BERMUDA-based shipping group Sea Containers is to order tilting trains from Fiat Ferroviaria for its British train operating franchisee Great North Eastern Railway. The signing of heads of agreement covering two trains was announced on September 9, at a price believed to be around £15m each. There is an option for GNER to buy a further six sets, subject to obtaining an extension to its seven-year franchise which expires in 2002-03.

GNER plans to introduce the trains on the East Coast main line between London and Edinburgh ’in the autumn of 2000’. Each 11-car train, with distributed traction equipment supplied by GEC Alsthom Traction, will have seating for 500 passengers, and be capable of speeds ’over 225 km/h’. Sea Containers says the 633 km journey will be cut from 3h 59min to 3h 30min, at an average speed of 180 km/h.

Substantial infrastructure investment will be needed, including the closure of level crossings and the provision of cab signalling. GNER will have to obtain a dispensation from HM Railway Inspectorate to carry passengers in the leading vehicle of a train running at over 160 km/h.

  • Virgin Railways called tenders on August 29 for a fleet of 40 tilting trains to operate inter-city services on its West Coast routes from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Bids are due on November 3, and Virgin says 12 firms have pre-qualified, including General Electric and General Motors. Bids to supply up to 400 high-speed DMU cars for the Virgin Cross Country business were due on September 29. o