By Martin Walker
Hitachi Rail Europe has won a new deal to manufacture at least 29 new trains which will run between London and the South West, subject to government approval.
The Japanese firm today announced it had been named by FirstGroup as preferred supplier for the supply of 29 trains for the new First Great Western franchise.
The deal, which is subject to approval by the Department for Transport, will see the trains being manufactured at Hitachi’s new £82m factory on Aycliffe Business Park, which is expected to be ready this Autumn.
The fleet of 29 bi-mode AT300 trains would run primarily from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, replacing 40-year-old High Speed Trains on the key intercity route to the South West.
Made up of seven nine-car and 22 five-car trains, with an option for 30 more, the mixed fleet would allow for flexible use, including 10-car formations (two five-cars coupled together) for through-services to/from the capital.
Managing director of First Great Western Mark Hopwood said: “I am delighted that we have selected Hitachi Rail Europe as our preferred supplier for new intercity trains, should the DfT approve our plans.
“The fleet currently running on routes in the South West of England, is nearly 40 years old, and passengers would greatly benefit from brand new, highly comfortable trains.
“FirstGroup has conducted a competitive procurement exercise for these trains and we are close to securing private financing for the deal shortly. The DfT will be making a final decision by the end of June”.
Hitachi Rail Europe CEO Andy Barr added: “The Class 800 bi-mode trains were initially designed for the Great Western and East Coast main lines and we have refined the design further for the challenges of the route to Plymouth and Penzance.
“We have put a lot of thought into ensuring a passenger environment that is comfortable for short and long-distance journeys, incorporating feedback by passenger groups.
“Today’s announcement cements our already strong relationship with FirstGroup and we are looking forward to working closely to progress negotiations and start building the trains, ready for use in the South West of England from 2018 onwards.”
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, 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.