The Anonymous Widower

Are Train Coaches Making A Comeback In The UK?

There were two stories yesterday, where new coaches to be built by Spanish company CAF.

Both sets of coaches probably use the same basic bodyshell, running gear and electrical and heating services, so once CAF designed the sleeper trains, they probably have developed a vehicle that could be used for any profitable purpose.

At present the Caledonian Sleeper uses two types of coach; a sleeping car and a lounge/seated sleeper car and these are being replaced with an identical number of coaches.

But little has been said about the design and make-up of the new coaches.

I suspect, that we will see lounge cars with large windows, so that the Scottish countryside can be enjoyed in style, if the weather permits.

The new coaches will be compared to British Rail’s legendary Mark 3 coach.

  • I’m also sure that CAF have set out to design a coach, that rides better.
  • The new coach must also be capable of running at 200 kph., as Mark 3s do every day in large numbers.
  • Will the coaches pass the cement lorry test, as a Mark 3-derived multiple unit did at Oxshott?

The 1960s design of the Mark 3 has set a very high bar.

Even less has been said about the five car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express.

But in common with the other rakes of coaches in mainline service in the UK on Chiltern and the East Coast Main Line, and in East Anglia, they would need some means of driving the train from the other end, which is currently done with a driving van trailer.

A DVT is very much a solution of the 1970s, although it does have advantages in that the empty space can be used for bicycles, surfboards and other large luggage. Hence, the van in the name.

If you look at CAF’s Civity train, it is very much a stylish modular design and I’m sure CAF, have the expertise to build a stylish driving cab into some of the new coaches they are building.

I therefore think we will be seeing these five-car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express, with a driving cab at one end.

One of the big advantages of this approach is that trains can be pulled and pushed by any suitable and available locomotive.

Operators wouldn’t be tied to one particular power unit, so as more electrification is installed, they could change to something more suitable.

You also have the possibility of designing the coach with the driving cab as perhaps a buffet/observation car or using it for First Class, so that the other coaches are very much a standard interior.

The approach also has the advantage that if you need a longer train, you just couple another coach into the rake.

I’m sure that CAF have designed a rake of coaches that has impressed TransPennine Express, otherwise they wouldn’t have ordered the coaches.

Some people might think that going back to coaches is a retrograde step.


  • Chiltern run an excellent service with coaches.
  • Deutsche Bahn still uses lots of rakes of coaches.
  • Rakes of coaches are more flexible than fixed-length multiple units.
  • The most appropriate locomotive can be used.
  • Some passengers might think, that coaches give a better ride than multiple units.

But I suspect the biggest factor in the revival of coaches, is that a rake of stylish new coaches and a Class 68 locomotive are more affordable than a new Class 800 train. They are also available earlier.

Imagine going across the Pennines from Liverpool to York in the buffet/restaurant/observation/driving car of one of these new trains, enjoying a  Great Western Pullman Dining experience, as the countryside goes by.

If it is done, it would set a high standard for other train operators.

May 24, 2016 - Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | , , , ,

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