GREAT North Eastern Railway has unveiled its initial rake of Mk IV coaches rebuilt by Bombardier under the £30m 'Project Mallard' refurbishment programme. GNER expects its first modernised IC225 train to be in service this month, and work on the entire fleet of 302 vehicles leased from HSBC Rail will be finished in 2005.

The coaches have travelled an average of 4·8 million km on the UK's East Coast Main Line since the early 1990s. Bombardier has completely stripped them down at its Wakefield plant, installing new interiors designed by JPA Associates and Design Acumen. The refitted stock is among the first in the UK to meet the requirements of the European high speed Technical Specifications for Interoperability.

The interior colours and light wood veneer bulkheads were chosen to give a wider feel to the narrow upper body profile, a result of the trains being originally designed for tilt equipment which was never fitted. New seats were supplied by Chapman, with a mixture of face-to-face and face-to-back. Up to 50mm of extra leg room is provided in standard class, and the seats have movable armrests. Electrical sockets are provided for laptops and mobile phones. Folding seats provide space for one wheelchair in first class, and two in standard.

Tables supplied by Havelock-Europa are shorter than the ones they replace, providing more space for passengers on busy trains to pass catering trolleys in the aisles.

The back-lit suspended ceiling was supplied by Jucova of Finland, and is designed for easy removal for maintenance and replacement of strip lighting tubes. The luggage racks are from HRD. External doors have been fitted with failure lights, allowing staff to locate rapidly any problems.

Two carriages have a limited amount of accommodation for smokers. The ventilation here gives a lower air pressure than elsewhere in the carriage, limiting the spread of smoke when the partition door is opened.

Following a study of injuries sustained in the Potters Bar derailment (RG 6.02 p283), laminated glass is fitted to the windows, except those which are dedicated escape routes. These have toughened glass which can be broken with a hammer, and GNER plans to install Pickersgill-Kaye window-breaking devices (RG1.01 p62). LED lighting from Marl, based on emergency lights used on submarines, highlights the escape windows.

GNER sees a restaurant service as an important part of its brand. The first class carriages are adjacent to the kitchen, for use as what Customer Service Manager Phil Kennedy describes as an 'adjustable restaurant'. The kitchen and buffet have been completely redesigned using components supplied by German firm Kugel, with a more open counter and dedicated space for stowage of catering trolleys.

The toilet modules are supplied as fully-tested units by Driessen in the Netherlands, and have wall-mounted bowls to simplify cleaning. A fully-accessible toilet with powered doors is fitted adjacent to the wheelchair users' accommodation. Module walls comprise laminates sandwiching an aluminium honeycomb, their strength removing the need for a support frame and permitting a larger interior. A conventional water flush mechanism is used, to match the existing on-board plumbing and retention tanks. This adds to the weight of water which must be carried, but is reliable with fewer parts to go wrong.

The IC225s operate as fixed-formation push-pull sets. The Driving Van Trailer has racks for six bicycles, and powered docking points for refrigerated catering modules used to store food. The cab has improved crash protection and new seats, though the original driving console is retained.

Project Mallard will see two trainsets out of service for rebuilding at any one time, and a diesel High Speed Train displaced from Virgin Trains by the introduction of Voyagers is being used to provide cover. GNER's HSTs are being extended from eight to nine passenger vehicles using ex-Virgin carriages, but the interiors will not receive a full refurbishment as discussions are underway with other operators and the Strategic Rail Authority for the joint procurement of the next generation HST2, which GNER expects will take six years to develop once it receives the go-ahead.

  • TheTrainline has been awarded a GNER contract running to April 2005 to provide on-line ticket sales. GNER hopes to increase the proportion of tickets sold on-line from 1% to 10%. TheTrainline has also begun providing a similar service for First Great Western.