ON JULY 29 regional passenger franchisee North Western Trains announced that it was to buy a fleet of 70 diesel multiple-unit vehicles from GEC Alsthom Metro-Cammell for £64m, with an option for a further 50. Financing and ownership arrangements have yet to be settled. The fleet will be formed in three batches, including Britain’s first underfloor-engined 200 km/h DMUs. All vehicles will have air-conditioning and a disabled-accessible toilet; they are due to be in service by April 2000.

There will be 11 two-car and 7 three-car units capable of 160 km/h for regional services around Manchester, with 140 and 200 seats respectively. They will be powered by Cummins N14R Celect engines rated at 450hp. The nine 200 km/h units will have a more luxurious ambience, with 160 seats in three cars and a catering point for trolley service. Powered by 750hp Cummins QSK19 Celect engines giving a power-to-weight ratio of 16·5hp/tonne, they will be used on open-access services to London from Holyhead, Rochdale and Manchester Airport. o