ASPIRING open-access operator Grand Central Railway announced on April 13 that it plans to buy three 225 km/h diesel trainsets from CSR Ziyang of China 'immediately following the launch' of its Sunderland - London service later this year.

China Southern Loco & Rolling Stock Co is looking to break into the European market through its subsidiary CSR Europe and a newly-formed rolling stock leasing company Sovereign Trains, which is associated with Grand Central.

As well as the Polaris high-speed trainsets with diesel or electric traction, the range would include the Pacemaker DMU 'for inter-urban and rural services', with 120 km/h and 160 km/h versions, and a mixed-traffic diesel loco known as Potenta. Aimed at open-access freight operators in continental Europe, this would be available in four or six-axle configurations, with engine ratings from 2 850 to 4 000 hp and a maximum speed of 145 km/h.

Conceptual design for Polaris is being handled by Transys Projects of Birmingham. It would be similar to the former British Rail HST sets, with 23 m long coaches marshalled between 15 m long power cars, all built in steel. Likely to be powered by MTU engines, the 80 tonne power cars would be built by CSR Ziyang, with the 35 tonne coaches subcontracted to sister company CSR Puzhen.

If the Grand Central order is confirmed, the trains would be delivered in 2010. Sovereign Trains is also expected to seek to prequalify for DfT Rail's InterCity Express Programme to develop a new generation of high speed trains for the UK.