The Anonymous Widower

My First Ride In A Nova 3 Train

Nova 3 is the name that TransPennine Express have given to their new fleet of Mark 5A coaches hauled by Class 68 locomotives.

The first few pictures were taken, when I saw a Nova 3 at Manchester Victoria station and the ither during and after a ride between Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations.

These are a few of my thoughts.

Comfort, Noise And Vibration

It was certainly good and up there with the best.

Tables For Four

There were quite a few tables, but not everyone got one.

Ride And Performance

There was nothing wrong with the ride, but we were only doing 75 mph across the Pennines.

Next time, I’m in the North, I’ll take one of these trains up the East Coast Main Line to Scarborough or Redcar to feel them at a faster speed.


I wouldn’t object to having these coaches with a Class 88 electric locomotive running between London and Nowich via Ipswich.

December 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

TPE Pledges Capacity Boost With Class 68/Mk 5A Sets

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 851 of Rail Magazine.

It adds a few extra details to those, that I wrote about in Nova 3 On The Test Track.

This information is revealed.

The Route

The TransPennine Express fleet will run on the Liverpool Lime Street-Manchester Airport-Scarborough/Middlesbrough Routes, replacing three car Class 185 trains.

Train Length

Each Mark 5A car has a length of 22.2 or 22.37 metres.

Adding on the Class 68 locomotive gives a train length of 131.84 metres.

This compares with a train length for the Class 185 train of 71.276 metres.

It means that two Class 185 trains working together, which is current practice, are longer than the new fleet.

This must limit platform and depot modifications.

The Capacity

The number of seats on the two trains are as follows.

  • Class 185 train – 15 First Class – 165 Second Class
  • Class 68/Mk 5A sets – 30 First Class – 261 Second Class

This gives twice as many seats in First Class and nearly sixty percent more in second.

Both trains seem to have around sixty seats in each car.

Technical Characteristics

The Rail Magazine article gives several technical characteristics.

  • Each coach has two passenger doors, except the First Class coach which has one.
  • There is Selective Door Opening controlled by GPS.
  • Door controls are in the Driver Trailer and Class 68 cans, which the driver controls.
  • Two door control panels are in every vehicle for usde by the conductor.
  • Wheel Slip Protection is fitted.
  • Automatic passenger counting is provided.
  • Wi-fi is fitted.

The trains have a high specification.





May 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Nova 3 On The Test Track

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the May 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

Nova 3 is the name that TransPennine Express (TPE) have given to their thirteen new rakes of Mark 5A coaches, that are being built by CAF in Spain and will be hauled by Class 68 locomotives.

These are my thoughts on what we know about the trains.

The Test Phase

Testing is being performed on the Velim test track in the Czech Republic.

Increasingly, it seems that a lot of testing of trains is done on this track and I do wonder if one of the problems al our trains seeming to be late, is a lack of the suitable testing facilities in the UK.

Spanish train manufacturer; Talgo, seem to have noticed this gap and I wrote about their plans for a UK test track in Talgo Explores Options For Building UK Test Track.

Modern Railways, states that there was trouble getting the two test locomotives to Velim, because of industrial action in France.

Perhaps in parallel with the ordering of large numbers of trains, we should have built a test track!

Buying New CAF carriages Enabled Faster Deployment, Than Converting Spare Mark 3 carriages

I think that the main problem of converting Mark 3 carriages, which Chiltern have shown is very possible, is that until Greater Anglia release their carriages, after receiving their new Class 745 trains, the fifty-two coaches needed by TPE could be difficult to find. There are plenty of driving van trailers in store, that just need refurbishing.

The Modern Railways article says that most if not all, of the new Mark 5A coaches will be in service by early 2019.

I suspect that Greater Anglia won’t release their Mark 3 carriages until late 2019.

So to get the required number of Mark 3 coaches could be difficult!

I also suspect that going the CAF route means that if any extra sets re needed or the current ones need lengthening, that CAF would oblige. Whereas starching around for spare Mark 3 coaches might be more difficult.

Transpennine’s New Fleet Of Coaches

TPE have ordered the following.

  • Fifty-two coaches, of which thirteen are First Class and the rest Second Class
  • Fourteen driving van trailers (DVT). A spare seems prudent, as surely train ends are more likely to hit something.
  • Fourteen Class 68 locomotives, two of which are spare.
  • These are formed into thirteen  fixed rakes of four coaches and DVT, which are hauled by a single Class 68 locomotive.

The Modern Railways article says that the idea is to have twelve sets in service and one in maintenance.

Flexible Length

The rakes appear to have been designed, so they can be lengthened to six or seven coaches.

The article also says that extension beyond six would need infrastructure work at some stations.

Changing The Power Unit

These twelve rakes are powered by a Class 68 diesel locomotive.

But I suspect, they could be powered by any suitable locomotive for the route.

I would be interesting to find out how an electro-diesel locomotive live a Class 88 locomotive, performed with a rake of five Mark 5A coaches.

What is probably needed in the future is an electroc-diesel locomotive with the following characteristics.

  • Ability to haul a rake of five coaches at 125 mph on electricity.
  • Ability to haul a rake of five coaches at 90 mph on diesel.

In a few years time, such a locomotive could handle some of TPE’s routes as electrification progresses.

Wheelchair Users Travel First Class

The First Class vehicle is next to the engine.

  • A small kitvhen is provided.
  • It seats thirty passengers.
  • It has the only accessible toilet on the train.

Because of the last feature, TPE have taken the pragmatic decision, that all wheelchair users will be able to travel in First.

I’m not disabled or a wheelchair user, but that is probably down to luck more than anything else. So there but for luck, go I!

I travel on trains a lot and it is very rare for me to see more than one wheelchair user on a train.

Obviously TPE have statistics and adding everything up, they find that one accessible toilet is enough provided those needing it can sit close.

By not providing a second accessible toilet, but three ordinary toilets, they probably get another six seats they can sell to passengers.

I do wonder, if other train operating comp will adopt a similar philosophy.

Other Orders

The fleet appears to have been designed, so it can be adjusted to a train operating company’s needs.

I would suspect, that after two orders for their Mark 5 coaches, CAF are expecting more, from the next round of franchise renewals.

I also think, that TPE’s concept of a rake of five coaches with a locomotive could appeal to Open Access Operators like Grand Central Trains, especially if a 125 mph electro-diesel locomotive can be built.

One great advantage that CAF have is that once the TPE fleet is operating  successfully, there would not be a large testing phase for a new operator.


It appears that CAF and TransPennine Express have thought long and hard about these trains and I’m looking forward to riding in one.



April 28, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment