Posted 16th May 2011 | 6 Comments

East Coast Pendolino plan scrapped as Virgin gives in

A NEW Pendolino which might have run on East Coast for a while because of contractual arguments between the DfT and Virgin is to run on the West Coast after all – before the present Virgin franchise expires.

The eleven-car tilting set built in Italy by Alstom – one of four new ones – has been in Britain for some time, but had nowhere to go because Virgin had originally said it would only take the additional sets if it could have a two-year franchise extension.

This was refused by the Department for Transport, which instead floated the idea of running a Pendolino on the East Coast Main Line as an interim measure, until the new West Coast contract starts in March next year.

The East Coast proposal was met with industry objections, not least because the line is not equipped with the balises which are needed to allow Pendolinos to run with their tilt mechanism enabled.

But now the new set is to find a home on the West Coast after all, although it will be reduced to nine cars in length for the time being because drivers have yet to be trained to handle eleven-car sets. These will need to be run with selective door opening at some intermediate stations where the platforms are not long enough to take them.

The new Pendolino is expected to enter traffic in July, and will be used mainly on the Birmingham-Scotland and London-Glasgow routes, which have seen growth of more than 30 per cent in the last two years. It will provide 183 more seats than the Class 221 Super Voyagers running between Birmingham and Scotland.

A five-vehicle Class 221 unit will then be transferred to services between London and North Wales, and used to strengthen the busiest trains to ten vehicles.

As well as the four new 11-car sets Alstom is supplying a further 62 vehicles, so that 31 of the 52 existing nine-car sets can also be lengthened to 11 vehicles by December next year.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: “Tackling crowding and reducing the cost of our railways are two of the biggest challenges facing the rail industry at the moment. I am delighted that we have reached agreement to bring these carriages into service ahead of schedule.

“But this is just part of the Government’s plans to increase capacity for the West Coast main line – when all the new Pendolino vehicles and trains are in service in December 2012, there will be 106 new carriages in operation on the line."

Tony Collins, who is chief executive of Virgin Rail Group, said: "This is exactly what our customers want – more seats and space for their journeys. As soon as the Department for Transport asked for operators to suggest uses for the new train, we didn’t hesitate to put forward our proposals. It shows great partnership with DfT officials and the minister that we can bring this train into service as soon as it has finished its testing.”

Reader Comments:

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

  • John, Carlisle, UK

    East coast dont deserve trains like pendolino's on there ratty lines. tThey should all be kept where they belong after alll not too soon until the HST'S are replaced with Hitachi which is a shame.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex, England

    This may finally mean the Pretendolino is no more?

    However, hopefully a pendolino is at least tested on the ECML as more of these trains still make better sense than the development of a new train!!

    This news comes alongside the news that the WCML franchise is not being relet as planned any connection?

  • J C, Hull, UK

    quote "Virgin had originally said it would only take the additional sets if it could have a two-year franchise extension" .. I'm not aware of the fine details, but as written it reads like corporate blackmail.

    Does Virgin really expect such behaviour will gain it browny points (like for instance when bidding for upcoming franchises)?

    Such strange behaviour

  • Rob, Newcastle, United Kingdom

    It is a multiple unit, but as it's made up of 11 separate individual cars, it the word carriage really so wrong?

  • Rob, Derby, UK

    "I am delighted that we have reached agreement to bring these carriages into service ahead of schedule."

    Carriages? It's a multiple unit, no? Why does everyone still think in terms of Loco + coaches? It's about 30 years out of date.

  • Billy Ghanjit, Paisley, UK

    Common sense prevails at last. Why is everything so difficult when it comes to the railway?
    It seems passengers are merely an afterthought.