ON MARCH 3 Britain’s Virgin Rail Group announced in London that it had picked Bombardier Transportation as preferred bidder to supply rolling stock for its CrossCountry franchise. The company has a letter of intent for an £858m contract combining tilting diesel units and loco-hauled push-pull sets with a maintenance package lasting until the end of the VCC franchise in 2012.

The hybrid fleet will comprise 43 four-car DMUs and 34 push-pull sets with four or five coaches. The DMUs will have 600hp MTU engines and Elin electrics, with some elements derived from the Talent concept (p244). Tilting equipment will be the same as that for the American Flyer trains for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which is a ’refreshed’ version of that in service on the Canadian LRC trains.

The push-pull trains will be powered by 3200hp locos assembled by GEC Alsthom Transporte in Spain with General Motors engines. They will be single-cab derivatives of the English Welsh & Scottish Railway 200 km/h Class 67 design.

Steel DMU and coach bodyshells will be fabricated at Bombardier’s BN plant in Brugge, Belgium, and the bogies will come from the ANF-Industrie factory in Crespin, France. Fitting out will be done by Bombardier Prorail in Wakefield. The loco-hauled coaches will be designed for future installation of tilt gear.

The maintenance element is worth £520m and will see the trains maintained under subcontract by EWS, which will also take over maintenance of the existing VCC fleet from January 1 1999.

At the same event Virgin revealed more details of the £1bn deal for GEC Alsthom and Fiat Ferroviaria to build 55 high speed eight-car tilting trains to cover 48 diagrams for its West Coast franchise (RG 3.98 p139). Alloy bodies will be made in Savigliano, Italy, and the bogies in Switzerland. Onix traction equipment will come from GEC plants in Britain. Six cars will be motored, giving a nominal rating of 5100 kW per train. As with the Bombardier deal, the suppliers will be responsible for maintenance and will take on the existing fleets from next January.

Virgin said a ’concept train’ converted from existing stock will enter service this year to test interior equipment and designs. This will be followed by a pre-series train to be trialled on the Old Dalby test track from mid-2000, with the first complete units entering revenue service in May 2001 and all sets available a year later.

The first Bombardier trains will be ready by May 2000, with all delivered by May 2002. Virgin Chief Richard Branson said he was ’confident’ that the tight delivery deadlines would be met, and Bombardier President Jean-Yves Leblanc, GEC Alsthom Transport Managing Director André Navarri and Fiat Ferroviaria Chief Executive Gianna Coda, who were all in London for the announcement, confirmed the timescales.

Virgin was due to approach the money markets last month to secure a finance package so that final contracts can be signed in the summer.

  • Regional Railways North East announced on March 10 that it had placed a £120m order for supply and maintenance of 16 three-car Class 333 EMUs for services from Leeds to Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton. To be leased to RRNE by Angel Train Contracts, they will be supplied by Siemens and CAF and will be similar to the Class 332 Heathrow Express units. o