Iconic Avanti West Coast tilting trains to get £117million makeover

For the past 20 years, North West London has heard the roar of the Pendolino train. Britain’s first routinely used tilting train, the Pendolino takes its name from the Italian verb ‘pendere’ – to tilt.

The 140mph capable trains run non-stop through Queen’s Park, Wembley and Harrow on their journeys between Euston, Watford Junction, the Midlands, the North and Scotland at 125mph.

Now, halfway through their life expectancy, they are getting a complete overhaul. At £117million it will be the biggest the UK railway system has ever seen.

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Avanti West Coast, the operator of the Pendolino trains revealed today (July 22) that the first of 56 trains has just been sent to Widnes in Cheshire for the makeover.

The trains are being completely stripped back internally and externally so that 2,000 extra seats will become available, every seat will have USB ports and real time customer information screens and announcements will be introduced to make journeys easier.

The first Pendolino, 390125 (The technical name for a Pendolino is a ‘Class 390’ and their top speed in service is 125mph!), being shunted into the depot for the works to start

The move comes as concerns are being raised over Phase 2b of the HS2 rail line, which was expected to make the Pendolino trains’ lives easier by moving InterCity passengers to brand new HS2 high speed trains instead.

Last week, an government report by the Infrastructure Projects Authority concluded: “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable.”

So if the Pendolinos will continue to be the workhorses of our links to much of the country, this upgrade will be crucial in ensuring those links remain comfortable and accessible.

The full upgrade will mean

  • Replacing 25,000 Standard Class seats;
  • 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 Café Bar for customers to meet and enjoy refreshments;
  • Improved lighting and new interior carpets;
  • Greater use of technology with customer-friendly passenger information screens;
  • Additional luggage space;
  • Power points at every seat;
  • Refurbished toilets.

Avanti is also expecting new trains to be delivered to replace the Super Voyager diesel trains it currently uses alongside the Pendolinos by 2023.

Phil Whittingham, managing director for Avanti West Coast said: “This investment will take them to the next level and they’ll feel like new trains with state of the art technology and brand new seats. I can’t wait to see the reaction from our customers and people.”

All of the above work is to be carried out by Alstom, the Pendolino train manufacturer. Its Managing Director for the UK & Ireland Peter Broadley said: “Alstom is the nation’s leading train services provider and train refurbishment is a major part of our offering, so we can’t wait to get cracking on this landmark project.”

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The trains have currently racked up 272 million miles on the clock, which is around 50 times to the Moon and back. The first revamped train, 390125, should appear before the end of the year.

The Pendolinos have given Londoners much entertainment so far including a wedding, a speed record attempt thwarted by 21 seconds and a trainsurfing tabbycat.

Are you a fan of the Pendolinos? What other improvements do you think should be made to London’s trains? Let us know in the comments below!

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