Avanti West Coast, the new operator of express inter-city trains on the West Coast main line, has announced that all 56 of its electric Pendolino train fleet will be overhauled in a £642 million, seven-year deal with Alstom, which built the fleet.
As well as covering a £127 million upgrade of the Pendolinos, which is believed to be the biggest train upgrade programme ever undertaken in the UK, the deal will also see Alstom maintain them until 2026.
The first of the revolutionary tilting Pendolino trains entered service on the London to Glasgow route in January 2003. The overhaul will focus on onboard facilities, with passengers benefitting from more-comfortable seating, improvements to the shop, revamped toilets, better lighting, new interiors, and the installation of at-seat chargers and improved Wi-Fi throughout. Performance will also be improved through new maintenance programmes.
The deal will create 100 highly skilled roles, mostly based at Alstom’s Transport and Technology Centre in Widnes, with hundreds more existing engineering jobs secured at key depots in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxley and Wembley.
Work on the Pendolino fleet will be carried out alongside the maintenance of a new train fleet that Avanti recently ordered from Hitachi.
Alstom’s facility at Widnes lies in the borough of Halton, in the Liverpool City Region. Commenting on the contract award, Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “In the Liverpool City Region, we’re trying to create a fair and inclusive economy where local people benefit from investment.
“The Combined Authority have provided £3.4 million in funding to help Alstom open their ground-breaking facility in Halton.
“I’m really pleased that – because of this brand-new facility – local people will benefit through jobs and apprenticeships for years to come through projects like this.”
Avanti West Coast, a joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia, took over the West Coast franchise from Virgin Trains on 8 December 2019. It has plans to run 263 more train services every week by 2022, with new routes added and a much-improved on-board service with enhanced free Wi-Fi, plug sockets and improved catering.
Managing director Phil Whittingham commented: “The Pendolino is an iconic passenger train and we’re delighted to be giving it a new lease of life.
“This deal will improve the experience of passengers and ensure the fleet can continue to serve communities up and down the west coast route in the years ahead.”
Nick Crossfield, Alstom’s manging director for UK & Ireland, added: “Alstom are proud to have been trusted by First Trenitalia to maintain the Avanti West Coast fleet and upgrade the Pendolino trains. Over the last 15 years these trains have revolutionised travel for passengers, with faster and more frequent services.
“Passengers can now look forward to a new chapter in this story with Avanti West Coast, and with this contract in place, Alstom can look forward to investing even more in high quality jobs and apprenticeships as we deliver these improvements.”