Model Rail (UK)
Factfile: BR Class 319 EMU
Introduced between 1987-1990, the Class 319 fleet was built at British Rail Engineering Ltd (BREL), at its York works. BREL York’s reputation for high-quality multiple unit construction was well-earned, and the ‘319s’ have given excellent service over the following decades. Built expressly for the Thameslink operation, linking points north and south of London via Clerkenwell Tunnels, the Class 319 fleet were engineered to allow running on 25kv AC overhead power or 750V DC from the third rail. Owing to the long tunnels on the route, it was stipulated that emergency exit doors must be added to the outer cab ends. The entire fleet served on Thameslink services, although privatisation meant that some of the fleet were transferred to the Southern franchise and, with the introduction of the Siemens Class 700 units from 2015, the ‘319s’ were cascaded to North West England, to operate the newly electrified lines around Liverpool, Manchester and Blackpool, using 25kv AC overhead power only. Various projects have been ongoing to convert Class 319 vehicles to bi-mode and tri-mode operation, leading to the Class 769 ‘Flex’. Northern Rail, Transport for Wales and GWR have been operating ‘Flex’ 3 units on non-electrified or partially electrified routes for the past few years, with diesel generator sets being added under the floor, although reliability issues hampered progress initially. Hydrogen power is also being explored using the ‘Flex’ platform, so the ‘319s’ may well be around for some time yet.