A Pendolino running on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh would be faster than HS2, according to Virgin’s chief operating officer Chris Gibb.
With non-tilt HS2 trains limited to the current operating speeds of between 110 mph-125 mph once they join the classic network, Pendolinos could actually be the quicker option on longer routes says Gibb.
Alstom has already modelled the journey time between London and Edinburgh, via the ECML, for a Pendolino running at 140 mph with European Train Control and tilt activated north of Darlington and concluded that a journey time of three hours and 37 minutes is possible – one minute faster than trains using HS2.
Chris Gibb said : “If we are to see the massive investment in HS2, we need to maximise fully the benefits it will bring , and the use of tilting trains running at 140 mph on the classic lines is the way to deliver this.”
In May 2011, following contractual disagreements between Virgin and the DfT, the idea was floated of introducing a Pendolino on the ECML to help ease overcrowding.
The Italian built eleven-car tilting set, one of four additional sets, had been in the UK for some time but had nowhere to go following Virgin’s insistence that it would only take the additional trains in return for a two-year franchise extension.
The DfT was cold on this idea and instead proposed that the set could run on the East Coast as an interim measure prior to the new West Coast franchise being let. This was met with many objections from within the industry and the idea was quietly dropped.
Alstom engineers had already said that a tilting Pendolino running at 140 mph and with ERTMS signalling could slash the journey times between London and Edinburgh by 50 minutes compared to the class 91s already in service.
To date the only Pendolino to run on the ECML is 390055 which undertook a test run from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh to London in March last year.
Virgin is expected to bid for the East Coast franchise in due course.
Report by Jonathan Webb