The Anonymous Widower

TransPennine Express Explores Further Fleet And Capacity Expansion Options

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

First TransPennine Express is hopeful that it will be able to issue a call for expressions of interest in the provision of additional bi-mode trains before the end of March. This follows ‘a healthy level of interest’ in its existing call for expressions of interest in the supply of bi-mode locomotives to replace the Class 68s which work with its MkVa coaches.

I wrote about the expressions of interest to replace the Class 68 locomotives with new bi-mode locomotives in Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway.

This was my conclusion in the related post.

When I saw First Group’s proposals, I thought that they were over ambitious.

But after doing a few simple calculations, I think they can decarbonise some, but not all of the TransPennine Express services and the Night Riviera.

So do First Group want to complete the decarbonisation of  TransPennine Express services?

These are my thoughts.

The Train Fleet Specification

The Railway Gazette article makes these points about the new bi-mode trains.

  • The trains could be existing or new bi-modes.
  • It would be desirable for the trains to have a long-term electric-only option.
  • Options for this would include removing the diesel engines or converting the trains to battery-electric operation.
  • Hydrogen is not mentioned.
  • A fleet size of twenty-five trains is mentioned.
  • The possibility of electric-only trains in the future is mentioned..
  • Five-cars, with the ability to lengthen to six- or seven-cars.
  • 200 km/h operation.

There is nothing unusual in the specification.

Will They Be Existing Or New Trains?

I doubt that there are any existing 200 km/h bi-modes in the UK, that are not wanted by their current operators.

I am very certain they will be new trains.

Could The Trains Be Hitachi Class 802 Trains?

The trains sound very much like Hitachi Class 802 trains, that are in service with TransPennine Express, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains, all of whom are First Group companies.

  • Long-term, the diesel engines can be removed or replaced with batteries.
  • The battery option is under development and should be on test this year.
  • The trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars, so six- and seven-car trains would be possible.

Hitachi will obviously show interest in this possible order.

Will These Trains Replace the Class 185 Trains?


  • TransPennine Express have 51 three-car Class 185 trains.
  • This is a total of 153 cars.
  • On some routes they work singly and on others they work in pairs.
  • A three-car Class 185 train has 167 Standard Class and 15 First Class seats or 60.7 seats per car.
  • A pair of Class 185 trains have 334 Standard Class and 30 First Class seats.
  • A five-car TransPennine Express Class 802 train has 318 Standard Class and 24 First Class seats or 68.4 seats per car.
  • It would appear that a Class 802 train is not that far short of the capacity of a pair of Class 185 trains.
  • Some of the TransPennine services are very crowded.

I suspect that twenty-five five-car trains be able to handle the the workload of the Class 185 trains.

If a small amount of extra capacity were needed, some of the new trains could be six-cars.

In this section, I have assumed the new trains will be Class 802 trains, but any train manufacturer pitching for this order would adjust the capacity to the needs of TransPennine Express.

The Railway Gazette article says this.

TPE continues to explore opportunities for new services in the north of England, and the move could also feed into government plans for the removal of older and more costly to operate diesel trains elsewhere on the network, should any rolling stock become surplus to requirements at TPE.

So where could the Class 185 trains be used in the future?

Recently, MTU Hybrid PowerPacks have replaced the transmission on a Class 168 train, which reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption and makes the train quieter and more passenger-friendly, as it doesn’t use diesel in stations.

The Class 185 trains are only fifteen years old and I suspect that MTU have designed the Hybrid PowerPack, so that it can replace the Cummins engine in trains like these.

The conversion could be done as a rolling program, so that any future operator would start with diesel and go hybrid a train at a time.

There has been speculation, that the trains may end up on the East West Railway and I wrote about this in East West Railway Company To Start Second Phase Of Rolling Stock Procurement.

But the East West Railway may prefer to use zero-carbon trains on a route, where there is electrification in places on the route.

Alternatively, South Western Railway run 10 two-car Class 158 trains and 30 three-car Class 159 trains between London Waterloo and Exeter.

  • South Western Railway is another First Group company.
  • The Class 185 trains could provide a capacity increase.
  • The Class 185 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the Class 158/159 trains are only capable of 90 mph.

The London Waterloo and Exeter Route could be electrified in the future and I am pretty sure, that the Class 185 trains with a hybrid transmission could be a good stand-in until this happens.

Other Train Manufacturers

I believe that Hitachi are in pole position for this order, just because they are an established supplier to both TransPennine Express and First Group.

But twenty-five five-car trains would be a very worthwhile order, so I suspect that companies like Alstom, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Talgo will also express interest.


Buying extra bi-mode trains will take TransPennine Express further along the route to full decarbonisation.





March 15, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I’m not sure SW (nor EWR) would deserve the 185s, ‘Id rather keep them up north, albeit Northern has said it would want to reduce the number of unit types… Maybe could be given to ScottRail, who in return could give 158s to Northern, they should aquire anyway the other units that will come of lease from EMT and TfW ( those alone would be enough to replace the 156s that Northern has!!!)

    I also wouldn’t fiddle too much with their power system, I assume it would be easier to convert them to run with hydrogen, then changing ther propulsion system to electric plus hydrogen or batteries, wouldn’t think is value for money…

    Comment by Daniel Altmann | March 16, 2022 | Reply

    • I find this (at least reminds me) that EMT is ready to get rid of their 222s, but when it turned out that they will operate the Liverpool – Nottingham (- Norwich) service they wanted 185s for it from TPE… I mean what is wrong with the 222s? They have 17* 5 car 222s wich would be enough Not only for the Liv-Not-Nor but also a Crewe – Notthingham (- Newark/Lincoln) service.
      Not olny that, they could receive the long awaited pantographs, and some of the diesel engines could be replaced with batteries… And thats true to all 220s, 221s and the remaining 222s!!! I don’t even see why this isn’t an objective to their owners? …

      Comment by Daniel Altmann | March 16, 2022 | Reply

    • I am not a fan of converting trains to hydrogen for trains that are to run in the UK. I just don’t think there is enough space and this causes design problems.

      If it was easy, then the Breeze would be running by now.

      Birmingham University and Porterbrook may have been able to build their prototype by taking advantage of newer technology or by working to produce a demonstrator, rather than a train ready to enter service. It is only a three coach train, with the fourth full of the power unit.

      Alstom have now announced their Hydrogen Aventra, which will be based on new carriages. Surprisingly, that train has been designed without a pantograph. Is that due to space problems.

      As the 185 trains are only three cars, I don’t think they are big enough for hydrogen.

      Comment by AnonW | March 16, 2022 | Reply

  2. Usually, problems like this are political, with some politician totally against the project for reasons only they understand.

    Reading about the conversion on Wikipedia offers a valid reason. It does look that in 2011, when this project was under consideration, the new carriages would have been built at Derby, which unfortunately doesn’t have the ability to make steel bodies.

    Now that Bombardier and all their financial problems are history, I wonder, if Alstom with less financial problems and several factories, that they may close, could resurrect this project?

    The other alternative might be for Rolls-Royce mtu to fit the trains with MTU Hybrid PowerPacks. MTU must have had these trains in mind, when they designed the PowerPacks.

    Comment by AnonW | March 16, 2022 | Reply

  3. James O’Sullivan, the Project Manager for Aventra UK was reported in Rail Engineer last November as saying that the hydrogen tanks will be installed in the pantograph wells on the roof. I presume, however that it would be viable to add an extra coach fitted with a pantograph, as is the case for the Class 720.
    As regards the prospects for an MTU HybridFLEX Powerpack for the Class 185, they have the basis for meeting the requirement, however because of the higher power rating of the engine they require a larger transmission than the bus derived unit fitted to the Class 168 being trialled by Chiltern Railways. This unit is based on a ZF16-speed truck transmission that as far as I know is yet to be productionised for rail applications.

    Comment by fammorris | March 17, 2022 | Reply

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