The Anonymous Widower

West Coast Main Line Electro-Diesels On Test

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

This is the first paragraph.

The first two of 13 Hitachi Class 805 electro-diesel trainsets ordered for Avanti West Coast services are undergoing testing on the West Coast Main Line ahead of entry into service later this year.

These Class 805 trains will go to places like Chester, Bangor and Holyhead via Crewe.

It is interesting to look at various Crewe to London Euston services this morning.

  • 0740 – Class 390 train – From Liverpool – One Stop – 1 hour 40 minutes
  • 0755 – Class 221 train – From Holyhead – One Stop – 1 hour 40 minutes
  • 0832 – Class 390 train – From Manchester – One Stop – 1 hour 37 minutes
  • 0844 – Class 390 train – From Glasgow – 1 hour 28 minutes


  1. The first field is the four-figure time that the train left Crewe.
  2. The last field is the journey time between Crewe to London Euston.
  3. The Class 390 and 805 trains will use electricity to run between Crewe and London Euston, whereas the Class 221 train will use diesel.
  4. Crewe and London Euston is 158 miles.
  5. The Glasgow train covers the 158 miles at an average speed of 107.7 mph.

I have some thoughts.

What Will Be The Time For A Class 805 Train Between Crewe And London Euston?


  • From Crewe, the Class 805 train will be using the electrification to London Euston.
  • The Class 390 train can tilt, whereas the Class 805 train can’t!
  • The Class 805 train is at least three tonnes lighter per car, than the Class 390 train.
  • The lighter weight and possibly more power of the Class 805 trains, will give better acceleration.
  • There is twenty-one years of difference in the build dates of the two trains. In that time, I also suspect that Network Rail have improved the track between Crewe and London Euston.
  • Norton Bridge junction has been improved to avoid conflicts.
  • It would be very convenient for Avanti West Coast and Network Rail, if the performance under electrification of the two trains were similar.

For these reasons, I believe that the performance of a non-stop Crewe And London Euston service using a Class 805 train will be such that it can match that of a Class 390 train.

I would also expect that with a similar stopping pattern between Crewe And London Euston, there would be little to choose between the two trains.

I can see with its better acceleration and lighter weight that the time between Crewe and London Euston will be perhaps a dozen minutes faster than the current time.

Using the electrification will also save a lot of diesel fuel with all its emissions.

Along The North Wales Coast Line


  • Crewe and Holyhead is 105.5 miles and takes two hours and two minutes in a typical service.
  • These figures give an average speed of 52 mph.
  • There are six stops, which are scheduled to take a total of ten minutes.
  • About half the North Wales Coast Line has a maximum operating speed of 90 mph, but through Chester, Llandudno Junction and West of Bangor, the operating speed is 75 mph or less.

I am fairly sure, that with both the current Class 221 trains and the new Class 805 trains, it will be the track, rather than the train that determines the average speed.

It would therefore appear that if the average speed can be raised by track improvements these time savings could be achieved.

  • 60 mph – 105.5 mins – 16.5 mins
  • 70 mph – 90 mins – 32.5 mins
  • 80 mph – 79 mins – 43 mins
  • 90 mph – 70 mins – 52 mins
  • 100 mph – 63 mins – 59 mins
  • 110 mph – 58 mins – 64 mins
  • 120 mph – 53 mins – 69 mins
  • 130 mph – 49 mins – 73 mins
  • 140 mph – 45 mins – 77 mins


  1. The first column is the average speed.
  2. The second column is the time between Holyhead and Crewe.
  3. The third column is the saving.
  4. I suspect that 90 or 100 mph would be the highest possible practical average speed.
  5. Trains average 100 mph on several long sections of the Great Eastern Main Line.
  6. I put in the higher speeds to show what is possible, if the North Wales Coast Line were to be converted into a 140 mph electrified line with digital signalling.

Even at these relatively slow speeds compared to High Speed Two, there are considerable time savings to be made, just by improving the tracks.

Incidentally, High Speed Two is quoted in Wikipedia as aiming for a Crewe and London Euston time of 56 minutes, so by averaging 100 mph between Crewe and Holyhead, London Euston and Holyhead could be under two hours.

Batteries And Class 805 Trains

I wouldn’t be surprised that soon after the Class 805 trains are delivered, they could be converted to a version of Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode  Battery Train, the specification of which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.


  1. I suspect that the batteries will be used to handle regenerative braking on lines without electrification, which will save diesel fuel and carbon emissions.
  2. The trains accelerate faster, than those they replace.
  3. The claimed fuel and carbon saving is twenty percent.
  4. It is intended that these trains will be introduced in 2023.

But Hitachi have not given any predictions of the range of these trains on battery power alone.

However, they do claim a battery range of 56 miles for the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is based on similar technology.

These trains could help in speeding the stops between Crewe and Holyhead.

  • Batteries would be charged at Holyhead and on the electrification to the South of Crewe.
  • At each stop, trains would use a proportion of the power in the battery to accelerate faster and save fuel and cut emissions.
  • Battery power would be used in stations for train hotel power.
  • Westbound trains would arrive in Holyhead and Southbound trains would arrive in Crewe, with not much power in the battery.

I suspect that, whether diesel or battery power is used, will be controlled by a sophisticated computerised control system.

Electrification Along The North Wales Coast Line

I think this will eventually happen to allow High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains to run to Chester and along the North Wales Coast Line to Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead.

But there is no benefit to be gained in electrifying until higher speeds are possible, after track improvements.

I believe these times will be possible with track improvements and the opening of High Speed Two.

  • Holyhead and Crewe – Class 805 train and 80 mph average – 79 mins
  • Holyhead and Crewe – Class 805 train and 90 mph average – 70 mins
  • Holyhead and Crewe – High Speed Two Classic-Compatible train, electrification and 100 mph average – 63 mins
  • Crewe and London Euston – Class 805 train – 80 mins
  • Crewe and London Euston – High Speed Two Classic-Compatible train – 56 mins

Note, electrification will be needed, to run High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains along the North Wales Coast Line.

I am confident that these times will be possible.

  • Holyhead and London Euston – Class 805 train and 90 mph average  along the coast – 2 hours 30 mins
  • Holyhead and London Euston – High Speed Two Classic-Compatible train and 100 mph average  along the coast – 2 hours

The current time between Holyhead and London Euston is over three hours 45 minutes.


These trains will certainly speed up trains to North Wales.


February 15, 2023 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. It’s always interested me that there’s little difference in journey times Crewe-London between Pendolino and Voyager, as I would have expected electric to be faster – acceleration if nothing else, but then I suppose they don’t stop very often, so acceleration isn’t needed all that much.

    I don’t think tilt will make any difference, as there’s not much cause for tilting on that part of the journey. I think the tilting is mainly for further N, though it might be useful on part of the N Wales coast.

    Comment by Peter Robins | February 16, 2023 | Reply

    • Voyagers have 750hp Cummins underneath each coach so have a good power to weight ratio.

      In terms of speed restrictions 390’s can run at Enhanced Permissible Speed which is 10-15mph higher than HST speed, which Voyagers observe, which in itself is 10-20 above the permanent speed restrictions. So even with better acceleration they will still lose time compared to a 390 on limited stop duties but as someone else has said South of Preston there isn’t going to be a lot in it and that where they were normally operate. Bigger issue is going to be HS2 trains which wont be tilt either so they will be giving up much of the gain made running on HS2 when running North into Scotland but that’s a while away yet!

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | February 17, 2023 | Reply

      • For HS2, the difference in speed S of Crewe will surely be much greater than the speed loss through lack of tilt N of Crewe. Do you know what difference in times tilt actually makes Crewe-Scotland? What are we talking about? 5-10 minutes?

        I agree with those who want to see new track N of Crewe to iron out some of the pressure points, but I can’t see that happening with current budgetary situation.

        Comment by Peter Robins | February 18, 2023

  2. It will be interesting to get inside a Class 805 in a few months, as I suspect they will be a lot lighter in weight than a Pendolino, as the tilt mechanism is heavy.

    But I do think that Hitachi have probably learned a lot about making their bogies run faster on UK railways.

    I also think, that Network Rail know how to create 100 and 125 mph railways. One of the best train journeys, I ever had was a Norwich-in-Ninety in a rake of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 90.

    Norwich-In-Ninety Is A Lot More Than Passengers Think!

    Comment by AnonW | February 16, 2023 | Reply

    • The Hitachi bi-modes I’ve ridden in have impressed me, particularly the unobtrusive nature of the diesel. Unlike the Voyagers, which are quite noisy, you barely notice the difference in noise levels when the mode switch occurs – I’m sure most passengers don’t even notice.

      They should make a big difference to carbon numbers, especially for the Voyagers running via Brum, which are under the wires the whole way from Scotland to London.

      E Midlands’ bi-modes should be coming into service this year too. That just leaves Cross Country’s Voyagers, some of which run some large distances under the wires too.

      Comment by Peter Robins | February 16, 2023 | Reply

  3. I can see small sections of electrification being added to take big bites out of carbon emissions, as we get more bi-mode and tri-mode trains and bi-mode Class 99 locomotives. Chester and Crewe is the obvious section on the North Wales Coast Line.

    Comment by AnonW | February 16, 2023 | Reply

    • ah well, there’s plenty of scope for small electrification/battery sections, but I fear we may need a change in government before we get any action on that.

      Comment by Peter Robins | February 16, 2023 | Reply

      • I don’t think, it’s the Government, but some of the civil servants in the DfT, who don’t seem to believe in hydrogen and battery-powered trains. I must admit, I was sceptical, about them, until I rode Bombardier’s prototype IPEMU at Manningtree.

        It is interesting to note, that the three main battery-electric train projects Hitachi/Great Western/Eversholt, Cardiff and Liverpool are largely independent of the DfT, with the last two being more local projects using Stadler, who seem to be getting a reputation, that they will tackle anything.

        Comment by AnonW | February 16, 2023

      • Ministers decide; civil servants implement. (At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work!)

        Tyne & Wear should also be getting battery capabilities when their new fleet starts arriving later this year (also Stadler, of course). It’s interesting that Labour has shifted to a more decentralised policy. I think the metro mayors are likely to become more powerful, and Wales should also be deciding on priorities in Wales, as already happens in Scotland.

        Comment by Peter Robins | February 16, 2023

  4. I feel ehe impressive ones are going to be the 807s. No diesel engines and associated gubbins and no batteries or tilt mechanism. This would be how Colin Chapman would design a train. Just add lightness.

    They are shorter so, that Liverpool South Parkway doesn’t have to have expensive platform lengthening.

    I believe that these trains are designed to enable Liverpool and London in under two hours.

    As there will be two trains per hour, one by a 807 and the other by a 390, will the 807 only stop perhaps once at South Parkway, if at all.

    Is Liverpool getting High Speed 1.5?

    Comment by AnonW | February 18, 2023 | Reply

  5. […] West Coast Main Line Electro-Diesels On Test, I found that a Glasgow and London train took 1 hour and 28 minutes between Crewe and London […]

    Pingback by Is Liverpool Going To Get High Speed One-Point-Five? « The Anonymous Widower | March 16, 2023 | Reply

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