Posted 13th August 2010 | 20 Comments
Test Pendolino for East Coast line raises Virgin hackles
THE news that a new Pendolino may be tried on the East Coast Main Line has prompted a swift response from Virgin, which wants all the additional trains now being built by Alstom in Italy for its own West Coast route.
Directly Operated Railways, the Department for Transport company which is administering the East Coast franchise until it can be returned to the private sector, has announced that it is in discussion with industry parties concerning the possibility of commissioning a new 11-car Pendolino train on the ECML.
Elaine Holt, who is chairman and Chief Executive of Directly Operated Railways, and also chairman of East Coast, said: “I’m very pleased that East Coast has been asked to commission the new Pendolino on the East Coast Main Line. Whilst a final decision has not yet been made, if it goes ahead, the train would add extra capacity to our fleet – and we’re sure our customers would appreciate the comfort and facilities that the new Pendolino has to offer.
“We’re currently talking with the manufacturers and other key industry partners to understand the challenges and opportunities involved in the commissioning and certification of the Pendolino.”
It is proposed that East Coast would take delivery of the train in July next year, and run it between London and Edinburgh. It would be maintained at Polmadie depot in Glasgow.
But the prospect has caused dismay at Euston, where Virgin Trains is anxious to expand the Pendolino fleet as soon as possible. It had been reported recently that the four new trains now under construction would not be brought into service until the present West Coast franchise ends in March 2012, and the prospect of a Pendolino running on East Coast ahead of time would be even less welcome.
Virgin Rail Group said: "We have no knowledge of any plans to use new Pendolinos on East Coast and have not been asked for any advice. The new Pendolinos were ordered for the West Coast based upon a robust business case and are due to start arriving in the UK later this year.
“As has already been reported, we have made a proposal to the DfT to seek an extension to our West Coast franchise and one of the many benefits would be to assist the DfT with the tricky integration of new vehicles and offering options to put the new 11-car trains into revenue earning service earlier than previously envisaged, to provide maximum capacity before and during the Olympic Games in 2012.
“We cannot go into too much detail as this is still a matter between us and the DfT, but we can confirm broadly that our plans are to put the first new Class 390 on Scotland - Birmingham services in 2011, of which many are now full and standing (nearly half of all trains on Fridays and Sundays). Then we would extend the trains to London, restoring some direct Milton Keynes - Scotland links, and free-up a Super Voyager to start a new service linking Manchester with Heathrow ( Hayes ). Another set would also enable hourly London - Glasgow services throughout the day by the end of 2011.
“Furthermore, we have developed a new business case that pays for the placing of an order for another 42 vehicles, at no additional cost to Government. This would bring the complete Pendolino fleet of 56 trains up to 11-car with 2 additional standard class coaches per set.
“We are sure the DfT will not dismiss out of hand our revenue earning proposals over an experiment on the East Coast and we are just waiting to discuss our proposals in more detail.
"Given the record rates of growth we seeing on our West Coast services (three times higher than the East Coast) we really need to get the trains and cars into service as soon as possible to handle the growing passenger numbers without worsening overcrowding."
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