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Hitachi Rail secures £350m contract for West Coast Main Line
First Trenitalia, whose new Avanti West Coast rail service started on Sunday 8 December, has awarded a contract worth more than £350m to Hitachi Rail, which will see the firm provide and maintain 23 new intercity trains (135 carriages), to be built at its County Durham factory.
Bringing additional capacity to services along the West Coast Main Line and in North Wales, these new, state-of-the-art intercity trains will start operating in 2022. The trains will be a mix of ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains, with the ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power.
The electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool, while the bi-mode version will serve the London to North Wales route.
These are fast-accelerating 125mph trains which draw from their Japanese bullet train heritage. As a result of their modern design, passengers will enjoy a quieter journey compared to the diesel-only trains they will replace.
There are 453 seats on a 7-car service and 301 seats on a 5-car service, increasing capacity compared to the Class 221 Voyager trains they replace (which have 258 seats). The seven-carriage version of the electric trains will have similar numbers of seats to a nine-carriage Pendolino, owing to the longer 26 metre carriages of the Hitachi trains.
The bi-mode trains will run for most of the journey using electric power only, switching to diesel power for those parts of the network that are not electrified – for example, the North Wales Coast Line to and from Holyhead.
Due to the high environmental standards of their diesel engines, the new trains are cleaner and more efficient than the trains they are replacing. Particulate matter emissions are reduced by more than 90% and NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions are reduced by more than 60% compared to the engines currently in service. The introduction of these new trains will help to support the UK’s drive for a cleaner, greener environment. Bi-mode technology is an important first step in de-carbonising rail and achieving ‘no net emissions’.
By running on electric rather than diesel power for the vast majority of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by around two-thirds across the franchise. Passengers using locations such as Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central will benefit from cleaner air within the station due to fewer diesel train services.
The new trains will be built at Hitachi’s factory at Newton Aycliffe in north-east England, supporting thousands of jobs across the country. Hitachi Rail prioritises UK suppliers whenever possible, including with servicing and maintenance operations. This approach has resulted in Hitachi Rail spending more than £1.6bn with UK suppliers since 2013. To date, wheelsets have come from Manchester; windows from Newcastle; door handles from Leeds; and overhead panels from County Durham, amongst many other parts made in Britain.
Ernesto Sicilia, managing director for Trenitalia UK, said: “We are pleased to announce this new fleet which highlights our commitment to innovation and desire to constantly improve our services. We are delighted to provide more efficient and modern trains which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 61%, including new comfortable seats for an improved customer experience.”
The investment in these new trains is being financed through Rock Rail West Coast, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments. Rock Rail West Coast will own the trains and lease them to First Trenitalia.
Mark Swindell, chief executive officer of Rock Rail and director of Rock Rail West Coast, said: “Rock Rail is delighted to be working with First Trenitalia and Hitachi and our institutional investor partners to bring these trains to the region and deliver step changes in the travelling experience for so many rail passengers across the country.
“This new state-of-the-art Hitachi fleet represents Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ fourth new rolling stock deal in the UK, and across all deals combined sees investment by the institutional investor sector of just under £2.5bn in the UK railway. This long term, highly competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money to rail passengers and tax payers over the life of the trains, along with significant improvements in passenger, environmental and operational features.”
Alongside the Hitachi Rail contract to supply and maintain the 23 new trains, First Trenitalia have also signed a maintenance agreement with Alstom, enabling the fleet to be maintained by a joint team from Hitachi and Alstom at the existing Oxley depot in Wolverhampton, supporting highly-skilled engineering jobs.