First Trenitalia, operator of the new Avanti West Coast rail service that starts on Sunday 8 December and replaces the Virgin Trains franchise that has operated on the West Coast main line for the last 22 years, has announced that it is buying a fleet of new trains.
The company has placed a contract with Hitachi Rail for 23 new intercity trains – ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains – in a deal that, with maintenance, will be worth £350 million.
The electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool while the bi-mode version, which can switch between using electricity from the overhead wires and diesel power on the move, will serve the London to North Wales route. They are planned to enter service in 2022.
Intended to replace Virgin’s Class 221 Voyager trains, the five-car version will seat 301 passengers, as opposed to 258 in the Voyager, while the seven-car units will seat 453, a similar number to a nine-car Pendolino as the coaches will be longer at 26 metres.
The bi-mode trains will run for most of the journey using electric power, only switching to diesel for those parts of the network that are not electrified – for example, the North Wales Coast line to and from Holyhead.
Hitachi will build the new trains at its factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, using a number of British-made components. Finance for the deal has been arranged 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.
Steve Montgomery, First Rail’s managing director, said: “We look forward to beginning our Avanti West Coast services on Sunday 8 December, and 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.”
His opposite number, Trenitalia UK managing director Ernesto Sicilia, added: “We are pleased to announce this new fleet which highlights our commitment to innovation and desire to constantly improve our services.
“We are delighted to provide more efficient and modern trains which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 61 per cent, including new comfortable seats for an improved customer experience.”