Posted 12th February 2009 | 13 Comments

Hitachi to power new ‘British’ intercity trains and Bombardier to build 120 coaches

Hitachi Super Express train promotional video.

GOVERNMENT talk of early mainline electrification has been muddied by an announcement that a consortium—described as ‘British led’ but based on Hitachi Japanese technology, including hybrid systems, —has been selected to build a fleet of so-called Super Express trains to replace the 20-30 year old InterCity 125 diesel-powered trains.
Bombardier, at present Britain’s only remaining train builder, had joined with Siemens of Germany to bid for the £7.5 billion contract.  But in what seems to be a sop to Bombardier, the Department of Transport has announced the company has been selected to build 120 new carriages for the Stansted Express service, operated by National Express East Anglia between London Liverpool Street and the Essex airport.
 The new Hitachi powered ‘Super Express’ trains will be based on a mix of diesel, electric and bi-mode diesel-and-electric power systems and will be built by Agility Trains, a consortium comprising John Laing Projects and Developments, Hitachi and Barclays.
The Government’s announcement said the trains would be manufactured in Great Britain, with the creation of a new manufacturing plant—although no location for this has been announced—and maintained at depots in Bristol, Reading, Doncaster, Leeds and west London, as well as at upgraded existing depots throughout Great Britain.

According to today’s announcement by the Department for Transport: “The first of the new trains will enter service on the East Coast mainline in 2013. Trains will enter full service from 2015, linking London with Cambridge, Leeds, Hull, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh and linking London with the Thames Valley, Bristol and South Wales. Government rail experts working alongside the rail industry have created a new specification for these trains that will offer more seats, more reliable services and reduced journey times.”

Inclusion of Cambridge and Hull and in the future service pattern is new.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon also announced that the Transport Department is in “advanced negotiations” with National Express East Anglia to provide 120 new carriages for the Stansted Express service. “The preferred bidder for this order is Bombardier Transportation, who plan to build them in Derby and therefore safeguard jobs there.”

Previously the DfT had invited tenders for 200 additional coaches — but a new fleet for Stansted Express was not included.

Speaking of both the Super Express and Stansted Express projects, Mr Hoon said: “This announcement demonstrates that this Government is prepared to invest, even in difficult economic times, by improving our national infrastructure. It is good news for the British Economy that over 12,500 jobs will be created and safeguarded; good news for the regions that the Government is supporting significant inward investment; and good news for passengers that we are taking the steps necessary to improve their rail journeys.”

Many rail industry observers believe that the likelihood of an electrification programme makes a diesel-powered version of the new Super Express model unnecessary.  Last month Geoff Hoon said that a decision on electrification of the most heavily used parts of the Great Western mainline from Paddington and the Midland mainline north of Bedford will be announced later this year, “alongside decisions on the deployment of the new inter city express trains.”

Today’s announcement by the DfT said: “The fleet will comprise an electric, self-powered (diesel), and a bi-mode variant, the latter being able to make use of an electric or a diesel power source at the end of the train. This is the first time in recent history that a bi-mode train has been earmarked for the UK rail network. Bi-mode trains are common on some mainland European national rail systems.”

The DfT added: “The 125 mph (200kph) Super Express trains will reduce overcrowding as they will be longer, the new carriages will be 26m in length as opposed to the 23m in Intercity vehicles currently in use. This will mean that they will carry up to 21 per cent more passengers per train than current rolling stock. The faster journey times will also allow operators to run more frequent services.

“A typical journey between London and Leeds will shorten by around 10 mins, between London and Edinburgh by 12 mins, between London and Bristol by 10 mins and between London and Cardiff by 15 mins.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Adam, Aberdeen, UK

    What is the point of a train only capable of doing 125mph? So no improvement on the current situation then. Would it not have been a better use of public money to build a high speed line and introduce new high speed trains, like the new AGV (which also looks much better) to match rather than limiting ourselves now. Once again it seems that long term thinking has left government. What actually happens north of Edinburgh towards Aberdeen and Inverness, given that these routes are not electrified. I assume we will not see these trains at all, but continue to use the good old HST or have to change to ScotRail (unfortunately). Once again Cheapo Britain strikes and public services suffer.

  • John Grierson, Scarborough, UK

    Very disapointing. The money spent on this train could have been spent on something useful like making the kingross - glasgow line high speed or re-opening one of the lines closed after the beeching axe.

  • Barrie Fairbairn, Leicester, UK

    Too little, ( speed) too late, ( since circa 1983 the SNCF have had the TGV) and wrong make, (Hitachi).

    I hang my head in shame when I drive past the old BR Technical Centre in Derby.

    Major and Hoon should join me in my lament for the Railway.

    But they would not understand.

  • John Bowyer, North Battleford, Canada

    Although I'm a British Citizen, currently in Canada, I am a big pasenger rail enthusiast. I am bemused that there is no plan to include a High-Speed dedicated line, East and West to Northern England/Scotland. The announcement that the Hitachi train units can be modified for 140 mph - just 15mph over the initial service speed is rather humuous. The new Javelin 'commuter' service will rapidly accelerate up to 140 mph, right-off-the-bat on the dedicated HS1 line from 2009-great if you happen to live in this corridor in the South-East. But for 95% of the rest of the population, the new Intercity service will be slower than the Javelin 'Commuter' service. And Alstom in France have unveiled their new 220 mph (360kph) AGV. How very odd.

  • Jon Porter, CALNE, UK

    So Bombardier/Siemens team would have built the trains at Derby? No. They may have been fitted out there, the trains would have been built in Germany and Belgium as all previous such "Express" offerings from these companies have been. Remember Virgin Voyagers from Bruges, SWT Trains EMUs from Austria and Germany. At least now the UK has more choice from where it gets its trains and Bombardier with Siemens and Alstom have some serious competition on price.

  • David Myles, Chesterfield, England

    Graham Morgan asks about the Midland Mainline. An equally important question is what will happen to our most modern fast main line trains -the Class 91 and Mk 4's. These are good for another 20 years so why has ECML been chosen for the IEP sets? Can we cascade the 91s and Mk 4s on to an electrified MML? They are definitely superior to the present Meridians that provide Sheffield with its London service.

  • Christopher Gillie, Brentford, Middlesex, UK

    I think that the Hybrid idea is actually quite clever, despite what naysayers might think.

    Only 40% is of the network is electrified, the question is what do you do about the other 60%, so the last comment from Charles from Finchampstead is most unhelpful. The real choice is do we use an "traditional" diesel while we oh so slowly electrify more of the network, or do we think outside the box.

    A Hybrid works a bit like the Toyota Prius (hence the name). The weight is about the same because instead of having a huge diesel engine that has to operate at a wide range of (sometimes inefficient) speeds, there is a smaller engine that powers a generator and can charge batteries.

    - At peak demand (acceleration) both directly generated power and stored battery power are used
    - When"cruising" at speed only the (smaller) diesel is needed.
    - When braking the batteries can be charged up again with regenerative power from the electric traction units (recovering about 80% of the otherwise wasted energy).

    As the diesel engine is smaller and operates only at the most efficient speeds it should also be more reliable and fuel efficient. Real world tests on a converted Train in the UK suggest a 12-20% fuel saving (depending of frequency of stops).

    I have to say it is a real shame no speed increases are planned, and that double decker trains are still non-existant on this Island despite mainland europe having used them for ages - Thats REAL capacity increase!!

  • Anoop, Harrow

    If I believe the video, the Super Express seems to be an electrical unit train with a diesel power car on one end. There are no noisy diesel engines under the passenger saloons, and an engine in a dedicated power car is easier to maintain. However the electric motors are distributed along the train to give good adhesion and acceleration.

    The only extra weight on a dual-mode train compared to a diesel is the weight of the pantograph and transformer. This will probably not be too significant, and the energy saved by running on electricity where available will outweigh the weight of the transformer. On the other hand, the diesel engine will be useful in emergencies (e.g. if there are overhead line problems), and will make the railway more reliable.

    Versatility is also important. I think these trains should be able to split in the middle (with flat cabs and gangways) so that the two halves can go to different peripheral destinations at 100mph but join up for the 125mph journey to London. This will increase the number of destinations directly served from London without causing congestion on the main lines.

    I also think Bombardier should be involved (e.g. as a subcontractor) because they have a lot of expertise and UK experience to offer.

  • Anthony Searcy, Derby, England

    Yet another kick in the teeth to the British manufacturing industry. What is it with this government and their policies? British trains should have and most definately could have been made by British workers! As a unite member and one of Bombardiers workforce I fully support the British trains campaign. But as with other industries they are NOT listening. Pure and simply another nail in the coffin lid of British manufacturing. A massive thank you to Mr Hoon and his cronies at the D.f.t. in their ivory towers and totally out of touch to plight of the ordinary British worker.

  • Graham Morgan, Honiton, England

    There is no mention of the Midland Mainline in this announcement, are we to assume that they will have to keep using the HST's?

  • Martin, Bristol, England

    This would of been great if it had arived 10 years ago to slow it will not do well as a replacement for the HST

  • Charles, Finchampstead, uk

    All goverment spin - no increase in speed on the 30 year old HST. A distinct lack of clarity regarding electrification. Surely all that is offered here is the bare minimum to replace the HST - the cheap option.

    The way the goverment is promoting this as a British bid is all smoke and mirrors. The British bid was the other bid involving Bombardier

    A bio mode train ( containing two engines ) will also be heavier than a pure electric train - how can this be environmentally friendly

  • Geoff Steel, Northampton, United Kingdom

    This is yet another example that the government still lacks a joined up strategy for the railway. They would rather go for a quick good news story to try and boost their poll ratings rather than linking the announcement to their longer term infrastructure plans such as main line and infill electrification schemes which would give a much clearer indication of how many of these new trains will be the more environmentally friendly electric version. Interestingly, there is also no mention of these trains going beyond Edinburgh towards Aberdeen so what will they get when the HST sets are withdrawn from service?