First Capital Connect (FCC) have released a statement concerning the withdrawal of its new 377/5 Electrostars. It seems that during routine inspect of 377502 in the early hours of Friday morning an issue was discovered with the units power transmission system. This axle end earth return brushes and the bearing which return current to the running rails were found to be faulty. After discovering this unit 377505 was inspect (this was the latest Electrostar to have been delivered) and finding this to have the same fault FCC took the precaution of withdrawing all six Electrostars from service.
FCC found out about this problem early enough for it not to have presented any safety issue but did leave it short of units which it found frustrating to say the least. Bombardier has been busy working on the problem and is now carrying out the remedial work to the currently delivered units. All future 377/5 to be delivered (the 8th unit is due next) will have a modified bearing to solve this problem from returning.
The 377/5 have been a sore point between FCC and Bombardier for months now and in the past this has split out in the public when the former MD of FCC publicly attacked Bombardier for its failure leaving FCC short of trains which lead to a massive inter TOC, DfT, NR and freight alliance to allow stock moves and trained staff to operate different services using different trains. Thankfully this is now winding down with 3 377/2 returned to Southern from FCC and the 4th due shortly. All 3 375 Southern borrowed from Southeastern have returned and the 350/1 from London Midland are returning shortly. FCC did announce that the Electrostar will return at the daily rate of 2 per day starting today. However so far 3 377/5 have returned to duty, the three units being 377504, 377507 and 377508.