Posted on March 17, 2014 · Posted in North East

Jon Colley IEP Project Manager gave an extremely interesting and informative talk on the IEP (Intercity Express Programme) project.

The illustrated talk described in detail the project which would improve the Great Western Main Line (GWML) and East Coast Main Line (ECML) operations significantly. Hand in hand with the electrification of the GWML to South Wales and the re-signalling of both routes will be the introduction of a fleet of new trains drawing from the expertise of Japanese train builder Hitachi. Hitachi have experience with the renown Shinkansen ultra high speed trains in their home country and with the 395 stock on HS1 in UK conditions, which makes them an ideal supplier for such an important project.

The new trains, apart from a few early deliveries, will be constructed and tested in County Durham at a new facility being built at Newton Aycliffe near Darlington. Many suppliers from the UK and Europe are contracted to supply components to Newton Aycliffe. Acceptance testing will involve running on test track at Melton, and on the ECML.

Trains will be multiple units formed in sets of five or nine 26 metre long carriages. Some trains will be built exploiting bi-modal traction systems, thus enabling through working from electrified to non-electrified routes, and changeover between modes will be carried out at line speed. Multiple unit working will be possible. Not all trains will be bi-modal, but there will be examples of both standard lengths in straight electric and dual power although the GWML will only operate 5 car bi-modal trains, in the current plan. One of the revolutionary features will be an on-board generator on the electric sets. This would maintain essential services (Air conditioning, lights etc.) if the overhead power was lost but could even provide sufficient power to move the train to a suitable place where passengers could be detrained safely, albeit at low speed. This may remove the need to maintain a contract for standby locomotives, and is expected to reduce passenger inconvenience considerably.

57 new trains will be introduced on the GWML and 65 for the ECML with a total of 866 new carriages altogether. The trains will incorporate a wide range of technical improvements to make the customer experience better, and ultimately could provide c.8 million more seats per annum on East Coast. Passenger features and interior ambience has been extensively assessed by panels of customer groups. Leg room has been improved by innovative design despite including more seats in vehicles.

Introduction of the new trains will commence in 2014 entering service three years later on the GWML. Full service on the GWML will be completed by 2018. Full ECML service is due to be completed in 2020.

A train service delivery contract by Agility Trains will be introduced covering 27 years. This will be a significant departure for both Train Operators. Agility Trains will be the train service provider responsible for maintaining and servicing the two fleets. The contract with the operator requires an agreed number of trains to be delivered daily for the train service. Agility Trains is 70% owned by Hitachi, John Laing having a 24% share, and MetLife 6%. New depots will be required, some existing depots will transfer and extensive staff training and redeployment will be necessary.

The scope of the project was explained in great detail. The new concept of Train Service Provider being applied to this project will require a culture change, but is expected to reap considerable benefits to the Operator and the passenger, with the new trains expecting to deliver high standards of comfort, reliability and service.