BRITISH inter-city operator Virgin Rail announced on February 13 that it had chosen a preferred bidder to supply 225 km/h tilting trains for its West Coast main line between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Fiat Ferroviaria and GEC Alsthom will negotiate a £1bn package to provide around 60 seven-car trains to cover 55 operating diagrams.

The stock will be supplied under a design, build and maintain contract running until the end of the Virgin West Coast franchise in April 2012. Combining Pendolino tilting technology and GEC Alsthom traction equipment, they will be assembled by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham. In a tight timetable, Virgin wants the first train handed over by June 2001, with 40 sets ready for implementation of Passenger Upgrade 1 in May 2002. The remainder are required for the start of 225 km/h running under PUG2 in April 2004. There are stiff penalty clauses for late delivery.

Fiat and GEC Alsthom have already signed heads of agreement to supply two tilting trains to Great North Eastern Railway for the East Coast main line. Virgin Rail is due to announce shortly the preferred bidder for around 80 four-car diesel sets to work 75 diagrams on its CrossCountry franchise. Three firms have been shortlisted: Adtranz, Bombardier and CAF.

H On February 16 Railtrack received final bids for supply and installation of a Transmission-Based Train Control System on the WCML; shortlisted consortia are Adtranz with Westinghouse and GEC Alsthom with Siemens and Alcatel. o