Hitachi to maintain Avanti West Coast trains

First Trenitalia awarded Hitachi Rail a GBP 350 million (EUR 414 million) contract to provide and maintain 23 new Avanti West Coast intercity trains to be built at Newton Aycliffe factory, in County Durham.

The contract includes an agreement for aspects of the 23 new trains to be maintained by Hitachi Rail. First Trenitalia have also signed a maintenance agreement with Alstom enabling the fleet to be maintained by a joint team from Hitachi and Alstom at the existing Oxley depot in Wolverhampton.

First Trenitalia launched its Avanti West Coast rail service, on the West Coast Main Line and in North Wales and the new trains will be part of the fleet operated by the new intercity operator. The electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool while the bi-mode version will serve the London to North Wales route.

The new intercity trains will start operating in 2022. The 200 km/h trains will be a mix of ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains, with the ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power.

The new trains will have better and more reliable free Wi-Fi, at-seat wireless inductive charging for electronic devices, plug sockets and USB slots. A brand-new catering offer and a real-time passenger information system that can advise customers of connecting rail services.

There are 453 seats on a 7-car service and 301 seats on a 5-car service increasing capacity compared to the Class 221 Voyager trains they replace, which have 258 seats. The seven-carriage version of the electric trains will have similar numbers of seats to a nine-carriage Pendolino, owing to the longer 26 metre carriages of the Hitachi trains.

The bi-mode trains will run for most of the journey using electric power only, switching to diesel power for those parts of the network that are not electrified – for example, the North Wales Coast Line to/from Holyhead.

The investment in these new trains is being financed 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. As with Rock Rail’s previous new rolling stock deals, debt will be provided by institutional investor organisations such as pension funds and insurance companies.

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