Operator: Great Northern Headcode: 1P05 Route: PBO-KGX Class: Standard Seat: N/A Date: Monday 22nd March 2021
Affectionately known as ‘Happy Trains’ due to the positioning of their light clusters, the Class 365 Networker Express have been a mainstay of the longer-distance former Network SouthEast (NSE) routes for the past 25 years, operating services from King’s Cross to Cambridge, King’s Lynn and Peterborough. With forty-one units initially built, their use has been ramped down and now just two services are required to operate the daily service diagrammed to the Happy Trains.
Removed from off-peak services in 2017, the 365s continued to operate peak-time ‘commuter buster’ services to and from Peterborough and Royston, however due to the Covid pandemic the diagrams allocated to the Happy Trains has been reduced further, with them to be retired completely at the May 2021 timetable changed. 1P05, the 0637 ‘semi-fast’ service from Peterborough to King’s Cross is the final remaining southbound service operated by the 365s, with a pair of the class stopping at Huntingdon, St. Neots, Biggleswade and Stevenage on their 70 minute journey south to the capital.
Introduced onto NSE services both north and south of the river Thames in the early 1990s, the class 365s were the last trains to have been built at Holgate Road Carriage Works in York, a site that was closed following the completion of the 365 order. Initially the class 365 was intended to be dual voltage to allow them to operate universally across the NSE network, however this capability was never actually installed, and units were initially operated to either what became Connex South Eastern or West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN).
Having begun operations in late 1996, the 16 units fitted for third rail running, operated for just 8 years south of the river before being converted and transferred to WAGN in 2004, with all remaining 40 units (one was written off in the Potters Bar rail crash) then operating out of King’s Cross. With the introduction of class 700s on Thameslink services in 2017, the class 387s previously operating on those routes were cascaded to Great Northern, displacing the class 365s onto the peak-hours services to and from Peterborough and Royston.
Refurbished in 2014, the class 365s have a standard 2-2 configuration, with the seats in a mix of ‘airline style’ seating and bays of four which have mini tables. There is a first-class section on each 365, however all this really gets you is a slightly more padded seat and a full-size table. Compared to the 387s that have replaced them on most Great Northern services, the 365s are unfortunately lacking, especially in terms of tables and power sockets.
With their displacement in 2017, the number of 365s required for service was drastically reduced and the odd numbered units (with the exception of 356511 and 365539) were placed into storage. Due to delays with the introduction of ScotRail’s class 385s and impending cascades of other rolling stock, ten 365 units made a trip to north of the border to fill in operating services between Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling for nine months.
With the reduction in demand due to Covid-19 restrictions, the more limited timetables introduced by operators including Great Northern and the continued suspension of Gatwick Express services, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have opted to replace the final 365 services with services operated by Gatwick Express class 387s moved to the north side of the Thames.
Whilst the class 365s definitely aren’t my favourite type of train and I much prefer to catch a 387 service into London, it felt appropriate to take a last ride on a Happy Train before this retirement. From when this post goes live at the start of April, there are just under six weeks left until the timetable change on 16th May and the final retirement of the 365s. If you want to take a last ride on one, they currently operate the 1P05 (0637 PBO-KGX) and 1P52 (1805 KGX-PBO) services, running as a pair.