Published 10th December 2012
A multinational rail consortium has unveiled what could be the seemingly new train for the East Coast Main Line (ECML). The rolling stock company, Eversholt Rail Group, manufacturers Bombardier and Wabtec, the carriage and wagon renovation company, has between them offered a refreshed Mark 4 train to the Government as an alternative to the Intercity Express Project (IEP).
The ECML trains were built between 1988 and 1991 and are due for replacement soon, or are they? The carriages, designated Mark 4, have already been modernised some years ago but will again soon be due for another mid life refresh. The class 91 locomotives that they work with are seemingly due for replacement in the next few years by the Department for Transport (DfT) procured IEP fleet.
And thereby lies the problem. The DfT has delayed and delayed the project and changed the specification which some rail industry experts say has made the cost of the new IEP trains, extortionate. The preferred bidders are Hitachi and the trains will be put together in the northeast near Darlington.
The consortium invited rail.co.uk to view a full size carriage mockup of the proposed interior design and they emphasised that these proposals indicated what could be done to existing carriages rather than replacing them. They offered four types of interior fittings at a cost of £120m rather than the estimated cost of £1bn if a new train fleet was purchased.
The seats are manufactured as a complete unit and offer more comfort than those currently used and have leather covers. They have slim line cushions which allows better provision for luggage without losing legroom. The seat pitch is 820mm against the existing 835mm, important on the this ECML long distance route and each seat has a power supply for laptops or phones.
Several different types of travel accommodation are offered. These range from standard class, business class, first class and an optional extra of luxury, premium class. The latter features single seats by a window which tilt and swivel so you can either face others or turn towards a window and travel in isolation. These seats recline and offer a deep headrest and winged pillows trimmed in Egyptian cotton with a reclining lower leg support. A comfortable restful journey looked eminently possible when the seat was demonstrated!
The three other classes of travel were also comfortable with 2 x 2 or 2 x 1 seating layouts.
First class seats offer tables with an inductive loop to charge phones and are 4G enabled. In business class, tables (with wood veneer) are larger to allow space for one laptop per passenger to be used in opposite seats at the same time.
The seatbacks have headrests and the seats are thin being made of slimline ultra-light honeycomb aluminium. On-board passenger displays show when the train is approaching a station and which side to exit from. One major point to note is the seat reservation system which uses a traffic-light system of indicating if a seat is reserved or not. If the seat is unreserved, a green light is displayed, if it reserved for the whole journey, a red aspect is shown. If the seat is reserved for part of the journey, an amber light is shown.
By moving the galley from the middle of the train to the Driving Van Trailer (DVT), an extra 26 seats can be put into each train if required, or the premium seats if preferred. Each train can carry up to 579 passengers an increase of 44 than in the existing fleet configuration.
The class 91 fleet has had reliability issues and despite several attempts at curing these, the performance statistics do not lie and they still need improving. So the consortium has proposed that a Bombardier designated class 93 electric ‘Traxx’ locomotive is used, which also carries a diesel engine.
This allows the train to continue at up to 30mph if the overhead electricity power supply is switched off as often happens when there are overhead wire problems. It can also provide ‘hotel power’ for the carriages if the wires are down and no power is available. This allows air conditioning, lights, toilets and doors to operate as normal.
The locomotive also carries two pantographs which again, builds in extra redundancy cover if one is damaged. Bombardier say that over 1600 of these engines are in use in 20 countries in mainland Europe already. They are European Train Control System (ETCS) compliant and so far as UK railways can decide on which system to use (trials are underway) then these locomotives will be ready for fitting out
The class 93 Traxx locomotive contains innovative technology and offers a very green regenerative braking system down to very low speeds. The class 93 Bombardier say, is one of the best performing locomotive in terms of acceleration and braking. In fact, at speeds over 60mph, it accelerates faster than any other train.
Eversholt Rail Group says that the Mark 4 carriages could be refurbished for £120m providing around 550 jobs in the UK. The mockup has been shown to passenger groups and the DfT for consideration.