Avanti West Coast’s first refurbished Class 390 Pendolino EMU, No 390125, entered traffic on 25 April, working the 05.05 Manchester Piccadilly-London Euston.
The £117 million programme to upgrade the 56-strong fleet is being financed by Angel Trains. The first Class 390 entered Pendolino service on the West Coast main line in 2002, and the programme is expected to take until February 2024 to complete. Work is being undertaken by Alstom at its Widnes site. The majority of the work has been awarded to UK suppliers, supporting small and medium enterprises, the value of UK content in the project being 80%.
The 35 11-car sets are being refurbished first, with three completed so far. On these, Coach G is being converted from First Class to standard, meaning all sets (whether formed of nine or 11 carriages) will have three carriages for First or Standard Premium accommodation. The balance between these is determined by usage of each train and varies from all First Class to only a small number of First Class seats in Coach K, the driving vehicle, the remainder being Standard Premium.
New seats have been installed in Standard Class, to the same design by Transcal as fitted on sister company Lumo’s Class 803s. The aim has been to improve the seat pitch, with a more reclined base, and having a thinner seat means legroom has improved. All seats have access to both plug and USB sockets; previously these were only provided at tables in Standard Class. All tables in both classes also offer wireless charging, and the tables are new.
New LED lighting has been installed, and an ambient light sensor adjusts the intensity of lighting dependent on the external environment. Another new feature is seat occupancy sensors, which will be able to determine whether a person is sat on a seat rather than someone’s bag or personal belongings. When this system goes live later this year, the overhead displays will show coloured lights to indicate seat availability, with this information also relayed via screens at stations. On-board there are new LCD information screens which can display bespoke messages.
The Standard Class shop has been completely remodelled to create a new café-bar, located in Coach C. The previous design, with fridges on either side of a central walkway, is replaced with a more open and airy design which makes it easier for the on-board team to engage with passengers and makes more windows available. A water dispenser is provided at the café-bar, helping towards Avanti’s aim of reducing plastic waste; the operator has also moved away from serving water in plastic bottles in First Class.
In First Class the original seats are retained but have been refurbished. Antimacassars can be applied magnetically to headrests to denote Standard Premium seating. Ady Crymble, General Manager for Avanti, reports that uptake of the new Standard Premium class, which launched last year, is exceeding expectations. New features include privacy screens between seat bays and new fridges in the saloons for use by on-board crew.
The refurbishment process first involves a technology upgrade at Oxley depot, paving the way for some of the new on-board features. Sets then move to Widnes for the main refurbishment work. Avanti is also trialling a new passenger counting system on four sets (two nine-cars and two 11-cars) which could be adopted fleet-wide if deemed a success.
Refurbishment of the first set experienced some delays, in particular due to supply chain issues. This included delays in delivery of the new LCD screens, which are being fitted at Longsight depot in Manchester rather than at Widnes. With three sets now completed (although only the first in service so far), sets four and five are at Widnes undergoing refurbishment. The aim is to step up to completing a set every two weeks, with completion of the full fleet in February 2024.