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GWR Intercity Express trains return to full service after rocky launch

GWR’s class 800 trains have returned to service following last week’s disastrous launch.

The inaugural journey for the Hitachi stock was scheduled for early last Monday and was attended by Chris Grayling, secretary of state for transport.

A number of issues were recorded by passengers, including a delayed launch due to software issues and problems with the carriages air conditioning which caused leaks.

After being taken out of service, the software was updated on Wednesday in order to solve the air conditioning and interior issues and were tested on Thursday before being returned to service on Friday.

Despite the setbacks, GWR pointed out that only one of the 36 journeys currently attempted by the trains has resulted in a failure to form its return working journey.

While the intercity services were unavailable the operator used high-speed trains as a replacement on the Bristol-London Line.

Last week Karen Boswell, managing director at Hitachi Rail Europe apologised for the problems and ensured travellers that the issue would not continue.

“I am very sorry and disappointed that today’s first passenger train from Bristol encountered technical issues, causing a delay to the service and an air conditioning issue which resulted in water entering the carriage rather than being discharged externally,” Boswell explained.

“This was not to a standard that Hitachi expects and is known for. We can and will do better.”

The manufacturer constructed the Class 800s at its factory in Newton Aycliffe, where they are currently working on ScotRails new electrical Class 385 model.

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David   24/10/2017 at 11:33

To be fair - Siemens and Bombardier have had teething troubles with their new fleets too. It's only to be expected with this generation of all-new electric units. I hope that the following comments will be reasonable, well-moderated and take this into account. A massive amount of work has been going on behind the scenes to prepare these trains for service and will continue for some time.

J, Leicester   24/10/2017 at 11:59

That's the first I've heard of computer programs fixing a physical problem with an air conditioning unit. Technology is incredible, isn't it?

JW   24/10/2017 at 14:43

Running 5000 miles prior to entering public service I am afraid does not test/stress the internal parts of the train. They only really get tested when subjected to Joe Public in large numbers when they enter revenue service.

Andrew Gwilt   24/10/2017 at 15:50

At least there won’t be any more problems with more Class 800’s to be delivered.

Manchester Mike   24/10/2017 at 16:12

@Andrew Gwilt Unlikely - the Bathtub Curve of reliability demonstrates that failures and problems peak at the introduction into service, and at the end of service life, of trains. More problems will likely be uncovered as more Class 800s enter service.

Henry Law   24/10/2017 at 16:47

I have never been a fan of the dual-mode concept, though in the future the engines might be swapped out for batteries to cover short gaps in the electrification. But there never were the good old days when trains went straight into service without problems. The bogies originally fitted to Mark 1 stock gave such a bad ride that they all had to be changed. Most of the standard steam types had issues, as did most of the pre-nationalisation classes. If I recall, the GWR Castles worked perfectly straight out of the box. But what is the verdict? Comfort, ambience, window/seat alignment, secure luggage storage, interior lighting, toilets, ease of boarding and alighting at curved and low platforms, ride quality, noise and vibration levels?

Andrew Gwilt   24/10/2017 at 23:16

You could be right Manchester Mike.

Ryan   25/10/2017 at 06:46

Did you read David’s comment? I know him from working on the Class 800 testing programme.

Adam Duthie   25/10/2017 at 08:41

So very exciting about this train. Glad the problems was so easily fixed...So does anyone know if there is a registry to see all the names of the GWR trains?...Ive noticed one is QE2 and another is for Brunel.

Mike Wilcock   25/10/2017 at 08:43

I feel the railway companies should also explain the high cost of lifting bridges to accommodate the catenary. Here in Wales, this is not understood. My trip last Monday was excellent. The new train makes the stations look in need of an uplift too!

David   25/10/2017 at 09:11

Mike, the main issue with the electrification was that the ORR changed the standards right in the middle of this scheme. Meaning numerous bridge lifts had to be redesigned or reimplemented. The cost of the civils works alone is high.

Jimbo   25/10/2017 at 10:39

@David - that should be "the ORR unnecessarily changed the standards...". The old standards were rigorously and scientifically tested, met euro standards and had worked for decades, with virtually no accidents. The ORR changes were "just in case, to cover our backsides, no matter the cost" and far exceed European safety requirements. So the result is that electrification has become far too expensive (around 3 times the European average) and we will continue to have diesels everywhere for another generation, with all the associated problems.

J   25/10/2017 at 11:30

Interesting article.

David   25/10/2017 at 13:06

Absolutely Jimbo - the story I heard was that the European rail committee were more than satisfied with our standards (to say the least), but ORR completely (or intentionally) neglected to take note of this...

Nick   26/10/2017 at 11:39

Regarding Dual Mode, the government has realistically accepted that renewable energy is not reliable. In the depths of winter when the wind stops blowing where will all the electricity come from, especially with electric car users charging up at 6pm. I would be most grateful if during a power cut the train driver could just start the diesel under dead wires.

J, Leicester   27/10/2017 at 11:58

Your point is fair enough, Nick - but those engines should really remain "last mile" back-up engines and allow a Thunderbird to take control at the next station. It seems superfluous to weigh a train down and increase its relative complexity for the sake of emergency running - though I'm sure others would argue that the same applies for having back-up units and locos for that specific purpose, I guess. Here's hoping that in 15-20 years time, battery technology has improved to the extent that we can look back on the "bi-mode" experiment and have a jolly good laugh about it. The concept of little diesel engines tacked onto electric locomotives should hopefully seem dated and almost quaint by then!

John   08/02/2018 at 23:01

@Nick Tidal power is ultra reliable. The times of the tides are know decades in advance. The grid is now using battery backup for peaks. Zero emission hydrogen fuel cell trains are to be tested near Alstom's Liverpool technology centre. They suggest a trial on the new Chester to Liverpool line along the Halton Curve. The hydrogen will be produced at nearby Stanlow. Grayling says that the bimodal diesels can have the diesel engines removed and fuel cells installed. They are going to rip out diesel engines that work? Sure they will. The millions of people around Bath and Bristol will have trains pouring out toxic fumes, while the same trains are zero emissions in open country.

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