The Anonymous Widower

The Cavalry Are Arriving!

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled First HST for ScotRail Arrives In Scotland.

I seem to remember reading accusations that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and their governments weren’t too keen on the ageing InterCity 125 trains, that plied up to Scotland and across to Wales and the West of England. So they did a deal with Hitachi, which included a new train factory close to Blair’s constituency in the North-East of England.

But removing InterCity 125s or High Speed Trtains (HSTs) as they are commonly known, from the UK rail network, appears to be as difficult as removing Japanese knot-weed from a garden.

When delays hit the Great Western electrification, Great Western Railway started experimenting with short formation HSTs, consisted of two Class 43 power cars and four or five Mark 3 coaches. The experiments were obviously a success, as they have decided to do this according to Wikipedia.

Great Western Railway are to retain 24 powercars and 48 carriages to form 11 four-carriage sets for use on local services between Cardiff and Penzance. The carriages will be fitted with automatic doors and controlled emission tanks at Wabtec, Doncaster.

Scotrail have gone down a similar route of shortened HSTs.

This article in Rail |Engineer is entitled ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs, gives full details. This is the first three paragraphs of the article.

In 2012, Transport Scotland published the results of its rail passenger service consultation. This considered how the railway should develop and the types of passenger services required. Its results were incorporated into the specification for the ScotRail franchise which was renewed in 2014.

One conclusion from this consultation exercise was that passengers traveling from central Scotland to Aberdeen and Inverness much preferred to travel in Virgin Trains East Coast High Speed Trains (HSTs) from London than ScotRail’s Class 170 diesel multiple units (DMUs).

For this reason, the invitation to tender (ITT) document for the ScotRail franchise included a specification for improved rolling stock for Scotland’s internal inter-city services that could have been based on the HST’s mark 3 coach. In its franchise bid, Abellio’s response to this requirement was that it would provide refurbished HSTs on the routes that serve Scotland’s seven cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness).

Abellio received the franchise and ScotRail will be getting seventeen 2+5 and nine 2+4 HSTs. This paragraph from the Rail Engineer article gives more details on the trains.

The HSTs will be phased into service from summer 2018, with the full fleet operational for the May 2019 timetable change. This aligns with the completion of Network Rail’s Highland main line journey time improvements project. 54 power cars and 121 coaches will be leased from Angel Trains. These will make up 17 five-coach trains and 9 four- coach trains with two power cars spare. The 2019 timetable will require 23 trains in service each day with five coach sets operating Central Belt to Aberdeen services and the four coach trains generally running to Inverness. The number of through services from Inverness to the Central Belt via Aberdeen will also be increased.

As the first HST has now arrived in Scotland as is reported in the Rail Magazine article, it looks like everything is going to plan.

Politicians and others might say, why are the lines not being electrified or services provided by Class 802 trains.

  • Network Rail’s record on electrification isn’t good.
  • There would probably be opposition to overhead electrification marching all over the Highlands.
  • The lines in the North of Scotland probably have a maximum speed of 100 mph at best.
  • Drivers have forty years of experience of running HSTs to Aberdeen and Inverness.
  • To many of the British, the InterCity 125s are the definitive High Speed Train.

Could there even be a popular feeling behind using the trains, in much the same way people cling to the past in their politics?

I think it is a sensible plan for the following reasons.

  • A 2+5 shortened set running at less than the 125 mph design speed could be a very sound economic proposition.
  • The trains have large windows for a good view.
  • I’m sure Scotrail will add appropriate catering, on the upwards of two to three hour journeys.
  • These trains could be passenger magnets for business, leisure and tourists, especially from countries like Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and the USA.

But above all these Scottish InterCity services must be the Marketing Department’s dream!

September 2, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , ,

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