Unleashing the potential of the Class 800s
Source: RTM Aug/Sep 16
Andy Rogers, projects director at Hitachi Rail Europe, talks to RTM’s David Stevenson after two of the company’s Class 800 InterCity Express Trains made test runs on the recently electrified Reading to Didcot section of the GWML.
Back in late June, the first of Great Western Railway’s new fleet of Class 800 IEP trains, named the ‘Green Machine’, made a special trip from Reading to London Paddington to mark 175 years since the opening of the Great Western Main Line (GWML).
Since that test run, Network Rail has used two of the bi-mode trains – T1 and T2 coupled together – under electric traction to carry out tests runs on the infrastructure owner’s recently electrified GWML section between Reading and Didcot (Covered in RTM June/July).
The trains made two test runs between the stations, at speeds of up to 125mph, on the mornings of Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July in a series of exercises designed to test the overhead electric power system.
Designing out faults
Speaking to RTM after the test run, Andy Rogers, projects director at Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “We have had three test trains in the country for just over a year now. We’ve been working through the list of testing to be done. With the different trains that we’ve now got out and about, we’ve been doing electrical and diesel testing.”
He added that taking the Class 800 into Paddington highlighted where the company has reached, with regards to the approvals and route clearance. During Network Rail’s testing on route section three, Rogers said that there were “no major issues” thrown up with the new rolling stock.
“Clearly, with a new train design, it is very complicated and the whole process of the testing is to go through and prove it works. But there’s nothing that we would pick out having been a real test,” he said.
Rogers added that Hitachi’s latest rolling stock was up to full speed very quickly, just as it was when the Class 395s for HS1 came over to the UK.
“We are confident with the design,” he added. “And just with the small amount of testing that we are able to do in Japan at Kasado, with our own test track there, the design has been sufficiently robust that we’ve got up to full speed quickly.
“There is still an amount of testing to be done, and then it is progressing with the compatibility testing on the Great Western – that is the one still do.” Testing will now continue as construction proceeds on the GWML upgrade programme, with public services scheduled on the first class 800 to start from next year.
Prior to the first Class 800 making its maiden voyage into central London, the DfT revealed that, after receiving a formal submission from Agility Trains, it had approved the decision for the 21 Class 801 electric fleet to be converted to bi-mode operation.
Originally, the fleet was to consist of 36 five-car bi-mode Class 800s, supported by the all-electric 801s. Discussing the decision, Rogers said: “In many respects, even though it wasn’t the intention, certainly the versatility of the bi-mode design has come into its own, especially in terms of having the ability to operate on electrified and unelectrified infrastructure.
“What it means is when the 801s go down the line, we will be fitting additional generator units to them. Following the discussion that we had with the DfT, we’ve been able to satisfy ourselves and the department that we can do that as part of the existing programme in terms of the build.”
This hasn’t affected Hitachi’s production schedule either, added Rogers, with car bodies continuing to come thick and fast from Japan.
“We have the first three production trains in-build in Newton Aycliffe,” RTM was told. “What we’ve done and will continue to do is for each of the different train types, we build the first two of each type in Japan. So the third and fourth five-car bi-mode for Great Western were completed in Japan and came over here fully assembled. It was one of those that we used to do the run into Paddington.
“In terms of Newton Aycliffe, the line is fully in place now. We’ve started production, we have three trains on the line. The first of these will be coming off the line in the autumn. The production is going to be running through from now through to the back end of 2019.”
Just after the interview with Rogers, it was announced that Great Western had ordered an additional seven AT300s, which will be manufactured in Italy.
Newton Aycliffe workforce
Discussing the developments at Newton Aycliffe, Rogers said the completion of the factory and start of production is “hugely exciting for the local workforce”.
“We have been hugely oversubscribed in terms of people wanting to work at the factory, which has put us in the privileged position of being able to be selective about who we recruit,” he added. “That process has been ongoing for months now. We have recruited the people we need for IEP and continue to give them on-the-job training.
“In terms of the trains coming off the line, there is going to be an amount of static and small amount of dynamic testing that will be done at Newton Aycliffe before they move to the depots where we will do dynamic commissioning, before the units are then offered up for acceptance.”
As well as carrying out the work on the IEPs, Hitachi also has a full order book with 70 AT200s for ScotRail; 36 bi-mode AT300s for the GWR, which will run primarily from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, replacing 40-year-old HSTs on the key intercity route to the south west; and 19 AT300s for TransPennine Express (TPE).
Discussing the AT200s, Rogers said the first of those test trains is on its way over from Japan. Manufacturing of GWR’s AT300s is set to begin in Pistoia, Italy, in spring next year, and in the summer the first pre-series AT300 arrives in UK for testing. It is expected that in summer 2018, the manufacturing of TPE’s AT300s will begin in Newton Aycliffe.
“For us, we continue to be proud of winning the IEP contract,” said Rogers. He added that having Karen Boswell OBE, the former MD at East Coast, at the helm has been an important move. “She sees it very much from the operators’ perspective, and that the delivery of the IEP trains is going to be transformational for people travelling on the East Coast and Great Western routes.
“We are very proud to be associated with that, and what we are continuing to demonstrate is that we are delivering against our promises in terms of everything we set out to achieve.”
While admitting that IEP is a “hugely challenging” programme, Rogers said Hitachi remains very excited about what the future holds and what the Class 800s will deliver.
And despite the economic uncertainty since the Brexit vote, he gave a reassurance to the sector: “From our perspective, Brexit doesn’t change anything. We have our order backlog for Newton Aycliffe. We are still waiting to see what Brexit means, but as a business we are still absolutely committed to the UK.”
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