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The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Intercity Express Project

In Far North Express 60 , we reported that the London-based Department for Transport (DfT) had announced that, by 2019, all East Coast Main Line trains would be formed of Hitachi Super Express Trains (SETs) supplied under the Intercity Express Programme (IEP). The trains will be constructed at a purpose-built factory in County Durham and will be designated class 800. They will also work many Great Western services to and from London Paddington but, unlike East Coast, there will be a small fleet of InterCity 125 trains (or HSTs if you prefer) retained to work services to and from Devon and Cornwall. Without any announcement, a document showing train layouts appeared on the DfT website some time in the summer and was "discovered" by a rail-interest magazine. It was dated August, 2012 and showed proposals for three versions of the train. The plans are not easy to read but it appears that Hitachi has largely followed the requirements of the DfT's Train Technical Specification, dated 19th July, 2012. There are both electric and bi-mode types. One of the plans shown on the website - 8 car electric and bi-mode - is no longer to be built leaving 9-car trains and the one that is relevant to us, a 5-car train; the bi-mode version will work services between London and Inverness. We've reproduced this overleaf. There will be ten 5-car bi-modes on East Coast along with twelve 5-car electrics and thirteen 9-car bi-modes. The trains will be constructed as electric trains but with self-power capability (diesel engines to us mere mortals) so the terms electric and bi-mode are a bit of a misnomer as, in reality, they will all be bi-mode to a certain extent. 5-car bi-mode trains will have three diesels of 700kw (939hp) each, with pantographs and transformers fitted to the other two vehicles. So-called electric trains will have one diesel engine to provide power in the event of overhead line problems so they won't be able to go very far or very fast but they won't, or shouldn't, be stranded. Unless, of course, the wires are actually wrapped around the train. The diesel engines will be under the floor and it will be easy to convert the sets from bi-mode to electric, or vice versa, should electrification be extended or electric services be run to non-electrified routes. Trains will be permitted to change modes whilst on the move so we would expect the Inverness service to change over near Dunblane until the wires are extended to Inverness (as mentioned elsewhere in this issue ). We reported previously that we were concerned that, despite lobbying for the return of restaurant cars by a number of organisations, including ourselves and Passenger Focus, it was unlikely that IEPs would include full kitchens. As we feared, the train includes no fixed catering in standard class whatsoever, just what appears to be a trolley point. There is a generous galley for catering to first class passengers but it seems to assume that it will be staffed throughout every journey. However, since there is no accommodation for the guard, conductor, train manager or whatever other fancy title the person in charge of the train may have, we assume that he or she will have to share the galley and, maybe, serve first class passengers with libations and comestibles, rather in the same way that a purser does on an aircraft. Standard class seats do not fit the windows but first class ones do. There are just two bicycle spaces for the whole train. There is luggage space for each passenger to be carrying a bag around the size of a box file and storage space for one large suitcase per four passengers (three in first class). We leave readers to form their own views on this. The vehicles themselves are described as 26m (85ft) long which is actually the distance over couplers. The intermediate vehicle bodies are 25m long and the end ones 25.4m; the mark 3 vehicles currently working the Highland Chieftain are 23m long. This means that the end and centre "throws", i.e., the amount by which vehicles overhang on curves, will be greater so some alterations to infrastructure may be required. Seating capacity, assuming seats are not piled high with luggage, is 45 first and 270 standard class, around two-thirds of the latter being "airline" seating. This compares with 112 first and 431 standard class seats in the InterCity 125s currently used. Five-car SETs will normally be used in pairs south of Edinburgh but there will be no passenger access between the two units. The 5-car version has a wheelchair position only in first class. Knee room is specified as 750mm for airline seating and 735mm for seating bays. This is in standard class: first class is more generous. In case anyone is unsure what "knee room" means, it is helpfully defined thus:

"In the case of unidirectional seating it is the horizontal distance at knee level, from the passenger contacting surface of the seat back to the rearmost section of the seat in front, at knee position; or In the case of bay seating, it is half the horizontal distance at knee level, from the passenger contacting surface of the seat back to the corresponding position on the facing seat."

So now you know and you can start playing with your furniture to see if you fit!

There is an Annex outlining minimum journey times that IEP should achieve. Now, one of the selling points that the DfT has been pushing is that IEPs/SETs will reduce journey times and the savings seem impressive until you look into them carefully. The specification says that station dwell times are assumed to take 0 seconds and no allowances are included en route or at destination for performance, pathing or engineering times. So let's look at the two segments of the Highland Chieftain's journey, either side of Edinburgh. The current journey time on Mondays to Fridays from London to Edinburgh is 263 minutes. This includes aggregate station dwell time (York, Darlington, Newcastle and Berwick) of 10 minutes (all the times quoted are from Working Timetables rather than the public one), 7 minutes engineering allowance, 3½ minutes pathing time and 6 minutes performance time. This gives a net time of 236½ minutes. The DfT's IEP requirement for London to Edinburgh is 229 minutes. But this is without any of the allowances. Although the DfT has quoted a total journey time of 245 minutes, once all the allowances, except pathing time, have been added back in, much of the impressive journey time improvement claimed is clawed back. North of Edinburgh is more interesting. Currently, the northbound Highland Chieftain is allowed 211 minutes from the Scottish capital to the Highland capital. Of this, 22½ minutes constitute aggregate dwell time, and there's 8 minutes engineering allowance plus 6 minutes pathing time. This gives a net time of 174½ minutes. The DfT requires IEP to do it in 188 minutes plus allowances, i.e., slower than now. That's not to say that Hitachi's SET won't be able to improve on these times. If any readers would like to calculate the comparative journey times themselves and prove us wrong - and we'd be delighted if we were - visit , then use your search engine to find IEP-TECH-REQ-35 and follow the instructions on pages 72 and 73 to compare the timings. The proposed journey times take no cognisance of any improvements to the Highland Main Line.