Great Western Hitachi train

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has granted approval to First Great Western (FGW) to introduce a new fleet of 29 high-speed trains built by Hitachi Rail Europe for the new franchise.

Eversholt Rail has also signed a separate contract with FGW to procure and finance 173 new AT300 vehicles worth £361m.

The new fleet of Hitachi AT300 trains will primarily be operated from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, replacing the 40-year-old trains currently serving this intercity route.

"This new fleet will be a revolution in customer experience for those travelling to and from the south-west."

The fleet, which will include 22 five-car and seven nine-car bi-mode trains, is scheduled to enter service by December 2018.

The mixed fleet will allow for flexible use, including ten-car formations with two five-cars coupled together, for through-services to and from the capital.

The new trains are also expected to reduce journey times from London to Exeter by up to 5min, to Plymouth by up to 6min, and to Penzance by up to 14min.

Hitachi Rail Europe managing director Karen Boswell said: "This new fleet will be a revolution in customer experience for those travelling to and from the south-west, and we look forward to delivering these Hitachi trains for use from 2018 onwards."

First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood said: "These trains will help us deliver faster, more frequent services into the South West, each providing a 14% increase in seats across the routes once they are all in service."

The new fleet of AT300 trains will be similar to the Class 800 bi-mode trains designed for the DfT’s Intercity Express Programme (IEP), but will use higher engine operating power to cope with the gradients in Devon and Cornwall.

These trains will run as electric trains between London and Newbury, and are equipped with bigger fuel tanks to cater for the long distance journeys to Plymouth and Penzance.

Image: New high-speed trains confirmed for south-west UK. Photo: courtesy of Hitachi Rail Europe.