New trains extravagance

I am no expert on train procurement, so I hesitate to write too much about the new deal for Hitachi trains to replace the beloved 125s but everyone I talk to seems to agree that this is a crazy plan. The idea seems to be to acquire five coach hybrid trains which have electric traction but also have a diesel engine on board for use when the trains operate in the extremities of the network.

There seem to be several crazy aspects of this. First of all, it is a Public Private Partnership arrangements which foists a lot of risk onto the private sector, and we all know what that means – the public will pay heavily for that privilege and given there has been a preferred bidder for  a long time while the whole process was being reviewed, it is unlikely that the deal will be cheap.

It is particularly strange that given the criticism of the whole process in the Foster review (, the DfT seems simply to have gone ahead with these hybrid trains.

There did seem to be cheaper alternatives: the remaining bits of the network could be electrified, which would bring other benefits; or, if they are little used, why not make passengers change trains, but do so in an efficient manner, as happens in Switzerland so that connections are guaranteed (yes, some people might complain, but in truth the extremities of the network are little used for the most part); or why not hitch a loco to the front of the train (apparently the DfT was advised this would take 15 minutes each time, which is simply untrue)

I will be writing my next Rail column on this as it strikes me as yet another expensive cock up on the railways. Or am I completely wrong?

  • John

    What will be behind this will be:
    (i) a desire to see Hitachi establish a factory onshore – providing job good news
    (ii) wanting to deliver the IEP up to the minimum contract order – i.e. 500 vehicles – for contractual reasons.

    Watch out for (i) Hitachi making the pitch for the HS2 trains – they have some excellent tilt very high speed vehicles in Japan, and (ii) Bombadier getting a bumper order, including some tilting electro-diesel sets plus most of the other fleets that are up for grabs: Thameslink, Crossrail, Piccadilly line.

  • JG

    The stupidest aspect of this is the 5 car aspect, or more likely the equivalent of 4 or even 3.5 loco hauled cars once all the space taken up by the “hybrid” equipment is taken out.
    What is the point of such small capacity inter-city trains?
    When oh when is the solution that is so obvious to an amateur like me going to occur to the “professionals” ie. modern off the peg loco hauled cars hauled by off the peg electric and/or diesel locos available almost instantly from any number of european manufacturers (adapted to UK dimensions obviously). They might even start up a production line here if the incentives where right.
    Why is it virtually impossible for the right things to happen in the UK not just in Rail but in every other aspect of govt!

  • Dan

    JG – good one – and never mind off the peg new – what about avaialble second hand now from Eire – ie Mk3 stock – in for refurb and adaption – combine with modified large number of redundant engines (mostly Class 60) sitting laid up in Toton yard – clearly visible by driving west on the A52 (a few yards off the M1). And that would keep you going.

    I think there is much in John’s analysis….

  • Hitching a diesel loco on to the front of an electric train for the non-electrified extremity of the route used to work just fine between Bournemouth and Weymouth. It took about 3 minutes max. as I recall. Why would it be so different now?

  • Chris Packham

    Christian any light you can shed on this would be helpful. Hammond’s parlt statement, while very welcome, was very vague. I sense, and some reports have said, there will be electric and bi-mode versions, which is fair enough, although I agree loco hauled electric sets makes far more sense beyond the wires. Chippenham’s MP had to ask a question to confirm the Chippenham/Bath route was included in the electrification, as Hammond only mentioned Bristol Parkway to Temple Meads. Of course no MP asked about the type of trains or how long they’d be. Agility Trains press release didn’t say anything either-seems like the details are to be negotiated/made up as they go along.
    I could accept 5 car trains if they’d run in pairs at busy times. 5 cars at quiet times is better environmentally, and you can split trains for different destinations. Some don’t like that but it’s efficient use of train paths and with good electronic and spoken information shouldn’t be a big deal.

  • Haven’t had time to get more detail, but two five car sets, as you say, is the obvious solution for busy routes but that means you need 2 ticket collectors, catering, etc. Seems utterly daft if that is true.

  • Dan

    Number of immediate thoughts, having looked at Peter H’s helpful Hansard link.

    1) The Labour shadow is no Andrew Adonis! And not being able to get some transport team members in to put a few decent follow up questions is poor. Hammond (in my view) wiped the floor with her really (and she had the announcement in advance to prepare!)

    2) There IS some sense is shorter trains that can be joined / spilt when you reach the extremities of the network at off peak times – but the enthusiasm for the ‘sexy nose job’ does mean you need to double crew as stated. This is daft. Happens on EMT Meridiens and no doubt Voyagers too (of course what you then tend to get is a trolley in one half and an apology to the people in the ‘wrong half’ about being “too short staffed to offer refreshments today”. Is it not beyond the wit of train designers to build reasonable looking gangwayed multiple units that also have decent long distance interiors? It seems not.

    3) Seems like electric all the way to Swansea would have been sensible. No doubt the devolved govt will be expected to cough up for it (so that is another decade of argument between Cardiff and London then, whilst nothing actually happens).

    4) Valley lines electrification seems very sensible. In fact I’d say suburban electrification made more sense just about than main lines maybe? – allowing better commuter frequencies, stopping patterns and the rest. Others with specialist knowledge might correct me. In fact I’d have said there was strong case for electrifying all urban and semi urban commuter routes as a priority. Addressing this issue in all the PTE areas would make a real difference in terms of urban public transport.

    5) SoS Hammond said “This deal will allow us to provide better, faster, more comfortable services…. there will be over 11,000 more peak-time seats each day on the Great Western main line and the east coast main line post-IEP compared with today”.

    What? How does he know they will be more comfy? Unless DfT and designers / ToC get a grip on the appalling interior designs that are now common (which take their cue from budget airline interiors in Std Class) I doubt we have much to hope for in terms of comfort!

    6) At least this chap asked a sensible question:
    Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Following the delivery of the IEP, will the Secretary of State tell the House how many ageing inter-city 125s will still be on the network and for how long?
    Mr Hammond: Only a small number of diesel 125s will remain on the network, and they will be serving the route down to Penzance in Cornwall. All the other 125s will be replaced by bi-mode trains under today’s proposal. I cannot say for how long those diesel 125s will remain on the network. There are no specific proposals to replace them at the moment, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the intercity express programme was always conceived as a commitment to a firm fleet of trains as the first phase, with options on further trains for future phases. It will therefore be for my successors at some point in the future to consider whether the remaining inter-city 125s should in due course be replaced by bi-mode IEPs.

    Hammond seemed to forget about MML (and in a later answer fudges it with some sort of answer about considering it in context of HS2 – ie kicking modernisation of MML in to the long grass at least 10 years away.

    No doubt this means GWML Devon and Cornish services will run under the wires for years to come. It’s reminiscent of the Tory decision to cancel the last part of the IC125 order back in the early 80s that left Cross County running Class 47s for a further 20 years….

    7) Then we have this chap who seems unaware that EMT have been providing his constituency with a direct London Service for the last few years. Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): This might not be quite as headline-grabbing as my right hon. Friend’s statement today, but he will be aware that, on 22 May this year, my constituents will see the reintroduction of a direct link to London. However, this will be only a single daily service-once up and down. Does he think that the old diesel stock whose replacement he has announced today could be put to good use in increasing the level of service to and from my constituency?

    Like I say, don’t hold out much hope for quality of questions at a Select Committee hearing on HS2…..

    With apols to those who like 1 line posts

  • Percy

    I dont know exact diesel engine spec at this point but at a guess carting maybe a couple of 1200hp diesel engines and all the associated diesel fuel around with you under the wires somewhat negates the benefits of electrification in terms of power to weight ratio and energy consumption.

  • Greyhair

    Won’t only a small proportion of the new fleet be bi-modes? The Foster Report technical annex envisaged all-electric trains of two kinds, 5 car for GW and EC outer-commuter-belt routes but longer (9 car or so) for intercity services, supplemented by 5-car bi-mode trains for mid-distance GW direct services extending past the wires and longer bi-mode trains for the Penzance, Aberdeen and Inverness services.

  • Matt

    I think the government is in a bind on this one, all because of HS2.

    Any potential cancellation of a project will lead to the simple accusation of ‘why are you canceling project x when you’re spending money on that white elephant HS2’.

    So in effect, the politics of HS2 means that the railway gets investment that it doesn’t need (IEP), because the govt doesn’t want the political flak.

    That’s my theory anyway.

  • John Haywood

    A Numbers Game …

    The SoS said there will be “… over 11,000 more peak-time seats each day on the Great Western main line and the east coast main line post-IEP compared with today”.

    Does that mean 11,000 more seats in the morning and another 11,000 seats in the evening on both lines, or (say) 2,500 GWML am, 2,500 GWML pm, and 3,000 ECML am and 3,000 ECML pm or something in between?

    Is there anyone with the knowledge to do the maths and explain how 500 coaches (in 5 car formation = 100 trains with 2 Driving coaches and 3 full coaches) equates to that number of additional seats?

    Based on a Pendolino, a possible seating configuration is:
    1 Driving motor: first class open with kitchen 18
    2 Intermediate motor: first class open (with disabled seating) 39
    3 Intermediate trailer with pantograph: first class open 44
    4 Intermediate trailer with pantograph: standard class with shop/buffet 48
    5 Driving motor: “Quiet Zone” standard class open (with cycle storage) 46
    Total = 195
    11000 / 195 = 56 additional services per day?

    Based on a Voyager, a possible configuration is:

    1 26 seats – First Class with disabled area and driving cab
    2 66 seats – Standard Class
    3 66 seats – Standard Class
    4 66 seats – Standard Class with large luggage area and reservable space for three bikes
    5 42 seats – Standard Class (Quiet Zone) with disabled area, catering base and driving cab.
    total = 266 seats

    11,000 / 266 = 41 additional services per day?

  • Simon T

    Regarding the following: ‘the public will pay heavily for that privilege and given there has been a preferred bidder for a long time while the whole process was being reviewed, it is unlikely that the deal will be cheap’…not neccessarily as Agility have had to fight to keep the contract? Is the real issue that the current Government is trying to deal with a poor decision of 2 years ago and make the best of it?

  • Zoe

    It smacks more of the IEP clique in Daft justifying the £27 million they’ve spent on it already. Theres a great post on RailForum about the USA Bradley Amoured Fighting Vehicle the parallels with IEP are obvious. IEP is the Pacer for the 21st Century.

    BR allowed 9 minutes to swap from electric to diesel haulage on its Shrewsbury services at Wolverhampton.
    If theirs no business case for 1tph off peak to Swansea then surely the business case for 2 tphs to Cardiff cant be that hot using that criteria? Bi-Mode must have an application though! The wires stopping at Parkway would have been too hard to sell politically.

  • Derek L

    I too was a little surprised at the 11,000 “more seats”. Doesn’t make any sense, as John helpfully notes above – perhaps he means 11,000 “new seats”, the older seats having headed to the scrapyard, which is not quite the same.

    Bi-modal: my impression is that there are intended to be a limited number of these, to be used on services that run off the wires. Still, carrying around a pile of diesel engines and associated equipment under the wires makes little sense, and there are also diagramming issues. For example, East Coast seems to have diagrams that use 125s on London – Edinburgh and vice versa, presumably related to use north of Edinburgh before or after.

    Coupling/uncoupling of a diesel to haul off the wires: the tight operation at Bournemouth for the Poole and onward services was quite a clever and slick operation in its time, but it involved 1960’s equipment, the uncoupling of the 4REP on the rear, and the coupling up of the 33 on the front of the 2 4TC sets. Quite easy for BR to arrange, but I rather wonder about the ability of the current bunch of operators to achieve even that.

    Given the more complex arrangements of current stock, there is first the issue of equipping the diesel locomotive with compatible couplers (far from insurmountable, but with issues, as not all the newer equipment has compatible coupling arrangements), and secondly that (I guess) the train will have to be completely shut down before coupling and then restarted after coupling, which does take a bit of time.

    15 minutes seems excessive, given that Southern are separating and rejoining sets at Haywards Heath in far less time. (But maybe they don’t have to do the full shut-down).

    Overall, the whole project seems to be in a state of total confusion – one really wants to identify where electrification can be justified on the current traffic patterns. GW, for instance, would be London to Swansea, to Bristol via both routes, and to Weston and Plymouth. Electrics on all of those, and life-extended 125s or replacement to Penzance (via the Newbury line) and possibly to Fishguard (if that service still exists).

  • Richard Crompton

    My view of this is that there’s a bunch of civil servants who have little ability but like to mess about dreaming up wacky schemes because they are desperately trying to justify their existence and continued employment. Nobody at the top or any politician has the knowledge or experience to tell them that they’re talking nonsense so their idiot ideas get approved and we, the taxpayers have to fund it.
    Where’s my cricket bat?

  • Ian

    The vast majority of passenger services in this country are now run by multiple units. Unless there are regular steam operations to a terminus, run round loops have been taken out to simplify operations. If you want diesel haulage, the IEP sets will also need to be capable of acting as DVTs. More expense……..

    The electrification of the Valley lines appears to be an acceptance that the Arriva Wales Pacers and Sprinters will be life expired in less than ten years and it will be a good opportunity to get new EMUs. When I say life expired, they’ll probably get passed to Northern’s successor…

  • The Minister claimed it would take nine minutes to attach a loco. Total Nonsense. He claimed this was what the competitors told him. They deny it. One has to ask who had access to the Minister to mislead him like this, and we know who that was, as do our learned friends now salivating at a juicy anti competition action.
    Now if one has a scharfenberg coupler it usually takes 4 minutes to couple and test between two units. It would be no different for a loco with the same equipment, well actually no, that’s not correct. It could take even less time if the door controls are retained in the units and not duplicated in the loco cab.
    So that’s one reason why we’re having a mad train imposed on us and 5 coach trains replacing eight car formations. But why is it ok to couple up units in stations at peak times and not locos? Same coupler, same systems, same DfT adviser.

  • Chris

    Its amazing that this project is criticised by *everyone* in the industry – i dont think there is anyone with real knowledge of this and its implications who actually thinks its a good idea – but the DfT dont care! The procurement process alone was a complete sham, and for what? 200 semi-skilled jobs bolting together bits in a subsidised factory? They wont be building anything, thats done in Japan, just sticking it together so there’s no reason why other European orders would need the site – so as soon as the order is finished and the handouts end it’ll close, having deprived Derby of work. Brilliant.

  • Greg Tingey

    It’s a total disaster.
    Or will be, especially in about 10 years time.
    Carting around heavy diesel units inside mainly electric units, and getting them from Japan!
    What’s wrong with Bobardier or Siemens as suppliers?
    Plus some couplable diesel locos?

    This has got to be stopped, before any orders are finalised.

    The civil service screw the railways.

  • T33

    There seem to be two issues here – 5-coach sets which are basically useless as they will need to be coupled together 75% of the time and it appears there is no planning for
    through corridor connections as far as we are aware.

    However there are a few routes (and I don’t see Swansea as one of them) where a 5-car bi-mode train being split is a good idea. Cheltenham and Evesham routes being a good example where a 10 coach train could go to say Oxford and split to different destinations – a lot like Southern do on the Arun Valley lines, where a fast train splits from an all stations train at Horsham.

    Second there is bi-mode which depending how it is created may not actually be a bad idea, especially when power cables are down or re-routing occurs. However I think I would agree with most carting diesel engines around under the wires is environmentally unstable and expensive.

    Best solution here is a diesel loco that can couple up and become part of the unit pretty much instantly – again a bit like Southern do. They can couple two units in less than 2 minutes using their Dellner couplers which pass the train control across – that two minutes includes the corridor connection – Southern staff are brilliant at setting it up..

    However I presume the issue for IEP is that the loco then becomes the whole unit so you have to connect across more than the controls but also the Power supply – I suspect that may be more dangerous and harder to solve than connecting two self-powered units.

  • Watty

    The big problem i see here is that the present HST is a really good train, anything that has head end power cars and keeps the noise away from the passengers is the best form of Inter-City concept, Im afraid this Hitachi IEP is just going to be a glorified Voyager which to be honest is the most uncomfortable, cramped and noisy suposed Inter-City type train procured for use in Britain. As pointed out in previous comments, the best way should have been a push-pull electris train similar to the Austrian Jet train then coupling a diesel loco to the front to pull it through to the extrematies of the Nwtwork that is not wired.

    If they plan to run these trains in a 5 car formation will they run more trains? if thats the plan then have any of the said planners stood on Redaing Platform 4 and seen how busy it really is ? No, there is one train after another so where the spare capacity is going to come from beggars belieif !!

    This whole concept is just totally wrong and the travelling public in this Country will pay the price for the wrong decision buy some muppet at the DFT.

    Hammond and Co should be ashamed, their lack of knowledge of what is required to replace the best loved train in this country is truly distrubing, they have tossed aside the warnings and input from many good people in the rail indusrty including Roger Ford who is one of the leading lights in this area as if he has not got a clue, Well Mr hammond & Co you will end up the next Dr Beeching unless you listen to the general outcry from many within the industry.

    Be it on you head !!

  • JohnG

    5 carriage trains replacing HSTs??? Anyone with half a brain can see the chronic overcrowding which occurs on some / most Voyager services when they replaced the old loco + 6 or 7 carriage sets in the early 2000s, so why replicate it with this project?

  • “If there’s no business case for 1tph off-peak to Swansea then surely the business case for 2 tphs to Cardiff can’t be that hot using that criteria?” (Zoe)

    Indeed. This looks like a messy political compromise. Cheryl Gillan (Welsh Sec) actually hinted at this a few weeks ago. I suspect there is no conventional “business case” for electrifying beyond Bristol. Cardiff is “political” because it is the capital of Wales. Swansea is only a quarter of a million population, but having got as far as Cardiff it seems a bit petty not to carry on the relatively short distance through to Wales’s second city. But then, I share CW’s oft-expressed view that the whole “business case” thing is largely mumbo-jumbo.

  • RapidAssistant

    My hunch is that this project will get stalled once again if we end up in a double-dip recession – and with all the oil price uncertainty going around at the moment due to events in the Middle East – that is an increasingly likely scenario; not that I am one to immerse myself in Daily Mail doom-mongering…..

    Likewise I agree with everyone about this 5-car nonsense – at a time when Pendolinos are being extended to 11-cars – the left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right is doing as far as the DFT is concerned.

  • Watty

    One thing we can be assured of is that anything with an underfloor engine mounted on it is never going to be a replacement for British HST 1, maybe its time everybody rallied their local MPs for an explanation as to this daft idea by this crazy Government.

    We should get Christian Wolmar to sort out a Petition stating that we the Travelling Public deserve to know the benefits of glorified Bi-Mode Voyagers over quiet and comfortable HSTs that we presently use and get this stupid decision reversed and put out to tender again inviting a real HST replacement, not a fudged effort that we will all pay for and suffer travelling on for the next 30 Years !!

  • Chris Packham

    I think the decision to cut Swansea was as political as the decision to include Cardiff. If electrification to Swansea had been included the scheme would have been the same as Labour’s, and the ‘review’ would have changed nothing. When everything else is being cut this scheme couldn’t be allowed to stay unchanged.

  • Percy

    Just had a look at the outside visual of the agility train at their website and depressingly it looks like the diesel component of the project is going to be underfloor.

    I wonder how this hybrid will stack up against Alliance Rails proposed Chinese built “Polaris” in terms of quality, reliabilty and value for money? – I note that this hybrid will have its diesel engines at the ends of the train and not underfloor – an article in Rail said Alliance were going to China because they could get something that worked reliably but was much cheaper than what others could supply.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Agility becomes the 21st Century British Leyland, getting loads of taxpayers cash to build products that no one really wants but is forced to have by the Government. How ironic for the Conservatives if it does turn out that way, they closed the state owned Leyland Bus factory on the West Coast and opened a state subsidised Train factory on the East. We could call it The Agility National.

  • Watty

    Yes Im afraid everybody who is used to peace and quiet and comfort will not like this new Hitachi product ! If you bhave ever traveeled on a Voyager than this will just be a glorified version and being only 5 coaches long the amount of seating that is going to be cramed in will mean plenty of aches and pains.

    The Polaris CSRE from China would have been a far better bet being of true power car design with all the noise away from the carriages where it should be. Hammond and co will take the wrath of every traveller on these heaps when they finally arrive on these shores from japan.

    It seems to me that the DFT are basically sticking 2 fingers up to anybody within the rail industry who thinks its wrong and it just goes to show that the age of long distance rail travel is dying and trying to get people off the road and out of the air is not going to happen, in fact it will get a lot worse and im sure the Motor & Air Indusrties will be laughing all the way to the bank.

    What we need is for somebody to break rank and buy some Polaris HSTs before Hitachi get one on these shores, when a head to head comparison takes place who’s going to be the laughing stock then !!! Hammond and Co !

  • W. J. Hall

    5 coach underfloor engined units, coupled in pairs for long distance at peak times, all with great fanfare? Was that not what happened with the Adelantes at the beginning of the decade? Followed by them vanishing rather quickly at least as far as Bristol was concerned.

    This time it appears that we have the added entertainment of the diesel engines being towed along under the wires.

    The ministers statement was very vague and obfuscatory. Are the dates that the press are assuming correct?

  • Percy


    I must say that I prefer the Polaris idea over this Agility train, apart from it being a proper loco its makers say that its compatible with MK3 carriages so it can haul re engineered MK3s or new build. Talking of new build, why not new build MK3, the 175 & 180 DMUs seem to borrow the MK3 bodyshell but with power doors and rentention toilets, so I would say that its possible.

    Apart from this decision being so far along the line that its become a diplomatic / political decision more than an exercise in buying the right train for the right price its says a lot about what happens when your countrys railway network no longer has the engineering design skills and workshop facilties to make its own train. Basically it becomes like going out onto the high street to buy some electrical goods you know little about and cant make yourself so you go to the shop and get sold something that you dont want with lots of expensive extras you could do without by a sharp suited salesman whos on commission, before you know it you’ve handed over your credit card and also gone for the expensive aftercare insurance package in the bargain, its only later after buying the product that you find out your friends bought a much better and cheaper alternative.

    Call me a cynic but I suspect that someone somehwere in this Country or Japans Political establishment will be getting a bung of some kind or other out of this deal.

  • Peter Hooper

    I’ve been following this thread, and note the comments about underfloor diesel engines. This prompted me to google and I found this –

    Whist the first pages of this .pdf are background info, starting on 13/24 is a assessement of regenerative power for diesel trains / hybrid diesel trains.

    Clearly the main energy source for the new IEPs will be OHLE, however when they run off wire can the above .pdf hybrid power proposals have wider cost / environmental benefits ??

  • Chris

    No current or future british train is going to have on-board battery power, and certainly not the IEP – with everything going to underfloor distributed traction, there’s nowhere to put it even if you put the quest for ever-lighter trains to one side. The weight of an EDMU + battery packs would be frightful.

  • Percy


    Its good to see that they seem to be taking the research they did with the IC125 a few years back forward into this design and good news that if they do follow the design laid out in the PDF Doc it will also – as well as the environmental / fuel / cost saving issues of the battery boost on starting – be a loco that’s doing the diesel work and not underfloor engines as was feared above.

    What caused my alarm that they had gone for underfloor was the CGI video Agility have on their site under the March 01st press release as this clearly shows a five coach train composed entirely of passenger carriages however the explanation for this must be that it depicts the 5 car emu version and not the hybrid which would seem if plans haven’t changed to be a diesel locomotive with added battery boost on starting.

    Putting the energy back into the overhead wires is always a good idea – they used to do it on the Woodhead electrics, a concept developed by the LNER before WW2, so it has to be done today and thankfully it is now being introduced, even in third rail areas – The saving of energy from braking etc to a battery for use in helping the diesel when more electrical power for starting is needed is a welcome concept that’s going to get better as more advanced as battery technology or other electrical storage technology advances. I do however feel some may question the wisdom of implelenting it in a large production fleet before some mileage has been gained by a one off build of this new train doing a few years of service. Let’s hope the IC125 experience was thorough enough and they aren’t still dealing with a learning curve and making extravegant promises to HM Government simply to get the order, it wont be the first time our Governmnet has been led up the garden path and signed a deal that in actuality cant be delivered, costing the tax payer billions.

    Re number of carriages. Its worth considering that the original sales pitch mentioned carriages were to be longer than a MK3 and consequent increased capacity per carriage meant they would be able to make a shorter train with less carriages, however I still think 5 coaches is rather on the short side.

  • Bluecaster

    My wife and I went from Yorkshire to Bournemouth a couple of years ago in a Voyager set. It was horrid, even in 1st Class. But we tried again, 1st Class to Barnstaple. Again it was horrid. The coaches are too small, the trains overcrowded, and the food non-existent or appalling. So it’s back to our faithful Kangoo – cheaper too as we are only paying the marginal costs for such extra journeys. Pity though – I like good quality train travel but have to go abroad to get it.

  • Watty


    Im afraid the use of a genuine power car on the new Hitachi IEP is no longer going to happen. Originally that was the plan but the power unit in the single power car was not man enough to pull the said trains at the required speed up and over the devon banks etc so that idea was dropped in favour of the nasty underfloor engines aka Voyager, Adelante !

    This is where the CSRE Polaris HST would have won hands down see link below with non of the issues staed above :

    Im afraid all we are getting is a nasty form of Voyager etc from Japan that will in no way replace the original HST that we all so admire, It seem sthat for all the talk and bullsghit from this Government about wanting to see HS2 and this new super train fit for the 21st Century they are the usual Tory gang who are simply fudging anything about Railways to big themselves up with the electorate.

    It is totally laughable really, Stuart Baker the idiot who is responsible for this decision having a big pall from Japan telling him its right is to buy our trains is the main culprit, this man should be shown up for the total bafoon that he is, he’s obviously be granted a lifetimes worth of Geisha girls and free Holidays, im afraid you have done absolutely nothing for this Country but ram a totally useless piece of Railway kit that is nowhere near what was needed upon the poor British Travelling Public, He deserves all the abuse coming his way !

  • David

    It will be interesting to see if there is a legal challenge under EU procurement rules from Bombardier, Siemens, and possibly Alstom. Obviously, both Bombardier and Siemens thought the requirement, as originally specified, was outwith their product range, and decided that they would jointly bid (no doubt to minimise the risk both saw in the original requirement specification).

    The original bi-mode proposal from Hitachi seemed to be similar in concept to trains built in the 1930s by Armstrong-Whitworth for South America; a “conventional” emu was coupled to a mobile power station powered by a Sulzer engine, and this provided the electrical supply for the passenger carrying vehicles. But from what I have read elsewhere it seems that this has morphed into a 25m long equivalent of the bi-mode Voyager/Meridian conversion proposed some time ago by Bombardier and Alstom; and this exercise has cost us all, as taxpayers, roundly £26m!

    So – if the reports published elsewhere are correct – we are going to have a “low risk” product; in simple terms, all that was needed from Bombardier was a new, longer, bodyshell, and perhaps a different diesel engine (I don’t think the “big Cummins” fitted to Voyagers, Meridians and class 180s meets current emission requirements, but I’m not 100% certain on this), and from Alstom the traction package currently installed in the Voyagers and Meridians.

    EU procurement rules aren’t very clear as to when a re-tender through changes to requirement is needed; but if two major international suppliers thought it necessary to join forces to bid, at the very least Bombardier must have thought that one of its established product platforms (ie, the Voyager/Meridian) did not meet the DfT’s requirements for the IEP. So is it a case of Bombardier wrongly interpreting the specification, or has the requirement changed from what was perceived as a high risk project to a very low risk one? If the latter is the case, I think Bombardier (and Alstom, as its Voyager/Meridian partner) have good grounds to challenge a contract awarded to the Hitachi consortium.

    A contract awarded for a Voyager/Meridian derivative would have safeguarded jobs with Bombardier in Derby, and may also have created extra jobs with Alstom at Preston; whats more, a substantial proportion of these jobs would be management, engineering, and skilled, whereas those at Hitachi’s plant in Co Durham are likely to be mainly semi-skilled/unskilled, solely assembling equipment brought in from elsewhere. Moreover, we as taxpayers will most likely be subsidising the construction of the new plant in Co Durham through the provision of grants, and – if Bombardier don’t win Thameslink – we could soon also be funding benefits to those made redundant in Derby; a double whammy!

    In the current issue of ‘Modern Railways’, Roger Ford suggests that it is time the National Audit Office investigated what he calls the “scandalous misuse of taxpayers’ money” on the procurement of the IEP; and I support this suggestion 100%! If this project had been managed correctly, in the initial stages all that was required was a Project Manager, a competent buyer, and an engineer; these three guys would have worked with the ROSCOs and TOCs (the latter possibly through ATOC) to determine an industry-wide concensus as to what was required, and from that to develop a procurement specification and invitation to tender (this phase would require more engineering support and some legal guidance, but the latter would not be necessary the whole time).

    Remember, during the Thatcher era it was decided that traction and rolling stock knowledge would be transferred from BR to manufacturers; this subsequently resulted in the privatisation of BREL (which, through a number of changes in ownership, is now Bombardier). Consequently, the procurement specification should be performance based, and the traction and rolling stock manufacturers invited to tender should use their skill and knowledge to offer a product which meets the purchaser’s performance requirements. Moreover, both manufacturers and ROSCOs have the ability to put forward financial packages to meet the purchaser’s requirements; these could range from a simple lease excluding maintenance through to something like “power-by-the-hour”. The invitation to tender should declare the range of financial options it wishes to consider.

    Costs incurred by the purchaser thus far should be quite low; the Project Manager and engineer would probably need to be full time, but the buyer wouldn’t, nor would all of the engineering support. However, once the tenders have been received, costs would mount-up quite quickly; the buyer would be full time, engineering and legal support would be required, and the financial packages would need to be evaluated by “city-types”. Clarification meetings would be needed with tenderers, and eventually a consensus view would be reached as to what was the preferred offer (the tender evaluation criteria used to reach this conclusion would have been declared in the invitation to tender, in accordance with EU procurement rules).

    The close-out process would range from being quite simple to very complex, depending upon the way the way the trains were being procured. For instance, if it was just to be a straight-forward purchase (by a ROSCO or another financial institution), if the DfT wished to continue to manage the project there could be a sale and purchase agreement between the DfT, the financier, and the supplier (if this was the way forward, obviously there would need to be separate lease agreements established between the owning ROSCO/etc and using TOC); if, however, it was to be something like power-by-the-hour, a whole raft of agreements would need to be established, and these would be complex and costly to establish (lawyers, lawyers, and yet more lawyers!).

    A procurement exercise for new trains need not be a lengthy process; say three months to determine the requirement/produce the invitation to tender and procurement spec (six months max), three months to tender, possibly extending this to meet requests for extensions from tenderers, then six months max through to contract award, depending upon complexity (if a simple “purchase”, this would be much less). However, as specialist external lawyers would be needed for the more complex contractual agreements, a seven-figure sum for the procurement exercise is not unreasonable; but an eight figure one cannot be justified.

    If DfT is responsible for the procurement of new trains, didn’t it plan accordingly? Does not DfT have a competent buyer on its books who could have acted as Procurement Manager? If not, couldn’t it “borrow” one from, say, the Treasury? If it doesn’t have any project managers in house, couldn’t it “borrow” one from another government dept? And couldn’t the Treasury provide support with financial evaluations of tenders received, particularly with regard to lease proposals? Didn’t it take on any traction and rolling stock engineers, either on a full time or part time basis, for this project (or any others in hand, like Thameslink)?

    It will certainly be interesting to see how this project goes forward.

  • Pottshrigley


    Thanks for the info, it would seem what Peter H posted was a bit of a red herring. for at least a day I was relieved that it wasnt as bad as I’d feared and now I’m depressed again.

    I like the link to the Polaris spec you included your post , now thats a great train, would be a much better than the Hitachi effort, especially the use of two engines per power car and inteligent start up / shut down and the carriages are so next generation MK3, if its not broke dont fix it. This train get my thumbs up.

  • Bob

    Guys, the Bombardier/Siemens bid was nothing to do with Voyager or Meridian. There was a power car at both ends, either a Diesel generator with AC/DC converter or an electric equiveilent with a pantograph, transformer and a converter. This power car provided a DC Bus to run the length of the train.
    Then some of the coaches (to be assembled in Derby) had a “converter” to drive to motors, linked to the axle by cardan shaft.

  • Don’t know what I can add here – but the old maxim that the camel was what happened when a committee tried to design a horse holds particularly true when it comes to IEP……..

  • Christian

    I have received a lengthy response from Hitachi, which I will use in my forthcoming Rail article on the subject.

  • Mike

    There is a question mark hanging over the extent of work to be carried out at Agility Trains’ planned Newton Aycliffe factory. It has been hailed by various parties as a new train manufacturing and assembly plant but rumours abound to the effect that it will merely be an assembly operation, as the bodyshells, traction motors and bogies will be manufactured in Hitachi’s own factories. Philip Hammond said that the IEP procurement would secure thousands of additional vacancies in sub-supplier industries in the North East – hopefully including skilled engineering jobs – but that might be a totally empty promise, if the majority of components are imported from Japan. Hopefully therefore, Hitachi or Agility will clarify the situation.

  • Peter

    “it strikes me as yet another expensive cock up on the railways. Or am I completely wrong?”

    No, you are quite right.

    These will be heavy, complex and inefficient trains. No wonder no one really wants them.

    A much cheaper option would have been something very much like the East Coast push pull operation, using diesel traction away from electrified areas. This would have had the speed and comfort of today’s HSTs – actually better in fact – with plenty of flexibility in terms of future electrification and demand patterns.

    But common sense or sound economics doesn’t seem to count for anything in the DfT – or should that be DaT: Department against Transport?

    And as for 15 mins for a loco change, hadn’t any of them ever heard of the old 1967 Bournemouth – Weymouth push pull operations?

  • Pottshrigley

    Given that this decision had become a Political one before the recent events in Japan, Post disaster, what UK politician is going to take this multi million pound order out the embattled Japanese economy and risk the wider global economic repercussions at this time? Also which European train building company would now fancey their chances by launching a judicial challenge at this time. I think it may all be over bar the shouting.

  • Keith

    Good to see this week’s Private Eye have picked up on this story.

    Over longer distances to somewhere like South Wales or Cornwall, why do we persist with “push pull” operations? Other countries don’t mind using traditional locos. And surely modern coupling systems should be quicker than the old ones.