Effective partnership working, led by Nigel Blackler of Cornwall Council with local MPs, the Department for Transport and FGW enabled last week’s agreement which will see Intercity trains introduced on the Penzance to Paddington service, that will result in more seats, improvements in reliability and journey times.
The new trains will replace the 40-year-old High Speed Trains (HSTs) currently used on this service and will be made up of 7 nine-car and 22 five-car units. The five-car units can be coupled together to provide ten car trains.
They will all be bi-modes, able to run as electric trains under the wires as far as Newbury and then on diesel power to Cornwall, and will mean a 24% increase in seats for customers once they are all in service in 2018, creating more than 1,000 additional seats at peak times across the route every day.
As bi-modes, they are future proofed against any further extension of electrification to the South West, as they can operate in electric mode as far as the limit of the electrified network.
They are similar to the new Super Express Trains that will run to Bristol and South Wales, but have been specially modified for Devon and Cornwall and will utilise higher engine operating power to cope with the track gradients and will have larger fuel tanks to operate the longer distances on diesel power through to Penzance.
This and the use of automatic sliding doors, rather than slam doors, will help speed up typical journey times between Penzance and London up to 14 minutes.
This announcement fits well with other planned enhancements, including the upgraded sleeper service and mainline signalling that enables increased frequency to two trains each hour on local train services on the Cornish mainline.