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Alstom pitches double-decker trains for HS2

In what would be a railway first for the UK, French train manufacturer Alstom is set to pitch the idea of building double-decker trains to run on the 225mph HS2 line in order to maximise passenger benefits and bring down travel costs.

The company, which hopes to land the £7.5bn rolling stock contract for the high-speed line, said a double-decker design would take advantage of the designated space much more effectively than single-level trains of the same height.

Henrik Anderberg, acting managing director for Alstom UK and Ireland, said: “The design means double-decker trains are no higher than a standard single deck one. However because the trains that will run on HS2 meet with European standards and are 170mm (6.7 inches) wider, we can do so much more with the space.

“A double-decker train is a unique proposition and will give a better passenger experience. We are even considering designs such as double-height bars.”

The major contract to build 160 trains each 650ft long is only expected to be announced in 2019, despite HS2 already having published its rolling stock strategy.

But Alstom – which already built double-deckers for other European services, such as in France, Germany and Spain – is arguing early on that building a second level would increase capacity on standard trains by 40%, providing extra space that could be used to create “business class train travel at economy class prices”.

According to Anderberg, prices would only be “marginally” higher because the real cost lies with bogies, power systems and computers, none of which would be affected by expanded coachwork.

To strengthen its pitch, Alstom, which recently gained planning permission to build a new training academy in Widnes, promised to build as much of the rolling stock as possible in the UK – although admitting “there is no guarantee until we see the specification”.

“We don’t just want to assemble the trains in the UK, we want to manufacture their systems here,” the MD said, adding that this could lead to around 600 jobs, with more in the supply chain.

While the deliverability of the pitch may be challenged, an Alstom double-decker in France’s high-speed rail service, the TGV, previously set the record for the fastest wheeled train, running at 357mph in 2007.

And the government had already made clear in its rolling stock strategy that it was open to innovative ideas: “We particularly welcome innovation that delivers greater capacity through greater interoperability or, for example, the use of longer or double-decker trains – that don’t need complicated new infrastructure.”

It later added: “It’s important not to discount approaches such as double-decker trains which could unlock capacity if they can be made to work on our infrastructure and with associated dwell times in the peak – which is a challenge for industry to consider.”

(Top image c. Alstom/Design&Styling, Birmingham skyline)


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Huguenot   24/05/2016 at 11:17

Oh, yeah? Where would Alstom make them, then, since they have pulled out of manufacture in the UK? Also, double-deck trains, although roomier and providing panoramic views (except through the Chiltern tunnels) take longer to load and discharge passengers, leading to longer dwell times at stations and longer turnrounds at the termini.

Ab25   24/05/2016 at 12:00

Alstom would build new trains on the new Widnes site, it is one of the later stages in the planning application to Halton Council. Dwell times can be improved with door aperture sizes etc

Andrew Macfarlane   24/05/2016 at 12:26

If they are 6.7 inches wider it sounds like they will not be compatible with the UK loading gauge so they would be captive to the high speed line itself and therefore could not serve Manchester until 2033.

Henry Law   24/05/2016 at 12:34

Head bangers. Literally. The only satisfactory double deckers in Europe are in Finland, built to the Russian gauge.

Ab25   24/05/2016 at 16:22

Proposed tender is likely to be split between a captive fleet and non-captive to serve Manchester and further North.

Richard Porter   24/05/2016 at 20:10

OK as long as the seats align with the windows, but platform height is greater here than on the continent which could be a problem.

Kev   24/05/2016 at 21:22

I hope these proposed two-deck trains willl be fully DDA compliant!

Kirk   25/05/2016 at 07:05

The concept of Double Deck trains is a good one in my opinion to alleviate loading issues. Crucially this must be compatible with our existing infrastructure (which is the biggest blocker) for this idea to be truly realised. Great to see that not only assembly will be here in the UK but also core manufacturing not critical components which will boost supply chain "knock on" and also the economy.

Jaap   25/05/2016 at 08:40

Here in Holland we have a lot of double decker EMU's. And they are far more than satisfactory.

Peter Gordon   25/05/2016 at 09:14

This would mean that they are not compatible with the rest of the network which is a terrible idea. I see most journeys including at least some running on the conventional network.

Dr.Peter Long   25/05/2016 at 11:59

british railways[southern region] operated double deck trains on London commuter routes ,so it wouldn't be a uk first!

George   25/05/2016 at 13:44

Double decker trains will not be a first on the British railway network. Bulleid-designed double deckers (class 4DD) ) ran post-war on Southern Region from Charing Cross to Dartford. They were not particularly successful because of extended loading-unloading times.

Lutz   26/05/2016 at 07:08

@Peter Gordon It has been the intention from the outset that the vehicles would be designed to the same gauge as that used on continental HS lines, not to the UK gauge and that they would be captive - so as to achieve the design criteria. It is envisioned that UK gauge vehicles will be designed for use on routes that would terminate off of HS2.

David Tilling   29/12/2016 at 15:18

Why not make the loading gauge on HS2 the same as that in the channel tunnel? Then, one day, the freight trains carrying lorries could come through the tunnel and offload somewhere north of the road congestion in southern England.

STRAWMAN   04/02/2017 at 09:22

The Government, SRA and Network Rail should have lead the development for an integrated transport system fit for the twentieth century, with plans spanning over 20 years No Vision, poor planning and lack of skills levels as take to where we are today. Playing catch up! It needs engineers and companies to lead, however we rely on Europe to provide our needs.

Dr.Who   09/08/2017 at 12:55

Alstom can do this, too many negative comments, I cant see any other UK based train company do this, this company will not only create hundreds of jobs, they have the technical expertise and knowledge to do this. Good luck Alstom bring the UK in to line with the rest of Europe.....

Paul   03/11/2017 at 00:12

What’s the problem? HS2 will be built to Bern gauge so can easily accommodate twin deck trains along the lines of the units that have operated satisfactorily on the French TGV lines for many years without door dwell problems or anything else. For services that extent beyond HS2 on classic lines to Scotland etc then a separate non captive single decker fleet to UK mouse hole gauge can be specified. Simples.

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