Friday, August 17, 2007

HST2 Given Green Light

The Department for Transport today announced a shortlist of manufacturers for the new Intercity Express Programme, formerly called HST2. It's a badly needed, part-government-funded exercise bringing together all the intercity Train Operating Companies to buy the same train, thereby reducing the costs for all involved whilst at the same time standardising the network. This isn't just for the passenger's benefit - it will also help the staff and the railway infrastructure if there's only one intercity train type operating throughout the country.

They have also announced the new train will be a "hybrid" - instead of having one type powered by the overhead electric wires and a completely different engine using diesel, the trains will be able to use both. This presents an engineering challenge, but it also shows some good thinking. Where overheads exist then the train can take power from them (and possibly give power back if they're designed like the pendolinos), but you'll not need to change train if there are no overheads for the remainder of your journey eg King's Cross to Aberdeen.

With a bit of luck the winning manufacturers will come up with the best train possible without sparing the expense, which can finally be a new train to be proud of. We'll get a first look at the proposals next summer.

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