HITACHI is to build 23 new trains for the West Coast Partnership, with the aim of having them in service by 2022.
The fleet will consist of 10 seven-car electric units and 13 five-car bi-mode units, and will be based on Hitachi’s existing Intercity Express models.
The electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool, while the bi-mode version will be used on the London to Holyhead route.
The announcement of the investment of more than £350 million in the new trains and their maintenance has come just two days before the consortium of FirstGroup and Trenitalia takes over the Intercity West Coast contract from Virgin and Stagecoach at 02.00 on Sunday morning. There will be a formal launch of the new Avanti franchise on Monday.
The IETs for West Coast will replace the existing Class 221 Bombardier-built Voyager units, which will be at least 20 years old by the time they are retired from West Coast. Although the new trains will not have tilt equipment, their superior acceleration should compensate for slightly slower speeds on some sections of line.
The trains will be built at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham and maintained at Oxley in Wolverhampton under an agreement with Alstom.
First said on-board facilities will include ‘better and more reliable’ free wifi, at-seat wireless inductive charging for electronic devices, plug sockets and USB slots.
The details of catering on board have yet to be finalised, but Railnews has learned that there will be a buffet counter as well as trolley services, and that one of the main food suppliers will be Marks and Spencer.
There will more seats, because a seven-car train will have 453 and five-car sets will have 301. First said the seven-car version will have about the same number of seats as a nine-car Pendolino, because each IET vehicle is longer, at 26m.
The order is being financed by Rock Rail West Coast, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments.
First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: ‘We look forward to beginning our Avanti West Coast services on 8 December, and these new trains will help us really improve travel for passengers with more services, more seats, a better journey experience, enhanced catering and added comfort.’