Southern EMUs - The 4VEP

This article first appeared in the November/December 2003 issue of AMRA's 'Journal'.
By 'Electron'

The need for new units arose with the proposed opening of the new Waterloo to Bournemouth electrification project in 1967. The 4VEP was developed to meet this need.

The 4VEPs design was based on the already successful 4CIG units. The main difference from the earlier design was that the new units would have higher density seating and a much larger luggage compartment. Total seating in a 4VEP consists of 48 in first class and 232 in second class.

The configuration of a 4VEP is DTC-TS-MBS-DTC. Both driving Trailer Composites have identical configurations with second class laid out saloon style with four bays of 3+2 seating immediately behind the driving cab and four first class compartments at the other end of the coach with a corridor down one side. These cars (which weigh 34 tonnes) have a carrying capacity of 24 first class and 38 second class passengers. The Trailer Second cars consist of ten second class bays each with their own external doors on each side. The end bays can hold nine passengers while the other bays can hold ten giving a total capacity of 98 second class passengers in a car weighing 31 tonnes. The Motor Brake Second consists of a small guards office, a large luggage compartment and six bays in a saloon arrangement again with 3+2 seating. These bays can hold a total of 58 second class passengers. Power equipment is carried below this car with four 250hp English Electric traction motors (two per bogie) driving the train with the rest of the traction equipment being carried between the bogies. The MBS has a total weight of 48 tonnes.

The original order was for twenty units and these (numbered 7701 - 7720) entered service in early 1967 and were run in before the electric service commenced on the Waterloo to Bournemouth line in J7uly of that year. Even before these units were delivered more units were ordered and by 1970 a further 95 (numbered 7721 - 7815) had been delivered. All but three of these units took up service on many main line and outer suburban line services across the Western Division of the Southern Region.

The first twenty units were fitted with the Westinghouse Automatic Warning System equipment when it was built as the Bournemouth line was so equiped during the electrification project. Subsequent units were not fitted with this equipment when first built but it was progressively retrofitted to the units as the progressive installment of the trackside equipment across the Southern network warranted.

Three units (7739, 7741, and 7742) did not enter service as expected because there was a requirement for an additional buffet service. Cars from these three units along with a loco hauled buffet car were instead configured to form a single 8VAB unit (numbered 8001). This unit contained four driving trailers (in order to provide sufficient first class acommodation) and was therefore able to also operate as separate three and five car units. After this was no longer required units 7741 and 7742 were reestablished into their 4VEP configuration in 1974.

During 1968 the units were delivered at a rate of one per week. All units were built at York (except for the first twent TS and MBS cars which were assembled at Derby). The completed units (after thorough testing) were loco hauled across the Eastern Region to Temple Mills yard where Southern Region deisel locomotives would collect them and bring them south to the third rail network at Selhurst from which they were then able to proceed under their own power. Further extensive testing of units was then performed including empty runs to and from Brighton.

When first introduced the units appeared in the standard BR blue livery and had a small yellow warning panel in the lower half of the end doors. After the first twenty units this yellow warning panel was extended to include the entire ends of the units. Unit 7808 was the first to appear in intercity blue-grey livery but this was only a trial of the new colours and subsequent units continued to appear in blue until 1971 when the intercity livery was adopted as standard. Existing units were then repainted into intercity livery as they underwent scheduled overhauls.

Still more 4VEP units were ordered in the early 1970s in order to replace the many aged BIL, HAL, and COR that were in need of replacement on the Western and Central Divisions. Units 7816 - 7853 were delivered in 1972 to fulfil this requirement.

A further 41 units (numbered 7854 - 7894) were ordered in 1973 this time to replace aged stock on the Eastern Division. These are the units with which I am most familiar as I "spotted" most of them travelling on the Ashford-Victoria via Maidstone East line at some time during 1974/5. I also rode on several of these units on subsequent visits to England.

The 4VEPs spent most of their lives on the divisions to which they were first allocated with Western Division units being based at Fratton, Wimbledon, and Bournemouth, Central Division units being based at Brighton and Eastern Division units being based at Ramsgate.

A common formation for the 4VEPS leaving London was to have three units operating in multiple to form a 12 car train. These sets would then run to some outer suburban station where the train would be split. One unit would then continue to a destination on one line while the other two units would proceed to another destination on another line. Trains from Charing Cross or Victoria would often be split at Ashford before proceeding to separate destinations on the Kent coast. 4VEPs could also be run in multiple with other units and appeared regularly in formations with units such as 2HAPs, 4CIGs, and 4CEPs.

In 1978 twelve units (7788 - 7799) were reclassified as 4VEG and were allocated to the Victoria-Gatwick service. Seating in second class in these units was reduced by 24 and luggage racks were installed in their place. These units were painted in a special livery for the Gatwick service but since 1983 were restored to the standard liveries in use by the other 4VEP units.

From their introduction until the mid 1980s all of the 4VEP units had curtains fitted in both first and second class. Financial cutbacks in the mid 80s saw the removal of the curtains and associated fittings from the second class compartments of most units.

Heavier than normal snow falls can lead to problems with electric multiple unit operation on the Sothern region. One solution to this problem would be to add a 73 class electro-deisel locomotive at the London end of the train. This would ensure that the train would have additional power available to push it through the snow but made for an extremely rough ride particularly for passengers at the London end of a train headed for the suburbs.

Like all of the BR stock, a variety of liveries appeared on the 4VEP units in the late 1980s. I can remember seeing many of the Eastern Division units in Network SouthEast livery when I visited in 1990.

The 4VEPS have seen many years of successful service on all of the outer suburban electrified lines of the Southern Region network.

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Copyright Stephen Chapman