I have decided to exercise an option that was contained in the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) contract, signed in July 2012 with Agility Trains, a consortium made up of Hitachi and John Laing.
The option is to purchase a further 270 vehicles to replace the electric Intercity 225 fleet which currently runs on the East Coast Main Line with a fleet of new, high quality, modern, higher capacity class 800 series 9-car electric trains. This is in addition to the core order to build nearly 600 vehicles to replace Britain’s fleet of Intercity 125 High Speed Trains along the Great Western and East Coast Main Lines that were originally deployed by British Rail in the 1970s and 1980s.
The first class 800 series trains will enter revenue-earning service on the Great Western Main Line in 2017 and on the East Coast Main Line in 2018. We expect the second batch of new class 800 series vehicles to be in service on the East Coast from 2019. Passengers will see improvements to their travelling experience, including even more reliable services, improved telecommunications connectivity, increased leg space without compromising on luggage provision, and a greater chance of getting a seat. Train capacity will be 627 seats per train, 18% higher than the stock they are replacing which will mean that the class 800 series deployment in total will increase the number of seats in to Kings Cross in the morning peak by 28%. Journey times between London, Leeds and Edinburgh will also be reduced by several minutes. The new trains will be capable of running at 140 miles per hour, which would lead to further journey time reductions, although operation at this speed will require signalling and infrastructure upgrades.
Furthermore, Hitachi, the manufacturers of the trains, has announced that it will assemble them at their dedicated manufacturing plant at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham. The order is a boost for the facility and its 730 planned jobs and many more in the local and national supply chains.
Exercising this option represents around a further £1.2 billion investment in Britain’s rolling stock, bringing the total contract value up to £5.8 billion covering the design, build, finance and maintenance of the fleet over a 27.5 year period. This highlights the government’s commitment to infrastructure, to rail, to British manufacturing and to the strategy of growing and protecting the key intercity rail markets in readiness for HS2.