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Bi-mode fleet needed by 2020, says major East Midlands rail strategy

A new fleet of intercity-style bi-mode trains is needed to deliver a greater level of service as part of the upcoming 2018 East Midlands franchise, according to the results of a consultation into the future of the region's rail network.

The vision for rail travel in the East Midlands, set out today in a major strategy, includes much faster and more frequent journeys, with trains from London reaching Leicester in one hour, Nottingham in 90 minutes and Sheffield in one hour and 50 minutes.

The report, ‘East Midlands: A Railway for Growth’, was launched today at the Rail Forum East Midlands (RFEM) annual conference, attended by RTM, following a consultation with key local stakeholders.

It says that the best solution to delivering a new London service that still stops at all the stations along the route is a fleet of new bi-mode trains, capable of travelling at 125mph.

They should replace the current fleet of high-speed trains, which will need retirement in 2020, and feature improved accessibility, better on-board wi-fi and greater capacity.

In addition, the report said a plan to secure more trains for regional services is needed before 2020 in order to reduce the current overcrowding on the route.

It called for "urgent decisions" to be made on the rolling stock used on the Midland Main Line, and "a firm plan and funding" to secure rolling stock for regional services.

Jake Kelly, managing director for East Midlands Trains, said: “We are at a critical crossroads for rail services in the East Midlands and we have a great opportunity to work together now to secure the improvements needed for this railway.

“The message we are hearing from local stakeholders is very clear: if we are to build on the big progress made in recent years, we need to take action to ensure communities and the economy in the East Midlands benefit from further improvements and we don't lose out to other regions.

“Whilst there are major improvement plans with HS2 and electrification that we fully support, the proposals we have put together with our stakeholders would deliver fast improvements for our customers and communities whilst offering value for money for the taxpayer.

“We need to be loud and proud about the improvements that we would like to see and that our customers deserve. Now is the time to ensure that new trains and extra carriages can be secured for this rail network.”

Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect, which helped launch the report, said that while approval for HS2 was “eagerly awaited” in the region, there was “clearly a need now for more and faster trains” in the region, which the new strategy would address.

Academy will develop skills strategy to ensure rail industry is ‘open for business’

The RFEM also announced a new partnership with Derby College to establish a Rail Employment and Skills Academy.

For its first task, it will develop full-time and apprenticeship programmes specific to the rail sector to address the industry’s skills shortage.

Elaine Clark, RFEM manager, said the skills action plan would “ensure that Britain’s rail supply industry is truly open for business and capable of winning orders from across the world".

Simon Higgens, a member of the RFEM, SME representative for the Rail Supply Group and CEO of ISS Labour, will act as chair of the academy’s advisory board.

He will be supported by senior executives from businesses including East Midlands Trains, Angel Trains and Porterbrook Leasing.

Rail minister Paul Maynard, who delivered his debut public speech at today's RFEM conference, said the academy was “an excellent example of how industry and the community can work together to boost prospects for local people”.

Maynard also delivered and impassioned keynote speech at the conference, where he revealed that driving innovation was one of his centrepiece ambitions in his new job.

RTM will be providing full coverage of the RFEM conference on Twitter and our website all throughout today.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.



Andrew Gwilt   16/09/2016 at 14:01

Bombardier or Hitachi could be the preferred bidders to build new Bi-Mode trains for East Midlands Trains and with the proposed electrification (Bedford-Nottingham/Derby, Sheffield and Leeds) with possibly electrification to Lincoln.

David Faircloth   16/09/2016 at 15:31

Andrew, don't forget that Abellio are ordering a fleet of bi-modes for their Anglia franchise from Stadler. Whilst I would like to see British assembled bi-modes, the need for Hitachi to build those ordered for GWR to be assembled in Italy suggests that there isn't the capacity to produce an established design here in the UK, and the fluctuation in exchange rates resulting from the Brexit vote may mean the Stadler design to be the best option; however, I don't know if it is capable of 125mph operation.

Andrew Gwilt   16/09/2016 at 16:26

Bi-Mode trains is becoming a new way of traveling on both electrified and non-electrified railway routes with Hitachi that are currently building and manufacturing the Class 800, Class 801 and Class 802 IEP's which are similar to the Class 395 Javelins used on HS1 as Southeastern does provide high speed services from Kent to St. Pancras International.

Wimg   16/09/2016 at 20:00

@David, Switzerland has about the most expensive currency in Europe , but seemingly Stadler is offering competitive pricing , they produce in several European countries. Maybe Adrian Shooter is willing to assemble bi-modes , since nobody is interested in his ingenious Vivarail D-Train Pacer substitute.

John Band   17/09/2016 at 05:23

These trains will have to be built abroad to meet the 2020 date. The compatition will likely be between Hitachi Italy and Stadler who have both won recent bi-mode contracts in the UK. With Hitachi the favourite, as the 800/802 series has the potential for 140 mph running, if eventually required.

Lutz   17/09/2016 at 08:32

Far easier just to sign a derogation on the existing fleet until the problem can be solved more effectively.

Huguenot   17/09/2016 at 09:06

It would be crazy to retire the Meridian Class 222s in 2020 -- they have only been in service since 2004. What is needed is to resurrect 'Project Thor' and introduce a transformer/ pantograph car into each set and -- behold! -- you have a bi-mode, with extra seating capacity to boot. That and a general upgrade should do it. No need for completely new trains.

Noam Bleicher   17/09/2016 at 14:13

Huguenot, I think it's the HST sets that they are suggesting need replacing. So the new bi-modes would run alongside the Meridians. The latter could either as currently configured, or, as you suggest, with a pan car inserted to themselves run as bi-modes.

Nonsuchmike   17/09/2016 at 15:17

EMT and other TOCs with members of the RFEM are in danger of joining what I believe Monty Python called the Ministry of the Bleedin' Obvious. For at least four years if not nearer five Railwatchers and Lobbyists including this correspondent have been advocating more diesels and bi-mode trains to attempt to fill the gap between now and 2025 by when initially it was thought that full electrification of most main & major routes in the UK would be completed. Indeeed, Mr Brown, a Senior and much respected figure within the industry wrote such an article for Railfuture over a year ago, and RFG apologists have similarly written articles and gone on record across the media as they (perhaps) realise the last few administrations have always come up short on what has been promised in the the areas of rail infrastructure, rollingstock, freight routes and planned timetabled rail passenger services in virtually every region one cares to mention. The possible exception has been the new route south from Edinburgh to Tweedbank opened last autumn, and then the forecast numbers were grossly under calculated by a factor of between 2 & 3, and the number of carriages per train grossly underestimated, so that passengers have been left behind on the platform for lack of space when the doors opened, and on other trips squashed like sardines without the comfort of sunflower oil to ease the nightmare of the journey. So, well done RFEM and other "enlightened" fora of a similar ilk. What we need are not words, but actions to provide the trains and the rails and the other structures needed to run a half decent railway in this soon-to-be-brexited country. Please put your money where your mouth is.

Roger (Insider)   19/09/2016 at 08:25

Huguenot, The sad history of the E-Voyager / E-Meridian should be a lesson to us all. Bombardier here in the UK submitted a bid; after an age, DfT said "come back with a lower one". This became an even more difficult proposition when someone dropped in the bomb that Bombardier in Belgium had scrapped the bodyshell jigs. After that it just withered on the vine.

Noam Bleicher   19/09/2016 at 10:15

Roger, adding one car to the XC Voyager fleet would only scratch the surface of the capacity and service quality crisis on this TOC. Each train needs doubling, or more, in length, to accommodate future growth while providing a layout more suited to long-distance work, eg table seating, properly aligned windows, sufficient luggage space and a proper buffet.

Anonymous Coward   19/09/2016 at 13:38

Don't see the point of bi-mode given the mainline route is to be electrified. More complex to build & maintain, lugging unnecessary weight around. Also no UK builder. I'd keep the Meridians and then go with an electric-only option. Maybe bi-mode is required for HST replacement if their life cannot be extended?

Fenner   20/09/2016 at 15:23

The route characteristics will not give short journey times just with bi-mode trains the small increase in power to weight would be insufficient even if both electric and diesel traction available at the same time. The twists and turns really need a tilting train, ahh a Pendolino could be the answer but will need to wait till 2022 (or whenever electrification is complete).

Jimbo   20/09/2016 at 17:54

Just because the train is bought as Bi-mode, does not mean it will always run as Bi-mode. The point of Bi-modes is that they can be introduced before electrification is complete (or if delayed). It can also be used on routes with partial electrification. Once all routes are electrified, the diesel engine can be removed at the next heavy overhaul, converting the stock into a plain EMU.

Rhydgaled   22/09/2016 at 11:00

I'm with 'Anonymous Coward', the route's going to be electrified (although they will miss the accessibility deadline) so they should really be looking at an electric fleet from 2022-24ish. That said, I doubt the bi-modes planned for London-Inverness/Aberdeen services will be very suitable north of Edinburgh due to the underfloor engines, and the current electric IC225 fleet working out of Kings Cross should have life lift in them to run until the early 2030s. Thus, I feel that Virgin East Coast should be made to use IC225s on all their London-Scotland services, with a diesel locomotive taking over north of Edinburgh for Inverness/Aberdeen/Dundee workings. That would mean Virgin need fewer bi-mode units, allowing East Midlands Trains to use them instead. If I recall correctly the East Coast IEP depot will be at Doncaster which isn't all that far from Leeds/Sheffield/Nottingham on East Mids. services.

Jacob   29/09/2016 at 10:25

Anonymous Coward - the flexibility offered by the HST fleet to periphery destinations and for diversionary services would be lost with purely electric replacements. The operator of the EM franchise would not be able to operate the same level of service to places like the Chesterfield-Nottingham corridor, and services north to Leeds, without sacrificing timetable requirements and placing those services in the hands of 158s, with their paltry comparative capacity - and that's not even to consider the Pandora's box of the majority of the Regional fleet coming to the end of its own working life! The Meridians will remain in top link service, and the fleet is too small to stretch to accommodate all the services that the HSTs allow in addition to that work. There would have to be timetable sacrifices in order to allow a thinner diesel fleet to cover periphery services, and that would also impact on stock availability for regional services, which face the worst overcrowding issues in the franchise at present. There is also the issue of seasonal traffic - HSTs currently form the bulk of holiday trains to Lincoln and Skegness, and those routes are not due for electrification. Again, to allocate Meridians to these routes would reduce capacity for the main line. A bi-mode replacement can at least serve these locations while allowing the pressure to be taken off the Meridians. In addition, it will still be able to operate during a power outage without drags. It should be seen as less of a stop-gap and as more of a vital requirement for the future capacity plans of the EM franchise.

Jb   11/10/2016 at 12:51

May we please see a re-introduction of the EMT direct service from Manchester to Derby, Leicester, etc. This once easy journey is now impossible without changes to slow branch lines.

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