UK: First TransPennine Express Ltd has awarded Hitachi Rail Europe and leasing company Angel Trains a contract to supply 19 five-car AT300 electro-diesel multiple units for use on the TransPennine Express franchise in northern England from December 2019.

The contract was announced on March 31, the day before the new TransPennine Express franchise starts. FirstGroup said the AT300 would be ‘amongst the most advanced inter-city trains in the UK’, and ‘completely remodel the experience of train travel in the North’.

The AT300 trainset will be ‘closely related’ to the Class 800 electro-diesel trainsets being supplied under the Department for Transport’s Intercity Express Programme, but to cope with the gradients on the TransPennine network they will utilise higher engine operating power, and be equipped with larger fuel tanks and brake resistors.

They will have a service speed of 200 km/h, but with the capability for running at 225 km/h subject to the provision of suitable infrastructure.

FirstGroup said the ‘modern interior and spacious seating’ would offer significant improvements in comfort compared to the current TransPennine Express fleet. The AT300s will offer ‘free, fast and unlimited wi-fi’, entertainment servers for streaming films and television shows, power sockets at every seat and onboard catering facilities enabling the provision of hot and cold food.

The initial vehicles are to be supplied from Hitachi’s Kasado factory in Japan, but the majority will be assembled at the company’s UK plant at Newton Aycliffe.

Under the full service contract Hitachi will be responsible for heavy maintenance, cleaning and stabling at its Doncaster Carr and Edinburgh Craigentinny maintenance centres, while overnight stabling and servicing will be undertaken at Liverpool Edge Hill, Newcastle Heaton and York depots.

‘The signing of this contract is the first major step for the new franchise’, said TransPennine Express Managing Director designate Leo Goodwin. ‘These brand new state-of-the-art Hitachi trains will lead to significant improvements in seating, capacity and provide a more reliable and efficient service’. He said the 200 km/h operating speed would ‘reduce journey times across our network, bringing our great towns and cities in the North closer together’.

The new franchise requires the procurement of a total of 44 new trainsets, and TransPennine Express expects to finalise a separate deal for the remaining 25 trains ‘soon’ with delivery scheduled for spring 2018. These are expected to be electric trainsets primarily for use on Anglo-Scottish routes via the West Coast Main Line.

TPE will also retain around half of its current Siemens Desiro Class 185 diesel multiple-units, which will undergo a £20m+ refurbishment programme including improvements to first and standard class, improved catering, installation of modern customer information systems, and free wi-fi and entertainment servers.