The Government has given the go-ahead for the deal that First Great Western put forward in March, which will see Hitachi deliver and maintain 29 high speed trains for the new franchise.
The fleet of AT300 trains will run primarily from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, replacing the 40-year-old trains currently serving this key intercity route.
Made up of seven nine-car and 22 five-car bi-mode trains, the mixed fleet will allow for flexible use, including 10-car formations (two five-cars coupled together) for through-services to and from the capital.
They will be assembled at Hitachi’s new train-building factory, due to open in September.
Hitachi Rail Europe managing director Karen Boswell said: “This announcement builds on our significant and sustained investment in the British rail sector.
“This contract with First Great Western recognises the quality of Hitachi’s high-speed trains and our world class engineering capability.
“Hitachi Rail Europe is committed to delivering trains for the UK’s fare-paying customers that are genuinely transformative in terms of speed, capacity and comfort.
“This new fleet will be a revolution in customer experience for those travelling to and from the south west, and we look forward to delivering these Hitachi trains for use from 2018 onwards.”
Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western said: “We warmly welcome the announcement today that our recommendations to introduce a new fleet of trains to serve customers between Devon and Cornwall and London have been approved by the Department for Transport.
“We know how important the railway is to the economies and communities of the South West, and today’s agreement is fantastic news for the region and the rail industry as a whole.
“These trains will help us deliver faster, more frequent services into the South West, each providing a 14% increase in seats across the routes once they are all in service.
“Following this we have now formally finalised the agreement with Hitachi Rail Europe and Eversholt Rail, which will see the first trains in service in the summer of 2018.”
The fleet of AT300 trains will be closely related to the Class 800 bi-mode trains designed for the Department for Transport’s Intercity Express Programme (IEP), but will utilise higher engine operating power to cope with the gradients in Devon and Cornwall.
They will run as electric trains between London and Newbury, and are equipped with bigger fuel tanks to cater for the long distance journeys to Plymouth and Penzance.
Claire Perry MP, Rail Minister at the Department for Transport, said: “These new trains will make a real difference to the millions of commuters, business travellers and tourists who use this route every year.
“This industry initiative goes hand-in-hand with the work this Government is doing to reverse decades of underinvestment in transport infrastructure in regions like the South West.
“This will not only mean better journeys for customers, it will also help to secure long-term economic growth across the country. Like the new IEP trains serving cities in the North of England, this new fleet will help to open up the region for investment.”
HRE was named as preferred supplier by FirstGroup in March 2015, with the contract being subject to approval by the Department for Transport.