The age of trains?

When will transport correspondents and perhaps some campaign groups, understand the the age of trains is nothing like the age of cars. They continue to be surprised by how long they last & how they are regularly refurbished

An article in today’s Guardian provided by the Press Association  draws attention that Britain’s rolling stock is “21 years old on average”.

Now average is like statistics -it can be manipulated. The figure seems to include 40 year old Caledonian sleepers- MK3’s  to you and me, which have had at least a couple of major upgrades during their life and are still some of the strongest railway carriages ever built in Britain. If you recall Morris Marinas and Austin Allegros, popular cars of the same period, we are not talking about the same sort of product! Even still  these sleepers aren’t exactly a major part of our current carriage stock.

Then they’re are onto Pacers. Now if memory serves me right they are a derivative of a Leyland National bus body-  And who drove (no pun intended) BR to use these- yes our wonderful Ministry( of/for but generally against railways) who wanted to replace 40 year old DMU’s which have only recently departed our systems- but were always better than Pacers.

As usual the situation is not simple, but commentators need simple solutions these days.

Railways have been “cascading” rolling stock for generations. The Southern Railway was a past master at it and BR- Southern Region carried on the tradition. So how old is the train- do we date it by when it was first built; when it was last refurbished or when they added Wi-Fi?.

Re-using perfectly good under-frames in the building of “new” electric stock was usually the way they could afford to create most of the Southern Electric system .An investigation into a crash into the buffers at Cannon St station in 1991  identified that the under frames on the electric stock built in the early 1950’s, dated from 1928 & 1934 and this was possibly a minor contributory cause of the extensive damage. (The train hit the buffers at 10 mph- possibly not a design criteria!)

Then of course the usual- they do it better in Germany, France & Japan piece but no facts to back this statement. With the state of DB and SNCF these days I would guess there aren’t any!