London Overground’s new Class 710 “Aventra” EMUs finally entered service at the end of May 2019 after a series of delays with teething and driver training issues. They are now working two regular diagrams on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, enabling the service on that line to be restored to a higher frequency after the departure of the Class 172 DMUs forced London Overground to use shortened 4-car Class 378 sets borrowed from other services to cover the route.
I took my first journey on no. 710269 on Tuesday 28 May, and my initial impressions were broadly positive. The units feel very fresh, the wide gangways lend them a sense of space on the inside and the ride quality is excellent even compared with the still relatively modern Class 378s.
The decision to move away from yellow front ends is a welcome one for me. This allows the Overground livery to blend in better with the lines of the unit’s design, without having to accommodate a yellow panel. It gives the trains and the lines they serve more of a unique identity.
One decision I do not welcome, however, is the use of longitudinal (sideways) seating throughout on these units. The Gospel Oak to Barking line is not a route that needs that much extra standing space and it feels like passenger comfort is being sacrificed here for the sake of making the line feel more like part of a metro system, which has very much been the Overground’s ethos from the start. There may well be a case for some side seating, but the decision not to include any transverse (forward/backward) seating on a line which was previously all transverse seating is, in my view, not justified.
That being said, the seating itself does feel better padded and more comfortable than on the 378s, although this could be down many years of wear on the 378 seats.
The onboard information system, like that found on the Thameslink Class 700 sets, could be better, and I would like to see a Dutch-style full-line digital display start to be implemented on trains in the UK. The announcements are clear and bright though, and the overall presentation and design of the trains is fresh, modern and suits the Overground colour scheme very well inside and out.