It was in early February 2009 when the department for Transport announced that a consortium led by Hitachi would be the preferred bidder to procure the trains that would eventually replace the ailing Intercity 125 fleet. However, production hit a number of early snags that prevented the final decision on awarding the contract (which was eventually won by a consortium calling itself Agility Trains) from being decided.
First, there were plans to electrify part of the rail network, and the decision to award the contract was to be delayed until this work had been completed. It took about one year for the electrification process work to complete, but still the award decision was delayed further as the United Kingdom had a general election looming in the next four months, and the Department of Transport (under a Labour Party controlled government) may not even be in power after May 2010.
After the general election, there had indeed been a change of government. The Labour Party was beaten into second place by The Conservative Party, who still did not hold enough seats to form a government on its own. The Tory Party, led by David Cameron, asked the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, to merge into a coalition government and run the country until the next general election in May 2015. This coalition then formed - but still the decision to get the program up and running was being thwarted by delays!
An independent report was being compiled which was looking into whether the program was offering “value for money”. The Prime Minister David Cameron, leading the coalition, decided Britain would enter into an austerity drive and cut costs from just about every sector and public spending was about to take a big hit.
The report came out in the summer of 2010 but there was still intransigence from the coalition government to get the project moving. A decision was to be made as to whether the Great Western Main Line should be electrified, and this decision was not expected to be made until November 2010.
Eventually the decision to go ahead with the electrification was made in March 2011 to proceed with the program and procure the trains.
It took another 16 months (while the electrification of the Great Western Main Line was taking place) before the coalition government’s Department for Transport announced the order for the trains would go ahead.
Finally, in the month of July 2012 a £4.5 billion order for nearly 600 carriages for use on the East Coast and Great Western main lines was formally announced. Financial support for the program was approved for the first phase of the program (that being the trains to run on the Great Western Main Line). Financial approval for the second phase was promised at the time to go ahead within one year.
However, one year on and in the summer of 2013, closure on the second phase was delayed. There was an option of £1.2 billion to be approved to build 30 x 9-car train sets to replace the Intercity 225 fleet on the East Coast Main Line, but it took right until April 2014 before this financial closure was actually given the green light.
As the program now moves forward into the latter part of 2015, the trains are being built at the Newton Aycliffe plant. The Great Western Main Line should get its trains delivered sometime in 2017, and the East Coast Main Line should see the service operating on its network during 2018.
For latest developments see the IEP news page, or visit other pages here on IEPTrain.uk for routes or tickets.