UK government moves to upgrade inter-city trains

The government has approved a £5.2bn programme that will see the replacement of high-speed inter-city trains and the electrification of the Great Western Main Line between Cardiff, Bristol and Didcot.

In an announcement yesterday, transport secretary Phil Hammond gave the go-ahead for the £4.5bn Intercity Express Programme (IEP) and the £704m electrification plans that will cut journey times from Cardiff to London by 17 minutes.

The IEP has been led by the Department for Transport, with assistance from the rail industry, since November 2005. In February 2009 the Agility Trains consortium, made up of Hitachi and John Laing Projects and Development, was announced preferred bidder to deliver trains for the scheme.

Subject to final close, Agility is expected to build a combination of around 100 electric trains and bi-mode — diesel and electric — inter-city trains which will run to Great Western Main Line stations and East Coast Main Line in England and Scotland.

Similarly, Hitachi will make Newton Aycliffe in County Durham the site for its planned European rolling stock manufacturing and assembly centre once commercial agreements are finalised.

The factory, which is expected to be operational by 2013, is likely to generate at least 500 new jobs, plus opportunities for the UK and European supply chain.

‘Our decision to buy a new fleet of trains and electrify new lines will allow rail passengers along the Great Western and East Coast corridors to benefit from massive improvements to journey times, more seats and more reliable services,’ said Hammond. ‘Alongside our plans for high-speed rail, it completes a picture of massive upgrades to our inter-city rail corridors over the coming years.’

Yesterday’s announcement is part of a wider rail strategy to meet future increases in passenger demand, promote a move from other transport modes to rail and ensure Britain has the infrastructure it needs.

Major projects include the £16bn Crossrail scheme, the £5.5bn Thameslink modernisation and a new high-speed rail link between London and the West Midlands.