Rock Rail Moorgate’s new fleet takes over services on Great Northern routes

Rock Rail

Rock Rail Moorgate’s first fleet of trains fully replaces one of the UK’s oldest passenger fleets, transforming the travelling experiences for passengers on Great Northern routes

Today Great Northern consigned the last of its 42-year-old Class 313 trains to history with passengers on the route between London Moorgate and Stevenage, Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City now travelling on Rock Rail’s modern, air-conditioned fleet of Class 717s.

This £240 million investment in 25 six-carriage Siemens-built Class 717 units has replaced the UK’s oldest mainline electric trains which first entered service in 1976.

Rock Rail Moorgate, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments, are financing the trains and leasing them to Govia Thameslink Railway (Great Northern’s parent company).

Fast facts – new Class 717 trains vs Class 313s

New 717 trains

  • Capacity for 943 people – that’s nearly 100 more people per journey than those they replace (an 11% increase)
  • Air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and plug sockets at every pair of seats
  • Live service updates from London Underground
  • First new train entered service on 25 March 2019
  • Now 25 new trains each with six carriages and 362 seats
  • Each train weighs approx. 204 tonnes (without passengers)
  • Open and interconnected carriages, allowing passengers to walk from one end of the train to the other
  • Run through three miles of ex-Tube tunnels, which used to be part of the Northern line, into Moorgate
  • Latest accessibility features; including more visible grab handles and wheelchair spaces with clear markings on the carriage exteriors
  • Brand new ‘snow mode’, which changes the way the brakes work to improve reliability in snowy conditions

Old 313 trains

  • In service for over 40 years making them mainland Britain’s oldest electric mainline trains
  • Travelled around 3 million miles since they were introduced in August 1976 – the equivalent to 120 trips around the earth, or more than six trips to the moon and back
  • Since first introduced, have carried over 460 million passengers – that’s seven times the population of the UK
  • When first introduced, ‘Don’t go breaking my heart’ by Elton John and Kiki Dee was number one and Southampton were holders of the FA Cup


Passengers in Hertfordshire have other new trains that Govia Thameslink Railway has brought in since September 2014 when it launched. This £2bn programme includes:

  • 116 new Class 387/1 carriages (29 trains) – first for the Thameslink network, now on Great Northern, operating between King’s Cross and Cambridge, as far as King’s Lynn
  • 1,140 new Class 700 carriages (115 trains) – serving the entire, expanded Thameslink network including trips to and from Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough
  • 150 new Class 717 carriages (25 trains) – serving the Great Northern London Moorgate route (referred to above)


Mark Swindell, CEO Rock Rail, said: “Today is a hugely significant day for Rock Rail as our first fleet of trains fully replaces one of the oldest passenger fleets in the UK.

These new state-of-the-art trains represent the first time in the UK that a fleet has been financed with direct investment from pension funds and insurance companies using Rock Rail’s new model for financing trains.

This long term, highly competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money to passengers over the life of the trains along with significant improvements in the travelling experiences for passengers on the Great Northern routes.”

 GTR Chief Operating Officer Steve White said: “These new trains on the Moorgate route join a family of rolling stock that is the pride of our fleet. They have transformed our passengers’ journeys by replacing their cramped, outdated 42-year-old trains, with fully-accessible, spacious, modern air-conditioned units with the latest in passenger information, on-board Wi-Fi and power points at every pair of seats.

“Today is a landmark moment for both GTR and its passengers as we deliver on the industry’s hugely ambitious modernisation programme for our network.

“This completes a £2bn investment in more than 1,500 new trains which has transformed services for passengers now and for generations to come.

“By bringing in new carriages, we have been able to expand our network, creating space for 50,000 more commuters to and from the capital each rush hour and new direct cross-London journeys to key destinations such as Gatwick Airport, Peterborough, Cambridge and Brighton.

“Many of these new trains feature Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and, of course, they meet the latest accessibility standards.”

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said: “The introduction of new carriages has been one of the biggest upgrades since the privatisation of our railways, replacing one of the UK’s oldest fleets. As a GTR passenger, I’ve regularly commuted on both the old and new trains and, with more space and better passenger information, these trains have significantly improved this service.

“As the number of passenger journeys has more than doubled in the past 20 years, significant investment by both government and train operators is modernising our railway, helping to get our trains running on time.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us they want reliable services, more chance of getting a seat or standing in comfort and a boost to value for money. The success of the new trains will be judged by passengers on the extent to which they meet their priorities.

“Passengers will welcome investment in new trains with free Wi-Fi and plug sockets at seats and improved passenger information.”

 William Wilson, CEO of Siemens Mobility, said: “Siemens Mobility is proud to have built the Class 717s for Great Northern. The introduction of these new trains marks an important milestone in the plans to significantly enhance the passenger experience for those travelling between Hertfordshire and London.

“These trains have been built to be intelligent in every sense. From climate-controlled air-cooling to advanced information systems and Wi-Fi, all aspects have been designed with the aim of ensuring that services offer as much space as possible, whilst being reliable and comfortable.”


More passenger improvements will be delivered to Great Northern passengers when pay-as-you-go Contactless payments are rolled out to Welham Green, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City later this year. The system has already been extended to Hertford North and Potters Bar.

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