SWR by April 2022 however the lease for the remaining units on SWR was extended and has been extended yet again, which brings us to October 2023! The penultimate batch were to be transferred to Southeastern during September 2023 which left just one pair in service with SWR. That was 707 024/030 (the latter being the 30th and final unit of the entire batch.) Southeastern released information on 10th October in regards to the 707s that their fleet would soon be completed with the final units transferred from SWR.

The City Beams routes of operation are generally out of Charing Cross or Cannon Street to the Dartford loop lines (including services to Gravesend) or Hayes/Sevenoaks. The units are mostly based at Slade Green with additional stabling at Grove Park. Ashford and Gillingham depots were also used with the latter being where work was done to convert the units to Southeastern’s colours.

In terms of 707s on SWR the routes generally allocated for the 707s have generally been based around the Windsor lines – eg Shepperton, Windsor Riverside, Hounslow and the Weybridge (Woking Sundays) services. However when there was a full compliment of 707s, other routes included Dorking, Chessington, Hampton Court and Reading as well as the occasional Woking/Guildford (via Surbiton) local services and Guildford via Effingham. Both the latter and Epsom were too a regular diagram for SWR’s final 707 unit! The one route dedicated to the 707s has been always been the Shepperton line and even in the last couple of weeks six Class 707 diagrams operated there during the afternoons and early evenings.

Although the 707s are to be replaced by the 701s the fact the latter have not yet been seen in service has meant the 707s have had to be replaced by the venerable 455s or the newer 444/458s. Until the 701s do actually enter service it constitutes what is essentially a downgrade in train quality and that because the brighter, cleaner, greater comfort the 707s offered (including full walk through carriages and live screen displays) has been lost. It is evidently in SWR’s interest to get the 701s into service at the earliest practical opportunity and currently it is thought this could be towards the end of 2023.

Gallery of pics taken of 024/030 in their final week.

All photos and videos in the galleries are by the author.

707 024/030 at Hampton Court.

The 707s seen passing Hampton level crossing. This location is just over a mile from the other Hampton!

707 030 approaching Raynes Park en route to Shepperton.

The 707s seen heading up the South Western local lines towards the St. George’s (Vauxhall) skyline. At least five trains can be seen in operation. Besides the one Southern unit (on the right) there’s two SWRs on the up/down main and another on the up Windsor.

The Vauxhall skyline is dramatic as it entails what is fast becoming a canyon through which the railway has to pass between Nine Elms market and Vauxhall station. This location has seen a huge development, typified by tall residential skyscrapers, within this last few years. No doubt the adjoining development around Nine Elms and Battersea have encouraged other parts of the locality to follow suit but with far taller buildings instead of shorter and more bulky constructions.

Gallery of Pics of the final run 13th October 2023

1) Clapham Junction.

The visual displays for the train dispatch controllers show service number 2063 at Wimbledon, just a few minutes away! I’m not sure however it seems the balancing service for the 707 (which would take over the remaining diagram), an unidentified Class 455, passed through Clapham Junction empty a couple of minutes earlier. It wasn’t shown on the diagram (nor on Real Time Trains as far as I could see).

At 21.38pm Class 707 030 leads the final unit into Clapham Junction. The furthest ends of the platforms at Clapham Junction are extremely dark hence I was the only one photographing the train from here while others were doing their photos from the brighter parts of the station!

The last passengers ever to step off a SWR Class 707 service onto the platform at Clapham Junction.

I certainly struggled with the levels of light at this end of the station (as its an old DSLR I use) and at first thought I had ruined the pictures because of the high ISO being used. I also tried some quick panning as the train came into the platform, and was certain these wouldn’t be good. They turned out to be not too bad. The one photo from these that I got was a surprise because it was a panned move yet it came out ever so well and it unexpectedly included the train’s guard!

Class 707 0030/24 pulling into Clapham Junction at speed on its final SWR public service run!

2) Waterloo

The rear of 707 024/030 at Waterloo just after its arrival.

I saw very few enthusiasts until Waterloo because most were in the front unit of the train (eg 707 030). Those I saw at Clapham – one of them, Train Dispatcher Sam – informed me they would be joining the others in unit 030. I simply wanted to do my own photos – to take pictures of the rear of the train as soon as it arrived at Vauxhall and Waterloo. so we were sort of doing things the other way round and that explains why my photos show hardly any enthusiasts! There were quite a few in fact and a couple of notable vloggers were also present.

Yes the enthusiasts were out in force! Here’s some photographing the final SWR Class 707 service at Waterloo.

Some of the enthusiasts who rode the train having a chat with one of SWR’s staff – several of whom had come along to see the final Class 707 in service.

The Class 707 didn’t stay at the station very long. It arrived on Waterloo platform 5 a couple of minutes down at 21.50. Departure was at 21.57 (against the advertised departure time of 22.02) as train number 5Y92 for Wimbledon Park sidings. From there it would make a final trip to Wimbledon depot itself. Of course the unit will make further moves soon – namely as empty stock movement to Slade Green for storage/initial preparations and then onward to Gillingham for full conversion to its new Southeastern identity.

The early departure meant I was somewhat caught out. I hurriedly switched to panning the camera as the unit departed for Wimbledon. Again, like Clapham I was concerned the pictures would be a good result (mainly because this was all new taking photographs of main line trains at night on the move rather than stationary) so I just hoped for the best. The next few photographs I took turned out to be a sort of relief because at least I had captured some reasonably useable shots.

At 21.57 Class 707 030/024 pulls away from Waterloo’s buffer stops for Wimbledon depot.

View of 707 030 as it accelerates down the platform.

While I was at the city end of the platforms everyone else was towards the country end of the platforms! One can see the group of enthusiasts vying for photographs of the last Class 707 ever on SWR! I expect some of them got very good shots (or video) of the unit moving out of Waterloo station, but I’m reasonably happy with my pictures and they do at least show a different perspective.

In retrospect it wont exactly be the last time Class 707 030 (and 024) are seen at Waterloo. In a few months time they’ll once again be regulars at Waterloo though by then it’ll be Waterloo East and the units will be in their new Southeastern identity designated as ‘City Beam’ trains.

From the other side of the fence…

Photo from the country end of the platform before the 707 departed! Pic by ThirdRail02 on Twitter (X).

Steve White SE’s boss says they’ll take care of the SWR 707s. They have done a good job so far!

Gallery of videos – a selection from some I took in 2021

Two years ago on 7th October 2021 Class 707 030 is seen leaving Kingston on a Shepperton working.

Clapham Junction 12th October 2021 – and SIX trains can be seen on the move in this video! That’s before 707 016 arrives in the platform on a Waterloo service.

12th October 2021 – and 707 014 is seen departing Clapham Junction for Waterloo.