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Abellio orders East Midlands inter-city fleet

UK: Hitachi Rail has been selected to supply a fleet of 200 km/h inter-city trains to operate on the Midland Main Line, as part of the new East Midlands Railway franchise, where Abellio is due to take over from incumbent operator Stagecoach on August 18.

The NS subsidiary announced on July 30 that it had ordered 33 five-car electro-diesel trainsets at a cost of £400m. These are to enter service from 2022, replacing a mix of ageing diesel HSTs and Class 222 Meridian DEMUs. Hitachi will also be responsible for maintaining and servicing the fleet at EMR’s existing Etches Park depot in Derby.

Abellio UK Managing Director Dominic Booth said the new trains would ‘form the centrepiece of our ambitious plans for a complete replacement of all the trains on the East Midlands Railway’, representing ‘a more than £600m investment to really improve the region’s railway’.

The use of bimode trainsets was specified by the Department for Transport in the East Midlands franchise competition, following the government’s decision to truncate the 25 kV 50 Hz electrification of the Midland Main Line. Trains from London to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield will be able to run in electric mode as far as Kettering or Market Harborough, but will have to switch to diesel for the northern part of the route.

According to Hitachi, the EMR units will be an ‘evolution’ of the AT300 design supplied to other UK operators, with 24 m long vehicles rather than 26 m, and a slightly modified nose profile. Each five-car set will have four underfloor diesel generator modules rather than the three used in the Class 800 and 802s. Abellio expects the units to operate ‘regularly’ in 10-car formations, providing increased seating capacity. The air-conditioned trainsets will have wi-fi and at-seat charging facilities, as well as enhanced passenger information displays. EMR has also committed to providing ‘an improved and more consistent’ catering service in both first and standard class, seven days a week.

The funding package for the inter-city trains has been put together by Rock Rail, with debt provided by institutional investor organisations such as pension funds and insurance companies. The fleet will be financed through Rock Rail East Midlands and leased to Abellio for the life of the franchise. Pointing out that this was the leasing company’s ‘fourth new rolling stock deal in the UK’, Rock Rail CEO Mark Swindell said the combined value of the deals represented an investment of around £2·5bn. ‘This long term, highly competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money for passengers and taxpayers over the life of the trains’, he added.

The trains are to be assembled at Hitachi Rail UK’s Newton Aycliffe factory, providing two years’ work for the plant which is close to finishing its existing orders. Manufacturing is expected to start in early 2020 for completion by the end of 2022. Managing Director Karen Boswell emphasised that as the company ‘sources train parts from across the country, including a significant amount from the region where the new trains will run.’

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