Published: 4th July 2016
In a carefully choreographed PR exercise, Patrick McLoughlin the Transport Secretary took a ride on the Hitachi InterCity Express Train between Reading and Paddington. These Government procured trains will be entering service from next year on the Great Western Main Line between London, Exeter and Penzance, London to Cardiff and Swansea, London to Oxford and the Cotswolds.
The trains have been mired in financial controversy because the Department for Transport (DfT) wanted to challenge the traditional rolling stock lease companies market position by taking charge of the procurement process. Critics say that because civil servants led the process, the trains are somewhat late and far more expensive than had they let market forces carry out the negotiating and contractual arrangements.
The Class 800 train arrived 100 seconds late watched by huge crowds, was operated by GB Railfreight as it is their drivers who have been testing and commissioning them for Hitachi. This service was the first to carry passengers in the UK and is the visible front-end of the DfT’s £5.7 billion InterCity Express Programme (IEP).
They said: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
The unveiling of Great Western Railway’s first state-of-the-art IEP train offers a glimpse of the benefits passengers in the south-west and Wales will enjoy from 2017. These include more seats, greater comfort, better reliability and faster, more frequent services.
The new trains are being manufactured in Britain and will include more seats, greater legroom, free Wi-Fi, power sockets at each seat, LCD seat reservation indicators and increased space in overhead luggage racks.
Great Western Railway Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, said: “On this special anniversary we are looking not just back at our rich heritage but forward at a transformational investment programme.
“The new trains will result in more frequent and faster journeys and an increase in the number of seats. These, and a range of further passenger benefits, will enable communities and businesses across the Great Western network to prosper and we are delighted to invite observers to witness first-hand the step change electrification and our new fleet will bring.”
“The unveiling of Great Western Railway’s first state-of-the-art Intercity Express Programme (IEP) train offers a glimpse of the benefits passengers in the South West and Wales will enjoy from 2017. These include more seats, greater comfort, better reliability and faster, more frequent services.”
Andy Rogers, Projects Director of Hitachi Rail Europe said: “This is a momentous day for GWR, as it celebrates 175 years of the Great Western Main Line and looks forward to an exciting future for fare-paying customers. Hitachi is, therefore, delighted to be showcasing one of its brand new Intercity Express Programme (IEP) trains as part of today’s celebration.”
Mark Langman, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said: “I am delighted to be joining our alliance partner, Great Western Railway, at the launch of their new Hitachi 800 series trains. Network Rail’s Greater West programme is delivering the power and signalling which will allow these fantastic new trains to reach their potential. They will help transform journeys and grow local economies across the West.”
The train used (No. 800004) is one of 57 trains expected to operate on Great Western services ran on the 175th anniversary of the GWR’s first passenger service between Bristol and London. It carried two names: Sir Daniel Gooch and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Invited guests joined a 40 year old newly liveried green High Speed Train at Bristol to take them to Reading for the first IEP passenger carrying service.
When the new trains are all in service, the average age of the GW fleet will reduce by over 50% while three million extra seats a year will be available once the electrification is complete. There will be 7,900 more peak time seats in and out of London every day. The electrification project is currently at least a year behind schedule and maybe a billion pounds over the initial budget but when complete, will transform 235 route miles from Paddington westwards.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will be pleased to see new trains coming in on their route. We know that their top priorities include faster, more reliable and comfortable trains – with more of them to serve the increasing numbers of passengers.”
Whether the seats will be as comfortable as the HST’s is another matter as they are generally acknowledged to be the most comfortable design in the last 50 years.
The DfT procured 57 strong fleet of Class 800/17 trains are expected to operate between London and Reading, Oxford, Swindon, Bath, Bristol and South Wales as well as North and South Cotswold lines from summer of 2017.
The GWR procured Class 802 are for longer distance services between London, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall and are similar to the Class 800/1 but with larger fuel tanks to cope with the longer journeys and more powerful engines to flatten the Devon and Cornwall hills and are due to commence operations in 2018.
As part of the IEP, Network Rail will electrify the route while Agility Trains (a consortium of Hitachi Rail Europe and John Laing Investments) as the Train Service Provider will deliver the Hitachi-made, Hitachi-maintained trains into passenger service each day. The original contracts were signed in July 2012.