|Back in the days of full Juniper services 8020 approaches Clapham Junction on 5th June 2008|
The South West Trains class 458/0's look to finally be bowing out of service. The class were first introduced in 1998 as SWT's slam door replacement units, however they have had a chequered history ever since. Failing initially to reach appropriate levels of reliability the Alsthom built vehicles lost out to Siemens as the main replacement stock for slam door units with the Desiro being chosen as the main order. The 458 'Junipers' however found a home on the Waterloo to Reading service, where they have been concentrated since the early 2000's. Despite a plan to remove the units from traffic completely due to poor reliability the 30 x 4 car units settled down to traffic and went on to win the Modern Railways 'Golden Spanner' award for the most reliable new generation EMU in 2012.
In a strange twist of events, since 2013 the class have been rebuilt using redundant vehicles from the former Gatwick Express class 460's to form five car sets which have become numbered in the 458/5 series. All 30 class 458/0's and most vehicles from the eight car class 460's will be rebuilt into the new fleet which will comprise of 36 5 car units.
The scheme is running behind schedule which has resulted in an extended lease of life for the original class 458/5's. Despite a 'farewell' railtour- 'The Juniper Factor' running in May 2015 the trains have continued to see active service throughout summer 2015. The end is now nigh however with the last trainset due to to be taken out of service with SWT and send to Doncaster for re-building before the end of September.
While the 458/0's time is at an end the re-built 458/5's should be with us for many years to come providing additional capacity on services to Windsor, Hounslow and Weybridge.