UK: National Express Group has ordered eight 8-car EMUs from GEC Alsthom Metro-Cammell to operate its Gatwick Express franchise linking London Victoria to Gatwick Airport. The £100m train service provision package requires delivery of the first 160 km/h trainset in December 1998, with fleet service to start in May 1999. Journey time for the 39 km will be cut from 30min to under 25.

NEG was required to buy new stock to secure an extension of its franchise from seven to 15 years. Announcing the order at Victoria on April 14, Gatwick Express Managing Director Mac Mackintosh said three classes of travel would be offered: Executive, First and Standard. All toilets will be designed for disabled passengers.

To be funded through the Porterbrook leasing company and maintained by GEC Alsthom Railway Maintenance Services Ltd, the trains will be the first of Metro-Cammell's Juniper range of modular EMUs being developed for Britain's privatised rail market. They will be equipped for 25 kV overhead and 750V DC third rail operation. GEC Alsthom will supply the ONIX traction package from Preston, and build the bodyshells in Spain. The bogies will come from ACR of France, doors from Faiveley, and the brakes from Westinghouse.