BRITAIN'S Department for Transport issued three shortlisted bidders with invitations to tender for the supply of a fleet of high speed trains under the government's Intercity Express Programme on November 16. The trains are required to be 'lighter, greener and carry up to 70% more passengers' than the IC125 diesel-powered HSTs and the electric IC225 stock they will replace.

DfT had announced the shortlisted bidding consortia on August 16, naming Alstom-Barclays Rail Group, Hitachi Europe Ltd, and the Express Rail Alliance of Bombardier, Siemens, Angel Trains and Babcock & Brown.

Proposals will be received from bidders in summer 2008, with the contract to be awarded in winter 2008-09. The first of the trains will begin trials in 2012, before replacing existing inter-city trains on the East Coast and Great Western main lines from 2015.

It will be up to the bidders to decide how many carriages they need to supply to meet the government's service requirements, a figure DfT says is indicated to be around 850 in the first phase, 'possibly rising to approximately 1 500 if options to extend IEP to other routes are taken up.'

Previously known as HST2, the IEP trains will be supplied in both 25 kV electric and 'self-powered' versions. The electric versions are required to be at least 27% and up to 40% more energy efficient than the trains they replace, while the 'self-powered' version must offer improvements of between 10% and 35%.

Overall, the trains must 'optimise value for money, taking a long term whole-system approach,' and 'sustainable construction and maintenance' techniques are specified. The trains are required to be lighter, to help increase energy efficiency and reduce wear and tear on tracks, and must 'meet all present and future safety standards.'

DfT requires 'the flexibility to operate on inter-urban and commuter routes as well as long-distance journeys and be adaptable enough for different train operators to fit them out according to their needs.' Increased capacity and the ability to run longer and more frequent services will give a 15% to 70% increase in seats on the initial routes.

Rail Minister Tom Harris said 'We're demanding high standards of capacity, environmental performance and flexibility from these new trains because they will benefit passengers for decades to come. But it's for the bidders to decide exactly how they will meet those standards - we've set the bar and they have to clear it.'