UK’s ‘biggest train upgrade’ launches today with upgraded Pendolinos
Image credit: Avanti
The UK’s “biggest train upgrade” is launching today, as the first train from a newly refurbished fleet enters service.
The £117m refurbishment will initially benefit passengers travelling on Avanti’s West Coast line from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston.
The operator said they will “look and feel like new trains”, with more comfortable seats, a redesigned shop and better on-board information.
The tilting, electric powered Pendolinos, or ‘Pendos’, were originally introduced nearly two decades ago in July 2002 and could travel at faster speeds on curved tracks due to their unique design.
Customers onboard Monday’s 05:05 Manchester Piccadilly to London service were the first to travel on the upgraded Pendolino after which it made a round trip to Liverpool before coming into Euston for its launch ceremony. It will visit other destinations such as Birmingham, the Lakes, Glasgow and Edinburgh during its normal course of work.
Rail minister Wendy Morton said: “The iconic Pendolino is back and better than ever before. This refurbished version of the classic fleet is a fantastic example of our cutting-edge rail network and how our railways are leading the way in creating a cleaner, more environmentally friendly and modern transport system.”
Avanti West Coast took control of the line from Virgin Trains in 2019 after the latter’s bid was disqualified by the Department for Transport because it did not comply with the government’s terms on pension liabilities.
In addition to the trains, Avanti plans to refurbish some of its stations with new waiting rooms, better customer facilities, more car park spaces and greater accessibility for passengers with additional travel needs.
The £117m upgrade programme has been two years in the making and involved experts in technology, customer information and ergonomics.
It will see 25,000 new, ergonomic Standard Class seats, the conversion of one First Class carriage on each of the 35 eleven-carriage Pendolinos to provide more than 2,000 extra Standard Class seats, the introduction of a new onboard shop and improved lighting and new interior carpets.
Managing director of Avanti West Coast, Phil Whittingham, said: “This investment has been one of the key promises to our customers and they will see a dramatic transformation of our well-loved fleet. The refurbished Pendolinos look and feel like new trains with state-of-the-art technology as well as brand new seats that promise best-in-class comfort.”
The remaining 55 trains are to receive the same treatment, with the second set due back in service early next month. Rail manufacturer Alstom is undertaking the work at their new depot in Widnes in the North West, helping to secure 100 skilled jobs.
The upgrade programme will run until 2024 when the last of the 56 strong fleet is expected to leave Widnes.
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