Impression of the Hitachi and Alstom joint venture's trains for High Speed 2 (1)

UK: A consortium of Alstom and Hitachi Rail is to supply a fleet of 54 conventional-compatible trains for High Speed 2 services under a contract worth £1·97bn, the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd announced on December 9.

The trains will be ‘designed and built’ in Britain at the former Bombardier Transportation factories in Derby and Crewe and at the Hitachi assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe. An initial 12 years of maintenance is to be undertaken by the joint venture at the HS2 rolling stock maintenance depot at Washwood Heath near Birmingham, with an option for further extensions.

HS2 Ltd said design, manufacture, assembly and testing of the new trains would be shared between the joint venture partners, which have established Hitachi-Alstom High Speed as a bespoke entity to manage this contract. Production of the fleet is expected to start in 2025; the first stages, including vehicle body assembly and initial fit-out, would be done at Newton Aycliffe, and fit-out and testing will take place at Alstom’s Litchurch Lane factory in Derby. The bogies will be assembled and maintained at Alstom’s Crewe facility.

Hitachi Rail has recently completed a £8·5m investment in welding and painting facilities at Newton Aycliffe, where the 432 bodyshells will be manufactured.

The first train is expected to come off the production line around 2027, with entry into commercial service envisaged between 2029 and 2033.

Lighter and more capacious

Impression of the Hitachi and Alstom joint venture's trains for High Speed 2 (3)

To be built to the compact UK loading gauge, the eight-car trains will have a maximum operating speed of 360 km/h, and will operate services which will run through from the dedicated HS2 infrastructure onto the existing West Coast Main Line on routes linking London with Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Each 200 m long single-deck trainset will have capacity for 550 passengers, with provision for a pair of trains to run coupled together.

A number of technical advances are envisaged, HS2 Ltd said; this will mean that the trains will be 15% lighter and offer 30% more seats than comparable designs in Europe, such as the ETR1000 also supplied by Hitachi and Alstom and operated by Trenitalia in Italy, Spain and France. The trains will feature a novel low-noise pantograph developed in Japan and use regenerative braking.

HS2 Ltd explained that the final interior design ‘is to be determined during a 2½ year collaborative design process’ involving the project promoter, DfT and the West Coast Partnership of FirstGroup and Trenitalia, which operates current WCML inter-city services under the Avanti brand and is the Shadow Operator for HS2.

‘Today is a massive day for HS2. The trains that will be built at Derby and Newton Aycliffe will transform rail travel, offering passengers unparalleled levels of reliability, speed and comfort and help in the fight against climate change’, said HS2 Ltd Chief Executive Mark Thurston. ‘I’d like to congratulate Alstom and Hitachi and I look forward to working with them as together we bring these exciting new trains to passengers across the UK.’

‘We are excited to be pioneering the next generation of high speed rail in the UK as part of our joint venture with Alstom’, added Andy Barr, Group CEO of Hitachi Rail. ‘This British-built bullet train will be the fastest in Europe, and I am proud of the role that Hitachi will play in helping to improve mobility in the UK through this project.’

Legal challenges

Impression of the Hitachi and Alstom joint venture's trains for High Speed 2 (2)

In announcing the selection of the winning supplier, HS2 Ltd addressed the various recent legal challenges over the procurement.

‘HS2 Ltd has robust processes in place to ensure value for money for the taxpayer and equal treatment of tenderers in its many procurements’, the project promoter said. ‘There is no legal restriction on HS2 proceeding to sign this contract, although Siemens continues to seek financial damages, which would be decided by the court and only if Siemens can prove HS2 has breached procurement law. Previous claims on this procurement did not end up in court. Despite contrary reports, there was no financial element to the settlement with Talgo earlier this year’, it said.