More than 900 jobs will be created and thousands more secured after Transport Secretary Justine Greening recently approved a £4.5bn contract to supply Britain with the next generation of intercity trains.
In a major boost to the UK’s manufacturing industry, 596 railway carriages will be built at a brand new train factory in the north east of England.
Agility Trains, a consortium made up of Hitachi and John Laing, has been awarded the contract to build and maintain the trains under the Intercity Express Programme (IEP), the project to replace Britain’s Intercity 125 trains with new higher capacity modern trains.
Hitachi will assemble an intercity fleet of 92 complete trains at a new purpose-built factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, in the process creating 730 skilled jobs with a further 200 jobs during construction of the factory itself and securing thousands more in the UK supply chain. The company will also locate its European rail research and development capabilities on the site which will further enhance the factory’s ability to win rail contracts across Europe.
As well as building the new state-of-the-art assembly facility, Hitachi will construct maintenance depots in Bristol, Swansea, west London and Doncaster, and will upgrade existing maintenance depots throughout Britain.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said:
“A new train factory is fantastic news for Britain and will be welcomed by everyone who wants to see a thriving UK manufacturing sector. It means 730 new skilled jobs created at the factory, 200 jobs in constructing the plant and thousands of jobs secured in the supply chain.“The decision to build almost 600 new intercity train carriages is great for rail passengers who will experience faster and more comfortable journeys when travelling across Britain on the East Coast and Great Western main lines.“Hitachi is the latest major international company to invest on this scale in Britain and I look forward to this new factory in County Durham following in the footsteps of Nissan’s successful car plant in Sunderland. There can also be fewer stronger signs that the UK is the best place in which to invest, and from which to develop new markets, than Hitachi’s decision to base its European manufacturing base right here in Britain.”
The IEP train fleet will be comprised of electric and bi-mode trains, some five vehicles long and others nine vehicles. These will be faster accelerating than existing stock, and will offer the potential for more frequent services. The higher train capacity will mean more seats and less crowding between Britain’s major cities. The modern vehicles will offer a step-change in passenger comfort through increased carry-on luggage space, electronic seat reservations, and no compromise on leg-room. A performance regime will encourage the trains to run reliably throughout the life of the fleet.
The IEP builds on the recent rail investment announcement of further electrification on the Great Western Main Line between London Paddington and Swansea, and together the new trains and infrastructure will offer the potential for journey time savings of 15 minutes in Swansea to London journeys and 21 minutes in Bristol to London journeys as part of the forthcoming Great Western franchise. Passengers travelling along the East Coast Main Line will also see improvements to their travelling experience, as journeys between London and Newcastle will potentially be reduced by 13 minutes in the forthcoming East Coast franchise.
Construction at the Newton Aycliffe site is expected to begin in 2013 and will be fully operational by 2015. The first IEP trains will enter revenue-earning service on the Great Western Main Line in 2017 and on the East Coast Main Line by 2018.
- The eventual service pattern will be the responsibility of the future franchisees, although the first phase of the new trains could operate on the following routes:
- Great Western: London – Cardiff – Swansea, London – Oxford – Worcester – Hereford, London – Gloucester – Cheltenham, London – Bath – Bristol
- East Coast: London – Leeds, London – York – Newcastle – Edinburgh – Aberdeen / Inverness
- There are also options for ordering further trains, which could operate on the following routes:
- Great Western: London – Exeter – Penzance
- East Coast: Replacement of the newer Intercity 225 electric stock
- East Coast: London – Cambridge – Kings Lynn
- West Coast: London – Milton Keynes – Northampton
- The contract structure passes the responsibility for constructing depots and maintaining trains to Agility Trains. The Train Operating Company will pay Agility Trains “Set Availability Payments” for each train that reports for duty each day and remains reliable during the operational period. The Department is providing a “Usage Guarantee” to Agility that a Train Operating Company will be in place to make use of the new trains.
- This is the first time in recent history that a bi-mode train has been earmarked for the UK rail network. Bi-mode trains are common on some mainland European national rail systems. Both the electric and bi-mode versions of these trains will include regenerative braking, a system whereby electricity is re-cycled back through the overhead wires when the driver applies the brakes.
- Introducing the bi-mode option for the Intercity Express Programme is estimated to save around £200 million (net present value) as compared to introducing a fleet of all-electric trains to be coupled to a diesel locomotive beyond the electrified sections of the railway.
- The 125 mph (200kph) trains will reduce overcrowding as they will be longer; the new carriages will be 26m in length as opposed to the 23m in Intercity vehicles currently in UK use. 26m vehicles are standard in mainland Europe. The faster journey times will also allow operators to run more frequent services.