The Business Travel Magazine - - The Review -

In­vest­ment in on­board prod­uct is rais­ing the bar for busi­ness trav­ellers, writes Dave Richard­son, who tracks the lat­est changes

The pri­vate sec­tor is in­vest­ing nearly £14bil­lion in new trains over the five-year pe­riod from 2016 to 2021, ac­cord­ing to Rail De­liv­ery Group (RDG) which brings to­gether train op­er­a­tors and pub­licly funded in­fra­struc­ture op­er­a­tor Net­work Rail.

Com­pa­nies win­ning fran­chise con­tracts are usu­ally com­mit­ted to heavy in­vest­ment, but some­times they are over-am­bi­tious as with Vir­gin Trains East Coast. It promised to pay £2.3bil­lion to the gov­ern­ment by 2023 but is be­ing al­lowed to back out of its con­tract.

Many of the older trains still trundling around the rail net­work will be gone by 2021, by which time all trains must pro­vide toi­lets with dis­abled ac­cess. An­other re­quire­ment in new fran­chise con­tracts is free wifi con­nec­tiv­ity through­out, while the pub­lic sec­tor is in­vest­ing in up­grad­ing rail’s mo­bile in­fra­struc­ture.

Over 7,000 new car­riages will have been de­liv­ered by 2021, ac­cord­ing to the RDG, and by then an ex­tra 6,400 ser­vices each week will be op­er­at­ing.

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion projects by Net­work Rail are en­abling cleaner, greener, more ef­fi­cient trains to run in some parts of the coun­try, although jour­ney time re­duc­tions are usu­ally mod­est.

The Great Western elec­tri­fi­ca­tion from Lon­don to Bris­tol and South Wales is be­hind sched­ule and over bud­get. Elec­tric trains will not run to Ox­ford or be­yond Cardiff to Swansea, but new high-speed trains can op­er­ate on both elec­tric and diesel power.

The main Ed­in­burgh-glas­gow line has been elec­tri­fied at last and both cities will soon be linked to Stir­ling by elec­tric trains.

Sev­eral routes in North­ern Eng­land have also been wired up, in­clud­ing one route from Liver­pool to Manch­ester and the Manch­ester-pre­ston-black­pool cor­ri­dor, which is just be­ing com­pleted.

But other elec­tri­fi­ca­tion schemes have been put on hold, in­clud­ing Manch­esterLeeds and through­out from Lon­don to Derby, Not­ting­ham and Sh­effield. Bi­modal trains (diesel and elec­tric) will be in­tro­duced to serve cities be­yond the core elec­tri­fied routes on the net­work.

Be­low are some of the ma­jor im­prove­ments that UK rail pas­sen­gers can ex­pect over the next few years. With the ex­cep­tion of de­vel­op­ments at Great Western and Trans­port for Lon­don’s El­iz­a­beth Line (also known as Cross­rail), the most eye-catch­ing im­prove­ments are gen­er­ally in North­ern Eng­land and Scot­land.

Great Western Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the line to Bris­tol and Cardiff is due to be com­pleted by the end of this year, with a new timetable in­tro­duced from Jan­uary 2019.

It is tak­ing de­liv­ery of 93 new high-speed bi­modal trains built by Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer Hi­tachi in the UK, with promised jour­ney time re­duc­tions of up to 17 min­utes on Lon­don-bris­tol and 14 min­utes on Lon­don-swansea.

The 40-year-old diesel pow­ered High Speed Trains (HSTS) are nearly all be­ing re­placed, with the new trains hav­ing 24% more seat­ing ca­pac­ity. A fleet of 45 new elec­tric trains has been in­tro­duced on lo­cal Thames Val­ley routes, with the diesel trains they re­place in­creas­ing seat­ing ca­pac­ity around Bris­tol. East Coast The Vir­gin Trains East Coast name may dis­ap­pear, although it may be al­lowed to con­tinue in a new ar­range­ment agreed by the DFT. But who­ever op­er­ates them, a new fleet of pub­licly funded Hi­tachi high-speed trains will start to op­er­ate in De­cem­ber from Lon­don to Leeds, Ed­in­burgh and be­yond. The Lon­don-ed­in­burgh jour­ney will be cut to four hours, a sav­ing of nearly 30 min­utes that could per­suade more busi­ness trav­ellers to switch from air, while Lon­donLeeds will take two hours.

The 65 new trains will also open up a new di­rect link to Lon­don from Mid­dles­brough, and in­crease fre­quency from Har­ro­gate, Brad­ford and Lin­coln.

Transpen­nine Ex­press A ma­jor in­vest­ment in new trains will trans­form the on-board en­vi­ron­ment on routes from the North West to the North East and Scot­land over the next cou­ple of years, in­clud­ing a new link be­tween Liver­pool and Glas­gow start­ing in De­cem­ber.

Three new fleets of trains in­clude 19  bi­modal trains by Hi­tachi with a top speed of 125mph, with on-board fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing more seats at ta­bles with plug sock­ets, free wifi ac­cess through­out, and first class seat­ing. The older diesel trains be­ing re­placed are be­ing re­fur­bished to in­crease ca­pac­ity on other parts of the net­work.

A Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Man­ager, Susie Palmer, is work­ing with cor­po­rates to alert them to the new op­por­tu­ni­ties for a pro­duc­tive jour­ney by rail rather than road or air, in the case of Manch­ester-ed­in­burgh/ Glas­gow. Transpen­nine Ex­press is also work­ing with the GTMC and ITM.

North­ern Op­er­at­ing some longer routes such as Manch­ester-bar­row, Leeds-carlisle and Mid­dles­brough-new­cas­tle-carlisle, plus many lo­cal ser­vices, North­ern is also in­vest­ing heav­ily in new trains. It will in­tro­duce 43 new elec­tric trains and 55 new diesel trains start­ing in De­cem­ber, again with free wifi through­out.

Sco­trail Apart from new elec­tric trains on the Ed­in­burgh-glas­gow and Stir­ling routes, it will trans­form ser­vices to the north of the coun­try from May by in­tro­duc­ing High Speed Trains dis­placed from Great Western. Although they will not op­er­ate at their 125mph top speed, they will in­crease seat­ing ca­pac­ity and in­tro­duce new lev­els of com­fort and cater­ing on routes from Glas­gow and Ed­in­burgh to Stir­ling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and In­ver­ness.

Cale­do­nian Sleeper A new fleet of trains is be­ing in­tro­duced on overnight ser­vices from Lon­don to Ed­in­burgh, Glas­gow, Aberdeen, In­ver­ness and Fort Wil­liam from Oc­to­ber at a cost of £100million – the first new sleeper trains in the UK for 35 years. For the first time ever in the UK (ex­cept on Royal Scots­man lux­ury charters), pas­sen­gers can book cab­ins with en suite fa­cil­i­ties as well as cab­ins with sinks only or re­clin­ing seats. Tick­ets for Com­fort Seats start from £45; Clas­sic Rooms from £85; en suite Club Rooms from £125; and dou­ble bed suites from £200 (all per per­son).

Greater Anglia The op­er­a­tor is spend­ing £1.4bil­lion on a to­tal fleet re­newal in­clud­ing ten 12-car­riage elec­tric trains for the Lon­don-nor­wich route and ten 12-car­riage elec­tric trains for the Stansted Ex­press. Com­muter trains will also be re­newed with 38 new bi­modal trains in­tro­duced for re­gional ser­vices.

El­iz­a­beth Line Trans­port for Lon­don is spend­ing £1bil­lion on 66 new trains to op­er­ate through cen­tral Lon­don from De­cem­ber 2018, us­ing new tun­nels and con­nect­ing with Un­der­ground ser­vices. When the route is fully open from De­cem­ber 2019, trains will op­er­ate from Read­ing and Heathrow Air­port in the west to Shen­field and Abbey Wood in the east, in­clud­ing di­rect trains from Heathrow to sta­tions in­clud­ing Tot­ten­ham Court Road, Liver­pool Street and Ca­nary Wharf.

Thames­link New trains cost­ing £1.6bil­lion have al­ready led to a ma­jor in­crease in ca­pac­ity on north­south routes via the City of Lon­don, serv­ing Gatwick and Lu­ton air­ports. From May this year new routes with­out chang­ing trains will in­clude Brighton to Cam­bridge.

Vir­gin Trains (West Coast) While not in­tro­duc­ing any new trains, the op­er­a­tor has signed up to a raft of im­prove­ments af­ter its fran­chise was ex­tended through to 2019 with an op­tion for a fur­ther year if the DFT so de­cides. The Pen­dolino fleet used be­tween Lon­don and Birm­ing­ham, the North West and Glas­gow is hav­ing a re­fit in­clud­ing free wifi ac­cess for all pas­sen­gers (not just first class) by Jan­uary of next year.

Com­muter op­er­a­tors Many such op­er­a­tors are also in­tro­duc­ing new trains to in­crease ca­pac­ity and ease over­crowd­ing, in­clud­ing South Western Rail­way, c2c and Great North­ern. Lon­don North­west­ern (for­merly Lon­don Mid­land) has over 100 new trains on or­der while Merseyrail will re­place its fleet by 2020.

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