Avanti West Coast’s iconic tilting trains have been given a brand new lease of life in Britain’s biggest ever £117 million train upgrade. This upgrade will keep the 125mph Pendolino trains running between Euston, Watford, the Midlands, North and Scotland until the new HS2 high-speed line is ready in the 2030s.
After 20 years pacing up and down the West Coast Main Line, the first revamped train entered service this morning on the 5.05am train from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston, before a brief welcome ceremony later in the day. There are 55 other trainsets to be upgraded and when completed, they will run on all of the current Avanti West Coast routes except London to North Wales, as that route is not fully electrified yet.
The Pendolino trains have always been an innovative test-bed for Britain’s railways, being the first regular mainline fleet to all have tilting functionality regularly used in 125mph service. At points through North West London and Hertfordshire, they tilt up to eight degrees to allow them to take corners quicker.
The train has more comfortable seating, an onboard shop and real-time customer information screens that show available seating maps, onward connections and journey details. Every seat now has charging points and new carpets and lighting have also been installed. More than half of the fleet (35 trains) will have a first-class carriage converted to standard class to add 2,000 extra seats overall.
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(Image: Matthew Pover Limited / Avanti)
The upgrade works are taking place in Widnes, Cheshire, at the workshops of train manufacturer Alstom. The final 56th Pendolino train is expected to leave Widnes in 2024 meaning a mixture of refurbished and classic layout trains will be used interchangeably over the next two years. The upgrade option was chosen over buying new trains entirely (which was the case on the rival LNER East Coast Main Line) as the new High Speed 2 line will have a massive impact on the routes the Pendolino trains currently serve, which could then lead to their withdrawal.
Avanti West Coast managing director 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.”
Among the many revamps over the years, under their first operator, Virgin Trains, the Pendolino trains famously had talking toilets and whacky advertising material. One of the Pendolinos, 390119 – often nicknamed ‘Trainbow’, is covered in rainbow colours to illustrate the railway’s support for LGBT+ diversity.
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