News Front– Railtex special

Current Alstom offering: model of Virgin Trains Pendolino on the company’s stand.

ALSTOM UNVEILED details of its 125mph EMU designed for UK operation at the Railtex trade show.

The manufacturer is seeking to regain a foothold in the UK rolling stock market and has elected to focus on the higher-speed bracket, where it believes there is a suitable gap in the market. The concept design is a modular one, with a train length varying from four to 11 carriages and the option of doors located at carriage ends or at one-thirds and two-thirds along the cars.

Alstom’s reference train is a five-car unit of 23-metre vehicles with end doors, which the company says would offer capacity for around 500 passengers, including 303 seats. With doors at one-thirds and two-thirds along the carriages, this would increase to 370 seats and a total capacity of around 720.

There would be three vehicle types – a trailer car with a cab, a trailer and a motor. A five-car unit would contain three motorised vehicles, with the proportion of motorised vehicles varying between 40% and 67% depending on the length of the train. In terms of the passenger experience, a generous seat pitch, passenger counting equipment and anti-bacterial handles are among features highlighted by the manufacturer, although exact specifications would be determined by the customer.

The company offered the concept to bidders for both the trans-Pennine Express and East Anglia franchises, and is now looking ahead to the West Coast Partnership and East Midlands franchises, with the latter having a potential requirement for new EMUs to operate services to Corby. It also developed a commuter derivative for the West Midlands franchise, which was re-geared for 90-100mph operation. Alstom adds that there is potential for the design to have a 140mph top speed, which could suit an order for additional trains for Southeastern’s high-speed services.

Alstom does not intend to develop a diesel hybrid version, and instead will focus on a pure EMU. However, it does not rule out bringing hydrogen technology to the UK: the company’s emission-free Coradia iLint is being deployed in the Rhine-Ruhr region of Germany, and the main barrier to UK use is availability of suitable hydrogen infrastructure. Alstom says a small order for new trains would likely be built outside the UK, but if the company receives a large order (such as for London Underground’s Deep Tube Upgrade or for HS2) it would manufacture such a fleet at its new Widnes facility. Due to open this summer, this will initially consist of a purpose-built modernisation facility alongside a training academy, but with potential to expand for full manufacture.