Franchise changing hands: in early August these decals started appearing on Stagecoach-liveried East Midlands trains, reflecting the impending handover to the new Abellio operation on 18 August. This is unit No 156415 at Sheffield with a Norwich to Liverpool service on 10 August 2018. Philip Sherratt
Midland bi-mode: artist’s impression of how the Hitachi-built trains for East Midlands Railway will look.

ABELLIO HAS ordered a fleet of 33x5-car bi-mode trains from Hitachi for the new East Midlands Railway franchise, which was due to start on 18 August.

Financed by Rock Rail, the trains will start operating in 2022 on services from Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester to St Pancras. The contract for the 165 carriages is valued at £400 million. The order provides a boost for Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory, with the company saying it will announce full manufacturing details at a later date. In addition to building the trains, Hitachi will also maintain and service the fleet at Etches Park depot in Derby.

Abellio says the five-car sets will regularly be operated in 10-carriage formations. The carriages will be 24 metres in length, shorter than the 26-metre carriages found on the Class 800, 801 and 802 sets Hitachi has built for other operators. To meet the requirement for the bi-modes to match the performance of the current Class 222 Meridians in diesel mode, each train will have four generator units, compared to three on the current five-car bi-modes, which Hitachi says is part of an evolution of its Class 800/802 model. Abellio says Hitachi’s proven capability to deliver modern inter-city trains was a key factor in being awarded the contract.

On-board features will include air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, plug sockets and better passenger information screens. An improved and more consistent ‘seven day’ catering service is promised in both first and standard class. The operator also touts the environmental benefits of the new fleet, which will be powered by overhead wires where possible.

The new bi-mode fleet will take over inter-city services on the Midland main line from the current Class 222 Meridians and HSTs. A fleet of cascaded electric trains, widely expected to be Class 360s transferred from Greater Anglia, will operate services southwards from Corby into St Pancras. Cascaded and refurbished trains are also planned to operate on regional routes by December 2021, replacing the current Class 153, 156 and 158 Sprinter fleets.