In March 2015 Hitachi Rail Europe announced that it had been named by FirstGroup as preferred supplier, subject to contract, for the supply of 29 trains for the new First Great Western franchise.This is subject to approval by the Department for Transport.
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.
Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western said: “Following the direct award of the franchise announced by the Department for Transport, 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”.
Andy Barr, Chief Operating Officer, Hitachi Rail Europe said: “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.
“The 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.
Key train features for passengers
- Additional leg room in standard class airline style seats
- More seats per train (9-car or 10-car formations)
- Passenger Wi-Fi
- Power sockets accessible from every seat
- Increased reliability
- LCD seat reservation displays with sophisticated traffic light vacancy notification at every seat
- Air conditioning
- Fully pressure-sealed vehicle for passenger comfort when entering tunnels at high speed
- Increased height in overhead luggage racks to accommodate airline-style hand luggage
About AT300 trains
The AT300 trains are a train platform developed by Hitachi Rail. Their most famous relatives in the UK are theClass 395 Javelin™ train currently in service in Kent and the Class 800/801 train for the Intercity Express Programme. This family of trains is designed for intercity travel, with speeds of up to 140 mph for the Class 395 Javelin and 125 mph for the Class 800/801 trains for electric operation and 100 mph for bi-mode operation. The Class AT300 has larger fuel tanks than the Class 800 bi-mode trains and engines that operate at a higher power output.
About bi-mode trains:
Bi-mode trains are trains with a dual electric and diesel propulsion capability.The trains can run on electrified routes using the catenary as power source, allowing for a smooth transition to non-electrified routes, where diesel powerpacks provide tractive power.