IEP contract finally approved
The £4.5bn InterCity Express Programme (IEP) contract has been approved after multiple delays.
The new trains will replace Britain’s InterCity 125 fleet.
The consortium, led by Hitachi, will build 596 carriages at a new train facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. The 92-train fleet will provide 730 skilled jobs, as well as 200 jobs during the construction of the factory, the consortium said.
Construction at the site is expected to begin in 2013 and be fully operational by 2015.
European rail research and development capabilities will also be located on site, and maintenance depots will be built or upgraded at Bristol, Swansea, west London and Doncaster.
The fleet of electric and bi-mode trains has faster accelerating capabilities, which will enable more frequent services to be provided. They will operate in five- or nine-car configurations and are expected to be good for 27.5 years of usage.
They have long been controversial in the industry, especially the bi-mode factor: many commentators have questioned the specified need for under-floor diesel traction for use on the unelectrified parts of the network, arguing that it would be far more sensible to have all electric trains and hitch up a diesel locomotive to haul the carriages when necessary. Plus, the Coalition Government has so far been much more willing to invest in the infrastructure to electrify new routes than the previous Government – a trend which should continue, as each piece of electrification improves the business case for the next and for in-fill schemes.
Agility Trains was announced as the preferred bidder in early 2009, but a series of delays have pushed back confirmation of the contract until today.
The new trains will now enter service on the Great Western Main Line in 2017 and the East Coast Main Line by 2018.
Greening said the factory would help bring about a thriving UKmanufacturing sector and added that the new trains would provide faster and more comfortable journeys.
She said: “Hitachi is the latest major international company to invest on this scale inBritain and I look forward to this new factory in County Durham following in the footsteps of Nissan’s successful car plant inSunderland.
“There can also be fewer stronger signs that the UK is the best place in which to invest, and from which to develop new markets, than Hitachi’s decision to base its European manufacturing base right here in Britain.”
Alistair Dormer, chief executive officer of Agility Trains said: “It is among the biggest contracts ever closed in theUKrail industry and will mean a step change in reliability, capacity and comfort to British passengers.”
Michael Roberts, chief executive of ATOC welcomed the announcement, but added that the procurement process had been “contentious”.
He said: “Some of the earlier scope of the project has been changed because of subsequent Government decisions to electrify parts of the rail network.
“Train companies believe that the key to delivering better value for money is to ensure that they play a bigger role in shaping rolling stock solutions through the competitive franchising process.”
Corin Taylor, senior economic adviser at theInstituteofDirectors, said: “It’s good to see the IEP contract finally signed. Businesses will welcome more carriages and faster trains, particularly coupled with the extra electrification announced last week. It will be crucial to monitor the contract closely to ensure that the new trains arrive on time, on budget, and to the correct specifications.”
Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith highlighted the extra seating the new trains would provide and said that detailed research was needed to determine the internal layout of the rolling stock, and what this would mean for passengers in terms of space.
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