The ‘new look’ for Virgin Trains’ Mk III loco-hauled trainset was unveiled at Wabtec Rail’s Doncaster Works today. The first refurbished coach, from the nine-coach train, was showcased to journalists and special train operators as Virgin Trains announced that it is also making the train available for private charter operations.
The loco-hauled train is being retained by Virgin Trains as a strategic spare, which provides an insurance policy against any major damage being sustained by a Pendolino or Super Voyager train. Additionally, the set will be used on a Fridays-only service from London to Preston at 18:46, providing relief to the extremely busy 18:30 Glasgow and 18:33 Liverpool departures.
The refresh of the trainset, which is leased by Virgin Trains from Porterbrook, is being carried out by Wabtec Rail at its works in Doncaster.
The work at Wabtec has involved gutting the vehicles, to enable new carpets, lino, and re-upholstered seating to be fitted. Improvements to safety have been made with the replacement of the internal doors. To align the customer experience to that of the Pendolino and Super Voyager trains, at-seat power points are also being installed at most seats and WiFi will also be provided. All of the glazing is being upgraded to the current standards with laminated glass being fitted. The air-conditioning equipment will also be replaced by a re-engineered module developed by Wabtec to give improved reliability..
Externally, the coaches will be finished in the current Virgin Trains silver livery and new LED-style Central Door Locking indicators will be fitted. All the running gear is also being overhauled by Wabtec..
The nine-coach train will comprise three First Class vehicles, with seating for 143; a catering vehicle, with 18 First Class seats; and five Standard vehicles with seating for 374.
The work is due to be completed at Doncaster by the 21st of July. A Class 90 electric locomotive or Class 57 diesel locomotive power will be available and the coaches will be based at Wembley depot in north London, where they will be maintained by Alstom.
Virgin Trains Chief Operating Officer Chris Gibb said: “If one of our trains is damaged and we know that repairs may take several weeks, we will be able to use the Mk III set to cover on a planned basis, so it’s our insurance policy against the unexpected happening. In the past we would have looked to hire a train from another operator, but that option no longer exists with all 110mph/125mph trains fully committed. Like any insurance policy we hope we don’t need to call on it, but it’s reassuring to know it’s there should we need it.
“We will also use the set on a regular basis to assist with heavy loadings on a Friday evening out of London.”
The Mk III set also provides Virgin Trains with the rolling stock resource to pro-actively react to known increased demand on its routes. “We will hire it out for charter work, and we may do charter work ourselves; we are considering using it to operate football and other sporting event specials for example,” said Chris Gibb.
The set will be available for hire for special trains on Virgin Trains’ routes with Virgin Trains crew and a Class 90 or Class 57 locomotive, or by charter train operators and other train operating companies with their own crews on Virgin Trains’ routes, or other routes with Class 57 or other suitable locomotives.
Notes to Editors
Virgin Trains initially explored the options of using Class 180 ‘Adelante’, trains for our strategic standby, but subsequently had a chance to continue to lease the Porterbrook owned Mk III set, which was originally committed to National Express East Coast. This is the set now at Wabtec’s Doncaster works having an overhaul. In the interim, Virgin Trains hired a DBS / Cargo D set.
In the event that a Super Voyager or Pendolino is out of traffic for a lengthy period, we will use the Mk III set on the Euston – Birmingham route on a daily basis, on services selected so it can keep time. If this happens we’ll train up more catering staff to do this, so we can maintain our advertised product. The Friday working would then be covered by a few hours of Super Voyager or Pendolino extra availability.
The vehicles being overhauled for WB64 set are:
DVT: 82126 (82101 spare).
RFM: 10212/17 (includes spare).
TSOs: 12011/78, 12133/38.