TransPennine Express has confirmed that it will cease using its push-pull sets of Class 68 locomotives and Mk5a coaches, previously designated Nova 3 sets, from the December 2023 timetable change.
The Nova 3's are formed of five coaches, one of which is driving trailer plus a class 68 loco
The decision is the result of a review of operations after TPE was transferred to the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort.
DfT had originally specified procurement of coaches as part of the invitation to tender to for the TPE franchise, with the expectation that the future operator would take on redundant five-car Class 442 third-rail EMUs and modify them for use with diesel locomotives.
It is understood that eventual winner FirstGroup was the only bidder for the franchise to propose the acquisition of new rolling stock.
The Nova 3 trains are powered by Vossloh/Stadler Class 68 locos
Following the award of the franchise in December 2015, the 13 five-car sets of coaches along with a spare driving trailer were ordered from CAF in Spain, financed by leasing company Beacon Rail, and built in 2017-18.
They entered service on the Liverpool – Scarborough route in August 2019, powered by modified Class 68 locomotives subleased from Direct Rail Service.
The introduction was hampered by technical issues and slow progress with driver training, exacerbated by the arrival of Covid-19 and the long-running industrial relations issues at TPE.
Operation into Scarborough was further impacted when local residents complained about the noise of the Class 68 locomotives at the maintenance facility which had been constructed to service the new trains.
The fleet has never achieved its planned usage, with very few sets being in service on a daily basis.
The 13 CAF Mk 5a trains, powered by Vossloh/Stadler Class 68s sub-leased from Direct Rail Services, have never entered full squadron service having had comparatively little use over the past five years.
None of the parties involved has confirmed where, when or even if the £110 million fleet will be redeployed.