4 Vep: Vestibuled electro-pneumatic
Building of a second batch of thirty-two 4-VEP units had commenced in April 1967, numbered 7721 to 7755. Unlike the first batch, all vehicles were assembled at York. The livery was slightly revised to meet new safety criteria, which decreed that the entire cab front had to be painted yellow. In addition, the window frames were left unpainted and instead displayed an attractive polished metal appearance. This second 4-VEP batch was allocated to the Central Division, which allowed the withdrawal of 4-LAV, 2-BIL, and 2-HAL units on the Brighton Main Line. Unlike their Western Section counterparts, Nos. 7721 to 7755 lacked AWS. Of this batch, Nos. 7739, 7741, and 7742 never made it into operational service as complete units, for reasons of which will be given anon. By February 1970, a third batch of York-built 4-VEP units, totalling sixty sets, had been built, this number being split between South Western and Central Divisions, making withdrawal of more 2-BIL and 2-HAL sets possible. Construction of a fourth batch of thirty-eight units, Nos. 7816 to 7853, commenced in May 1972, and as per Nos. 7721 to 7755, these were split between South Western and Central Divisions. The 4-VEP production line ended in March 1972, on completion of a batch of forty-one units, numbered 7854 to 7894, for the South Eastern Division. Units of the final batch displaced a number of 2-HAP units, the latter of which were cascaded to the South Western Division to allow withdrawal of 4-SUB stock to commence. Those units numbered 7816 upwards were finished from new in Corporate Blue and Grey, the livery adopted for ‘’main line’’ stock since the BR re-branding of January 1965. Adoption of the scheme for the VEP fleet followed an experimental application of the livery on No. 7808, during 1970.
Three 4-VEP units of the Central Division’s first batch, Nos. 7739, 7741, and 7742, never made it into service as complete units. As a stop-gap measure to substitute for failed 4-REP units on Waterloo to Bournemouth services, which were at this time suffering from low availability, the aforementioned 4-VEP units were split. Seven assorted vehicles from these 4-VEPs, in addition to one locomotive-hauled BR Mk 1 buffet car, were re-formed into an eight-vehicle train. In particular, the vehicles used were DTC Nos. 76373, 76374, 76375, and 7637, MBSO Nos. 62200, 62202, and 62203, and finally, Trailer Restaurant Buffet car No. 1759. The latter was equipped with jumper cables and air pipes for EMU operation. The new rather hotchpotch unit was designated 8-VAB (Vestibule Autobrake Buffet) and was numbered 8001. The vehicles of VEP origin remained in all-over Rail Blue livery, whilst the buffet car wore Corporate Blue and Grey. A repaint of the complete unit into the latter scheme was undertaken in 1972, and the unit ran in fast and semi-fast services on the Waterloo main line until disbanding in 1974.
In 1973, an attempt was made at Stewarts Lane Depot to provide dedicated stock for a Victoria to Gatwick Airport service. In May of that year, 4-VEP No. 7755 was altered internally to find out whether existing SR EMU stock could suitably be adapted to convey airline passengers and bulky luggage. This affected Second Class areas only, where seats in blocks of two were abolished and replaced by luggage racks. No. 7755 reverted to its original state in 1977, but another twelve 4-VEP units, Nos. 7788 to 7799, were also modified for Gatwick services in the following year. The alterations to these units included removing all Second Class seating within the DTC vehicles, the space again being filled by luggage racks, and taking out seating at each end of TSO and MBSO vehicles, again for luggage rack installation. These twelve units were re-designated 4-VEG (Vestibule Electro Gatwick), and were renumbered Nos. 7901 to 7912. The units remained in Corporate Blue and Grey colours, and carried ‘’Rapid City Link Gatwick – London‘’ branding immediately beneath the roofline, superimposed upon an orange stripe. The British Rail ‘’Arrows of Indecision’’ logo was accompanied by an aircraft symbol. In the following year, the scheme was slightly modified to include a green stripe in place of the orange stripe. Furthermore, the ‘’Rapid City Link Gatwick – London’’ branding and associated symbols were enlarged and moved down to the lower body sides of the DTC vehicles, beneath the cab windows. Nos. 7901 to 7912 remained in their modified formats until the introduction of ex-Midland Region BR Mk 2f air-conditioned carriages on the route in May 1984, as a newly branded ‘’Gatwick Express’’ dedicated service. Consequently, the original 7788 to 7799 numbering series was restored.
The ‘’London & SouthEast’’ Business Sector was formally re-branded as ‘’Network SouthEast’’ on 10th June 1986, and for the occasion, 4-VEP No. 7850 was re-painted in ‘’Toothpaste’’ livery, the first of the class to receive the colours. In the following year, the original twenty 4-VEP units, Nos. 7701 to 7720, were dispatched to Eastleigh works for asbestos removal. Earlier 4CEP/BEP and 4 CIG/BIG units were, too, subject to this. 1987 also saw the complete re-numbering of the 4-VEP fleet. This was done in unit order; thus Nos. 7701 to 7894 became Nos. 3001 to 3194. Re-numbering was followed by a unit refurbishment programme, commencing in 1988 at Eastleigh works, which saw additional seating inserted within the MBSO vehicles. Consequently, the luggage area was reduced in size, and since the MBSO carriages took longer to refurbish than the other vehicles in the formation, no 4-VEP ran with its original motor coach thereafter. This ‘’facelift’’ exercise complicates the 4-VEP history somewhat, because units were re-numbered yet again, despite having received new identities during the previous year. In addition, facelifts were not done in unit order, the first candidate being No. 3168, which subsequently became No. 3421. Units subject to the facelift programme formed a new sub-class: 423/1. Railway privatisation brought two further VEP unit classifications: 4-VOP and 3-VEP. The former type appeared in 1999, when nineteen units on the former Central Division were converted to standard class only, the work being undertaken at Chart Leacon Depot, Ashford. The latter classification applied to those units which subsequently lost their TSO carriages and became three-vehicle formations.
4 VEP No. 7850 speeds past on the ''down'' through line at Ashford, after emerging from Chart Leacon Depot.
It is heading empty stock to Ramsgate. In the foreground is 4 CEP No. 1568, forming a Margate service.
© John Horton
4 VEP No. 7790 is seen in the unmistakable surroundings of London Waterloo, as it awaits departure to Basingstoke.
An InterCity-liveried Class 73 Electro-Diesel can just be picked out through the canopy struts on the far left.
© John Horton
Unit No. 7700 was unique among the class, for it had been formed into a unit during October 1984 using three
spare VEP carriages and a driving trailer for a CIG. Thus, it was designated a 4-VIG. The unit is seen in the
above photograph at Stewarts Lane. © John Horton
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