December 6, 2019 @ 9:42 by Steven Hugill
A North East trainbuilder has secured a contract worth more than £350 million to supply 125mph intercity rolling stock to a new UK operator.
Hitachi Rail will make 23 trains – comprising 135 carriages – for the Avanti West Coast service.
Bosses say the stock, which will be made at Hitachi’s plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, will begin operating on the West Coast Main Line from 2022.
Comprising a mix of electric and bi-mode trains, Hitachi says its new stock will be greener and carry more seats, with free WiFi and live service information updates enhancing passengers’ journeys.
The agreement is another significant fillip for Hitachi, which earlier this year secured a £400 million Abellio UK order to deliver trains for services on the East Midlands Railway franchise.
Avanti West Coast is a joint partnership between FirstGroup and Trenitalia and will take over West Coast services on Sunday (December 8) from Virgin Trains.
Andrew Barr, group chief executive at Hitachi Rail, said the contract represents another “vote of confidence” in the manufacturer’s work, with the firm having previously won deals to make stock for FirstGroup’s Transpennine Express and Hull Trains services, and supported Trenitalia’s operations in its native Italy.
“Based on Japanese bullet train technology, our new trains have proven to be the modern intercity train of choice, increasing passenger satisfaction wherever they run,” he said.
“We’re delighted to continue our excellent relationship with FirstGroup and Trenitalia (and) this new order is another vote of confidence in the success of our trains, which are both green and reliable.”
Under Avanti West Coast’s plans, bosses say their new Hitachi-made electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool, with their bi-mode trains – which can switch between electric and diesel – serving the London to North Wales route.
Steve Montgomery, managing director at First Rail, which sits within FirstGroup, said: “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.”
The investment 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 at Rock Rail and director at Rock Rail West Coast, added: “This new 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 £2.5 billion in the UK railway.
“This long-term, highly-competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money to rail passengers and taxpayers over the life of the trains, along with significant improvements in passenger, environmental and operational features.”
The West Coast deal comes after Hitachi announced a 33 five-carriage agreement with Abellio in the summer to support operations on the East Midlands Railway franchise, which serves cities including London, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.
The business’ order book also includes previous work for the East Coast and Great Western routes, under the Government’s InterCity Express Programme, and Class 385 rolling stock for Scottish lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow.