Hitachi signs £350m with Avanti West Coast for brand new trains

New Avanti West Coast trains
Credit: First Group PLC

First Trenitalia has announced that they have awarded a new contract worth £350m to Hitachi Rail to maintain 23 new trains, which are to be built at its County Durham factory.

The train trains will bring more capacity along the West Coast Main Line and in North Wales. They will enter service in 2022 and will be a mix of ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains to operate on the un-electrified North Wales Coast line to Holyhead.

These 125mph trains draw designs from the Japanese bullet train, and join the ever-growing numbers of Class 800/802s in Britain, with LNER, Hull Trains, TransPennine Express and Great Western Railway all operating them in passenger service

There are 453 seats on a 7-car service and 301 seats on a 5-car service increasing compacity compared to the Class 221 Voyager trains they replace, which have 258 seats.

The seven-carriage version of the electric trains will have similar numbers of seats to a nine-carriage Pendolino, thanks to longer carriages.

The new trains are cleaner and more efficient than the trains they are replacing. The introduction of these new trains will help to support the UK’s drive for a cleaner, greener environment.

The new trains will be built at Hitachi’s factory at Newton Aycliffe and will support thousands of jobs across the country. Hitachi prioritises UK suppliers where possible, including servicing and maintenance. This has resulted in Hitachi Rail spending £1.6 billion in the UK since 2013. Since then, wheelsets have come from Manchester; windows from Newcastle, door handles from Leeds, and overhead panels from County Durham.

The investment in these trains is being financed through Rock Rail West Coast, this is a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments.  Rock Rail West Coast will own the trains and lease them to First Trenitalia.

First Trenitalia has also signed a Maintenance Agreement with Alstom to enable the trains to be maintained by a joint team from Hitachi and Alstom at the Oxley Depot in Wolverhampton.

What did the officials say?

Commenting on the new trains contract, Steve Montgomery, Managing Director, First Rail, said:

“We look forward to beginning our Avanti West Coast services on Sunday 8 December, and these new trains will help us really improve travel for passengers with more services, more seats, a better journey experience, enhanced catering and added comfort.”

Ernesto Sicilia, Trenitalia UK Managing Director, said:

“We are pleased to announce this new fleet which highlights our commitment to innovation and desire to constantly improve our services. We are delighted to provide more efficient and modern trains which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 61%, including new comfortable seats for an improved customer experience.”

Mark Swindell, Chief Executive Officer, Rock Rail and Director, Rock Rail West Coast, said:

“Rock Rail is delighted to be working with First Trenitalia and Hitachi and our institutional investor partners to bring these trains to the region and deliver step changes in the travelling experience for so many rail passengers across the country.

“This new state-of-the-art Hitachi fleet represents Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ fourth new rolling stock deal in the UK, and across all deals combined sees investment by the institutional investor sector of just under £2.5 billion in the UK railway. This long term, highly competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money to rail passengers and tax payers over the life of the trains, along with significant improvements in passenger, environmental and operational features.”

Andrew Barr, Group CEO, Hitachi Rail, said:

“Based on Japanese bullet train technology, our new trains have proven to be the modern intercity train of choice, increasing passenger satisfaction wherever they run. We’re delighted to continue our excellent relationship with FirstGroup and Trenitalia, for whom we’ve delivered hundreds of trains across Italy and the UK. This new order, which will be built at our factory in the North East, is another vote of confidence in the success of our trains, which are both green and reliable.”

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  • It’s great news that Avanti are ordering new 125mph trains to replace the class 221 Voyagers. But, are they taking a risk in not fitting tilt? Do they have an agreement with NR to operate them on WCML above the permissible speed of 110mph?

  • I think it will be classified as Class 805 (Electric) and Class 806 (Bi-mode). As Hitachi are building the Class 803 and Class 804 IETs for East Coast Trains and East Midlands Railway. Gives Hitachi more opportunity for more new jobs created at Newton Aycliffe. Since they have manufactured the Class 800, Class 801 and Class 802 and ScotRail Class 385.

  • The 220/221’s aren’t particularly old. Why not make an electric trailer car to fit in the existing formation and make them bi-modes?

    • The production line for the Voyagers closed about a decade ago. These will be going down to XC. They did look into it a few years back, but decided against it because of the cost. Not to mention that it would take a complete rewire, it just would be pointless.

  • I hope that Arriva Crosscountry will have the Ex-Virgin Trains/Avanti West Coast Class 221 Voyagers and to use them on existing long distance routes or perhaps they could be used on Liverpool Lime Street-Nottingham. If Crosscountry does want more existing reliable rolling stocks.