The Anonymous Widower

New Trains For The North

That is the headline on a two page article in Modern Railways magazine.

It is an article that is strong on promises, in what it says that First TransPennine and Arriva Northern Trains will do.

Under a sub-heading of Bi-Modes for TransPennine, this is said.

FirstGroup is to invest over £400 million in a fleet of 44 new five-car 125 mph trains, which are expected to be based on the Hitachi AT300 design already being procured by sister operator Great Western Railway.

It also states that twelve will be electric only and the rest will be bi-modes.

The timetables state that the first bi-mode will enter service in December 2017.

Under a sub-heading of New and Upgraded Fleet for Northern, this is said.

Arriva is to invest £400 in 98 new air-conditioned 100 mph trains comprising 281 carriages, of which 43 will be three- and four-car EMUs and 55 two- and three-car DMUs. The latter will enable the withdrawal of all Pacers by the end of 2019.

The delivery schedule for the new trains stretches to 2020.

All these promises are all well and good, but I do wonder if they are deliverable with new trains.


Hitachi have been clever and have bought AnsaldoBreda, so they can build AT300 trains in Italy. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the AT300, which is based on the Class 800 train, they are building in Newton Aycliffe.

In mid 2015 Eversholt Rail, a rolling stock operating company signed a £361m contract with FGW to purchase 173 new AT300 carriages, consisting of 22 five-car and seven nine-car trains. The AT300 trains are to be built at Hitachi Rail Italy’s Pistoia plant.

The trains are expected to enter service with Great Western Railway from December 2018. and are also expected to reduce journey times from London to Exeter by up to 5min, to Plymouth by up to 6min, and to Penzance by up to 14min.

It puzzles me how First TransPennine will be able to introduce the first bi-mode into service in December 2017, as where will the train be built?

It can’t be built in Italy, as Hitachi won’t have even delivered their first train until December 2017.

The only possibility will be to take trains from Newton Aycliffe and delay deliveries to Great Western Railway and Virgin Trains East Coast. Wikipedia and other sources is rather short on dates for the delivery of the Class 800 and Class 801 trains.

Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe are also involved in the building of AT200 trains for Abellio ScotRail. This is said in Wikipedia.

Abellio ScotRail will introduce a fleet of 46 three car and 24 four car Hitachi AT200 electric trains from December 2017, to operate services on the lines being electrified as part of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme, if it granted a three-year optional franchise extension, it will order a further 10 three car units

I doubt that we’ll see more than a token AT300 running on First TransPennine before the end of 2017.

Class 185 Trains

The Modern Railways article says this about TransPennine’s Class 185 trains

First is expected to retain 28 of the current 51×3 car fleet of Class 185s; the units to be retained will be refurbished.

This means that twenty-three of the Class 185 trains will be available for cascade.

Modern Railways says the two franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds, so would it be sensible to perhaps keep the current fleet together for refurbishment and maintenance?

So perhaps if the answer is yes, then common sense would dictate that the cascaded twenty-three trains would go to Arriva Northern.

Class 319 Trains

Handsome is as handsome does, goes the old horseman’s phrase and you couldn’t call a Class 319 train beautiful.

My Ugly Class 319 Arrives

But for some of the electric routes in the North, they’re all we’ve got! And like some elderly actresses, they scrub up well.

A Class 319 At Lime Street

The Modern Railways article says this about Northern’s use of the Class 319.

It is understood that refurbished Class 319s will be used on these services on an interim basis until new build units arrive.

I suspect that these will soldier on for a few years yet!

At least there are eighty-six of these 100 mph four-car trains.

There must be a lot of laughter at reunions of engineers from BREL York, when they see how far their Bedpan Special has gone. after being built especially for the Bedford-Brighton route through the tunnels under London via St. Pancras in the 1980s.

He who laughs last, laughs longest!

Class 442 Trains

This is said in the Modern Railways article about Class 442 trains.

First says it did evaluate the use of Class 442 EMUs displaced from Gatwick Express workings hauled by diesel locomotives.

But they found it was too challenging and have discounted them.

So it looks like the Class 442s won’t be going anywhere in the North and probably have no worthwhile future.

Class 390 Trains And The West Coast Main Line

Virgin Trains have aspirations to run their Class 390 trains that work the West Coast Main Line, at their design speed of 140 mph in as many places on the route as possible. This section in Wikipedia gives more details.

At present because of signalling and regulations, trains are limited to 125 mph, but it is likely that once ERTMS is fully implemented, that pressure will increase to allow 140 mph in places on the West Coast Main Line.

TransPennine’s Scottish Services

TransPennine are increasing their Scottish services and this timetable is given.

  • December 2018 – Liverpool-Glasgow service launched
  • December 2019 – 12 new electric trains introduced on Anglo-Scottish services.
  • December 2019 – Liverpool-Newcastle services extended to Edinburgh

This is said about the Class 350 trains currently running their Scottish services.

The 10 four-car Class 350/4 EMUs currently used on Manchester-Scotland services are expected to be phased out over the first three years and offered to other franchises. First say these trains are too small to run on many diagrams as single units.

So it looks like trains with this specification will be needed.

  • Electric power only
  • 140 mph top speed, as parts of the West Coast Main Line, will probably get upgraded to this speed, within the service lifetime of the trains.
  • Five cars or longer.
  • The ability to work in pairs. As all Glasgow trains will probably call at Preston, it might be sensible to join and split Liverpool and Manchester trains there to save train paths on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Full on-board customer service.

The specification fits the Hitachi AT300  well, as these trains are available in five car sets and can be upgraded with minor modification for 140 mph running.

But will the timetable of 2019 for twelve new trains, fit the production capabilities?

As delivery into service by December 2019, to give TransPennine their promised service might be exceedingly challenging, could we be seeing something from another manufacturer?

After all, there are several around the world, who could create five-car 140 mph electric express trains?

  • Some open-access operators like Alliance Rail are talking about using Pendolinos on Scottish routes, so Class 390 trains or an updated design of Italian-built Pendolino train must be a very real possibility.
  • Siemens must also have a suitable train perhaps based on a German ICE design.
  • The Chinese, Koreans, Spanish and Swiss shouldn’t be discounted.

If Hitachi can’t deliver, I’d put my money on a five-car Pendolino. After all, it is proven on the West Coast Main Line.

EMUs For Northern

Arriva have said, they will be buying forty-three 100 mph air-conditioned electric multiple units (EMUs), in a mixture of three- and four-car units.

These are probably the easiest trains to source and they might even already have been ordered or even built, in the shape of Class 387 trains. These have the following specification.

  • Modern air-conditioned four car electric train.
  • 110 mph capability
  • Proven performance and certification.
  • Bombardier can probably build them alongside all their Aventras at Derby.

But there are few electrified routes in the North, where they can be run.

However on the other hand!

I’ve believed ever since I rode the Class 379 BEMU or IPEMU demonstrator, that battery-powered trains based on this technology, are ideal for some of Northern’s routes.

Partially electrified routes or ones that run between electrified hub stations at Carlisle, Doncaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and York, could have virtually brand-new four-car electric trains, as soon as Bombardier can add IPEMU systems to Class 387 trains, currently in service or on order and staff can be trained.

A few months ago, I wrote  Rumours Of Battery Powered Trains, where I said there were rumours of some of Great Western Railway’s order for Class 387 trains would be delivered as IPEMUs to help solve the shambles of the Great Western Main Line electrification.

Using an IPEMU is an attractive approach for several reasons.

  • IPEMUs have a range of around sixty miles on the battery, if it is fully charged.
  • IPEMUs have regenerative braking at all times, whether there is an electric supply or not! This improves efficiency and increased on-battery range!
  • Bombardier feel that all trains should have energy storage for myriad operational reasons and the upcoming Aventra will be designed to accept an energy storage device as standard.
  • Passengers will have the same experience on overhead line or battery power.
  • On many routes, IPEMUs need no modifications to be able to run, except perhaps lengthening platforms for four-cars.
  • On a scenic line or one in the middle of nowhere, the problems of electrification and its maintenance can be avoided, if services can be run by IPEMUs.
  • Electrified hubs can be upgraded or created to charge the trains. In the North, Carlisle is being upgraded and Hull and Middlesbrough could be electrified.
  • Some lines are currently run by some of the better diesel multiple units (DMUs) like Class 158 trains. Releasing these would probably eliminate a few of the dreaded Pacers on other lines.

All stakeholders will like these trains.

  • Operators know that new four-car trains will attract more fare-paying customers.
  • Network Rail will save money on electrification and can skip difficult bits.
  • On many routes, opening up bridges and tunnels for the overhead wires is difficult, very disruptive and a time- and money-consuming process.
  • Passengers and staff like new trains.
  • More places can be served by electric trains.
  • New four-car trains replacing ageing diesels will improve the prosperity of an area.

Routes that could be easily converted include.

  • Barrow to Manchester Airport
  • Chester to Manchester Victoria
  • Windermere to Manchester Airport
  • Blackpool North to Manchester Airport
  • Liverpool to Manchester Airport via Warrington

Add in some electrified hubs and short lengths of tactical electrification to charge the trains and other lines like the scenic Tyne Valley Line between Newcastle and Carlisle could be run using new four-car electric trains.

I believe that these trains have enough energy storage to actually bridge the notorious forty mile gap in the electrification between Manchester Victoria and Leeds, thus creating an electric train service from Liverpool to Edinburgh via Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle

Note that news on development of IPEMU trains has been very quiet for several months and the only report is this article in the Derby Telegraph, which is entitled Battery-powered trains win award for Bombardier.

So someone other than I do, think the technology works and deserves its place on the railways of the UK.

Class 323 Trains

Before leaving Northern’s EMUs something must be said about the seventeen three-car Class 323 trains, that run services out of Manchester.

As they are being transferred to London Midland, they will need to be replaced.

Also, according to Wikipedia at times, some of the Class 323s are currently replaced by a pair of Pacers. So perhaps they need a bigger fleet anyway!

So until new units are ordered, will we see Class 319s working these routes? Or could they be a home for some of Porterbrook’s Class 387s?

It’ll all come out in time and in the contracts?


DMUs For Northern

Arriva have said, they will buy fifty-five two- and three-car DMUs.

Two factors could decrease this number.

  • If Arriva go down the Class 387 IPEMU route, more routes will be running electric trains.
  • The twenty-three Class 185 trains cascaded from TransPennine should they end up with Arriva.
  • It seems likely that other companies including Great Western Railway could use the IPEMU route, thus making some high-quality DMUs available.

I won’t speculate on how many new DMUs will be actually ordered and built. If any!

Northern Connect

Northern Connect will be a sub-brand comprising a dozen long distance routes across the North.

Modern Railways publishes a table of the routes and indicates eight routes will be run by new DMUs, two by refurbished trains and two by new EMUs.

Obviously, Northern have a plan to create five of these routes by the end of 2018 and the rest by the end of 2019.

Where will the various classes of train fit?

  • Some routes could be run by EMUs, with Class 319s providing an interim service until the new build arrive.
  • Some routes could be run by Class 387 IPEMUs, once they are delivered.
  • Some of the longer routes around Sheffield and Hull would be ideal for Class 185s.

If the long-rumoured Class 387 IPEMUs do appear, Barrow and Windermere to Manchester Airport, would be ideal routes on which to trial and showcase the technology.

Northern’s Train Philosophy

The Modern Railways article also says this.

Arriva says that it is still in negotiations with the supply chain but expects to sign a contract by April. It also says that the new fleet ‘has the capacity to grow’ with the trains ‘ordered as a family that are expandable’. The first 92 carriages will enter service by the end of 2018, with a further 163 by the end of 2019 to ensure all Pacers are replaced and the final 26 in 2020.

That is a very sound train procurement philosophy, which has a fairly relaxed delivery schedule, given the shortage of train building capacity in the UK and Europe. I suspect the Chinese could build them, but would that be politically acceptable?

I would not be surprised if Arriva went for a purchase of Class 387 trains, of which a proportion were IPEMU variants and some tactical electrification to produce electrified hubs in places like Huddersfield, Hull, Scarborough and Sheffield. It would be an afordable way of getting the benefits of new electric trains at an affordable price.

They would still need a few diesel multiple units, over and above the good ones they replaced with electric trains. But London Overground and hopefully Great Western Railway should be releasing some that are suitable.

Only as a last resort, would any new ones be ordered.

Class 387 Trains

I believe that the Class 387 Trains will play a large part in Northern’s plans.

They are a 110 mph four-car modern unit and currently there are twenty-nine units in service and another twenty-eight on order, if you ignore the separate order of twenty-seven trains for the Gatwick Express.

Thirty seven units are destined for the Great Western Railway and in Rumours Of Battery Powered Trains, I wrote about unconfirmed reports that some of these trains for the GWR would be IPEMU variants. I suspect that this will be confirmed, as it will enable electric services to be started on the shambles that is the Great Western.

The Gatwick Express variant of the Class 387 is going to be a train, worth looking at, as it will be the first Airport train we’ve ordered since the Heathrow Express.

There are to be twenty-seven four car trains replacing twenty-four five-car Class 442 trains.

There may be a few less carriages, but they are designed for the route.

They are also built as dual-voltage trains. Is that just so they can be tested on the West Coast Main Line, as was reported in this article in Rail Magazine, or because they think the type will have other Airport applications, like possibly Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow, Luton, East Midlands and Stansted.

I can’t wait to ride one in the near future, as I think it might offer, a whole new experience of getting to an airport by train.

A lot of the services in the North West go via Manchester Airport. So would a follow-on order of this variant be ideal to get passengers to the fast growing airport?

Some questions have to be asked.

  • As some of these services go all the way to Scotland, could the train be certified to the 125 mph of the West Coast Main Line?
  • Could an IPEMU variant be created to bridge the gap between Manchester and Leeds?
  • Could an IPEMU variant link Manchester Airport to Barrow, Blackpool North, Liverpool and Windermere?
  • Can Class 387 trains be built in five-car formations?

If the answer to all or some of these questions is in the affirmative, Manchester Airport and the Nortrh might receive some interesting trains from Derby to create a 125 mph network of five-car Airport trains all across the North.

I suspect that Bombardier are working hard to see if they can fulfil that dream, as if they can, the rewards to the company, Arriva Northern, First TransPennine, Network Rail and the North in general, could be substantial!

There would be no waiting until 2018 for true bi-mode trains.

Could the silence on the IPEMUs be just because all parties don’t want to show their hands until all of the tiniest details are totally settled?

Political And Commercial Considerations

I mentioned in the section on the Class 387 trains, how important to get any trains, that can improve services in the North is to the companies involved and Bombardier in particular.

Bombardier have been going through a rough patch and were bailed out by the Quebecois. They seem to be sorted with large orders, but creating some more Class 387 trains, must be good cash-flow and profitable.

Network Rail are in a deep mess over electrification everywhere and desperately need some help in creating lines for electric trains. Peter Hendy is trying to sort out the shambles and there is a report in Modern Railways this month with a headline of Hendy Finds £2.5 Billion To Save Enhancements. The article says assets will be sold and there will be more money from the Government.

Arriva and FirstGroup have spent a lot of time and effort to create plans to give the North a modern world-class railway system.  It is unlikely, that the train manufacturers will fail to deliver to agreed contracts, as all trains proposed for the North or either in service or at the certification and trial stage. The problem is the tracks. They will not be pleased if Network Rail fail to deliver, the electrification they have promised on time, as pictures of new trains stored in sidings are not good publicity.

Read a lot of the stories about new trains to run on newly electrified lines and dates have a vague air about them.

I suspect all will become a lot clearer, when Peter Hendry fills out his plan for Network Rail in the Spring. All we are getting at the moment are worthwhile aspirations.

And then there is the small matter of the local elections in May!

If the shambles is still persisting before the election, Corbyn and the Labour Party will have a field day, when they say they will nationalise the railways.

This would be a disaster for Arriva, FirstGroup and probably Peter Hendy. The companies would probably lose millions and Peter Hendy would have totally failed.

With my engineering hard-hat on, I’m getting more and more convinced that those clever engineers in Derby will pull the IPEMU rabbit out of the hat.

They have form for this, as in the 1970s, they created the peerless InterCity 125, after the wreckage of the APT.


Wait for April and hopefully before then a lot more will be revealed!


December 25, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,


  1. According to this article

    There will be 31 brand new three-car and 12 brand new four-car EMUs. Also, there will be 25 brand new two-car and 30 brand new three-car DMUs. The brand new EMUs will be working on services from Blackpool, Windermere and Preston to Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport, Crewe, and Stoke-on-Trent. They will also be used on Manchester – Glossop/Hadfield services and services from Leeds to Ilkley, Skipton, and Doncaster. The brand DMUs will operate “almost all” diesel Northern Connect services.

    Comment by bob smith | January 23, 2016 | Reply

    • That’s what they say.

      But I have three questions.

      1. Do CAF have the production capsacity to build the trains in the timescale?

      2. Have they ordered enough?

      3. Some of Northern’s routes like Oxenholme to Windermere are ideal for IPEMUs. Will CAF use something along Bombardier’s lines?

      CAF did a partnership with Siemens before.

      I don’t think it’s as simple as it looks.

      Comment by AnonW | January 23, 2016 | Reply

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