Intercity Express Project gathers pace after a 1000 day delay by the Government

Published 30th July 2012

Agility Trains and the Department for Transport finally sign the new express train contract

The Department for Transport (DfT) and Agility Trains have at long last finalised the deal to provide the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines with new trains.

Agility Trains was named as preferred bidder three years ago and a change of Government and political machinations over the Bombardier Train Works in Derby and its job losses prevented financial close-out before now.

Who is involved?

Agility Trains is a consortium of Japanese train builders under the banner of Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) and John Laing Investments who both countersigned the contract with the DfT. HRE makes up 70% of the company while John Laing the remaining 30%.

This covers Phase 1 of the DfT’s Intercity Express Programme (IEP) which is estimated to be worth around £4.5bn and includes train building, maintenance depots, and route upgrades alongside Network Rail (NR). The latter will carry out infrastructure upgrades to allow the new trains to operate on the Network to optimum effect.


Hitachi has a long railway history and supplies high-speed trains such as the Shinkansen (bullet train) for the Japanese and international markets. Their European breakthrough was to the fleet of 29 Class 395 trains, the first domestic high-speed train in the UK known as Javelins. The trains are maintained at Hitachi’s state of the art depot in Ashford, Kent.

What does the deal cover?

Once the trains are built and commissioned, Agility Trains will also carry out maintenance and have guaranteed daily service delivery levels using HRE as sub-contractor in charge of supplying the trains and being reliable performers on a day to day basis.

Where will this take place?

Although the fleet, once operational will be run anywhere between Scotland London and Penzance, the trains will be put together by HRE at a new Works in Newton Aycliffe located between Darlington and Shildon. This they say, will bring additional socio-economic benefits to Great Britain in the supply chain while directly employing over 730 people in this historic railway area including in a UK Research and Development facility..

The new fleet of trains will be put together in the new Works after being delivered in ‘kit form’ from Japan. The factory will create 200 jobs in the construction phase and built over two years becoming fully operational in 2015. It will then be able to produce up to 35 vehicles per month.

How many trains for how long?

The contract covers the trains being in service for at least 27 ½ years giving long-term certainty for the rail industry and passengers alike. HRE will construct 596 dual powered carriages (electric and so called diesel bi-mode) carriages making up trains for the Great Western Main Line, and the East Coast Main Line.

The fleet will total 92 trains which will be maintained in a number of new-built and existing but upgraded maintenance facilities. New depots are to be built in Swansea, Bristol, west London and Doncaster.

When will this happen?

The first trains should start running on the Great Western Main Line from 2016 by when the line’s electrification should be pretty much completed. Faster journey times will start to happen from 2017 when the new trains and electrified routes will offer potential journey time savings of 15 minutes from London to Swansea and 21 minutes from London to Bristol.

The East Coast Main Line should see the trains a few years later and the reason for this is that the current electric class 91 trains are a decade newer than the diesel powered former Inter City 125 trains used to the west of England and south Wales. These will be approaching 40 years old when replaced and are regarded as the finest train British Railways designed and built.

Technical and Contract details

Bi-mode trains are fundamentally electric trains, which are equipped with additional under-floor diesel generators to provide propulsion where lines are not electrified.

Diesel generators can be removed in case decisions for further electrification are made, therefore enabling a smooth transition to an increasingly electrified network. The contract includes the provision into daily service of the following cleaned, serviced and maintained trains:

  • 21x 9-car electric trains and 36x 5-car bi-mode trains for Great Western Main Line into passenger service each weekday (369 vehicles)
  • 12 x 5-car electric trains, 10 x 5-car bi-mode trains and 13 x 9-car bi-mode trains into passenger service each weekday for East Coast Main Line with an option for a further 30 x 9-car electric trains. (227 vehicles with options for a further 270 vehicles)

They Said:

Alistair Dormer, Chief Executive Officer of Agility Trains said: “We are absolutely delighted to have achieved contract award on the Intercity Express Programme. It is among the biggest contracts ever closed in the UK rail industry and will mean a step change in reliability, capacity and comfort

for British passengers.

Keith Jordan, Managing Director of Hitachi Rail Europe said: The state-of-the-art Hitachi Super Express Trains will provide a significant increase in capacity on both routes to adapt to growth in passenger numbers. With a considerable reduction in weight per seat when compared to the trains currently running on the line, the fleet of trains will use less energy to deliver improved journey times.

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