Technical & Build Specifications Of The IEP Trains

Configuration & Construction Of The Hitachi Intercity Express Trains

The IEP fleet will be comprised essentially of two types of powered vehicles – an electrified version known as the Class 800, and a diesel powered/electric hybrid labelled as the Class 801. Once the full order is completed we’ll be seeing a total of 57 IEP trains on the Great Western Main Line, and 65 on the East Coast routes – with 866 carriages available. Each trainset – whether 800 or 801 – consists of either 5 or 9 carriages, though there are ways of creating various formations up to 12 cars.

On this page we’ll take a look at the technical specifications and configuration of the trains themselves.

Hitachi constructed a new facility at Newton Ayliffe in the UK to fit out the first trains which were shipped from Japan, and to continue building until the full 122 train order is completed.

Clearly all electric trains in the Class 800/801 fleet will run on those sections of track which have been electrified, with diesel power being used as a seamless way of switching power as trains move from electrified to non-electrified tracks. Early indications are that the switchover is quiet and most travellers will not be aware of the power source running the train they’re on.

The trains have been designed so that diesel power can be removed in future if no longer needed.

Each trainset – whether 800 or 801 – consists of either 5 or 9 carriages, though there are ways of creating various formations up to 12 cars.

The Class 800 Intercity Express

The Class 800 Super Express is currently being fitted out at the depot in Newton Aycliffe, with the initial trains put together at Hitachi’s Kasado factory in Japan. The depot in the UK is a purpose built unit developed by Hitachi to roll out some 63 all electric train sets, in a mixture of carriage configurations.

The top speed of the Class 800 IEP Super Express will still be 125 mph but these electro-diesel coaches will be able to draw power from electrified overhead lines (if available) and also power under their own steam thanks to state-of-the-art underground diesel generators that function outside of the electrified network. The train spec requires that this power handover is performed at line speed, but note that not all 800 cars are hybrid anyway. 5 car trains have generators under 3 of the carriages, while 9 car trains have 5 generators.

The trains will be able to be converted to electric only operational travel by removing the diesel engines. The Class 800 Super Express fleet is expected to in service by 2017. The very first train sets to be delivered are expected to go to the Great Western Main Line (GWML). Then the Virgin Trains East Coast fleet will get its 23 train sets (including all of the 13 x 9-car sets being manufactured).

The Class 801 Intercity Express


The Class 801 Super Express models are being designed, built and ready to replace both the Intercity 125 and the Intercity 225 trains which operate on the Great Western mainline route and the East Coast Mainline network. Again, like the Class 800 Super Express, these trains are being built at the Hitachi plant in Newton Aycliffe in the far north of England.

The Class 801 Super Express trains are all-electric multiple units but have one generator under the end car to supply (last-mile) power in the event of electrical supply failure. In other words as a fallback to at least keep the train moving and get it to the next stop. The electric-diesel Class 800 units are also designed to be convertible to electric only operation by removing the under flooring engines.

The Class 801 Super Express train sets are currently in production at the giant Newton Aycliffe plant and so far there are some 63 train sets which should be ready for delivery sometime in 2017. Virgin Trains East Coast has ordered 30 of the 9-car train sets and 12 of the 5-car sets. The Great Western Mainline franchise will get 21 of the 9-car sets.

The video at the top of the page explores the Hitachi train manufacturing process, and contains some good images of the IEPs in factory conditions in Japan.




On the all electric models an on-board generator will be used to keep essential services such as lighting and airconditioing running in the event of power loss from the track electrical supply. This generator may have enough power to allow a stranded train to slowly move to a location where passengers could be allowed to disembark safely.

With virtually everyone using a Smartphone or Tablet these days, it’s critical that on board WiFi or Broadband is of the highest quality. The IEPs have Hitachi-deployed servers that interact with trackside 3G, 4G, WiMAX, and Wifi. The server technology used ensures that individual operators could in fact provide in-train entertainment if they chose.

Weight does of course have an impact on overall performance, hence the build of certain areas – such as the body itself – using aluminium. Other sections are built with lightweight composite materials.

For details of many other Hitachi innovations in train technology see their review PDF.


Engine power is supplied by Rolls-Royce engines which deliver high power, low energy consumption, and low emissions. The last named designed to meet stringent EU regulations. Rolls Royce will supply the engines with a guarantee of availability that covers the life of the Hitachi contract.

Component Manufacturers

So we know that Hitachi build the trains, but trains are made up of a number of different parts. Hitachi don’t make them all and there are various contracts in place with European based manufacturers to supply all of those other components.

There was a certain amount of consternation when the IEP contract was awarded to Hitachi, with the potential loss of thousands of jobs from the UK to Japan. But Hitachi immediately countered with plans to build the dedicated fitting depot at Newton Ayliffe, with the facility ultimately seeing its official opening ceremony in September 2015. It’s certainly impressive – as big as three football pitches and boasting its own kilometre of test track.

With the first trains being built at Hitachi’s super factory in Japan, there were fears that this depot would end up as just an assembly line operation with UK workers putting together parts all manufactured outside of the UK or Europe, but in fact Hitachi have put significant effort into sourcing local companies as suppliers for various elements of the trains.

In Hitachi’s words ”the trains will be more than 70% British”. So the shells of the first 12 are built in Japan using a special welding technique originally developed to build Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains, and shipped by sea to the UK for final build and fitting. During the initial period of Japanese build, it’s planned that workers at the UK depot will develop the skills required to manufacture the remaining 110 trains from scratch.

Let’s take a look at some of those suppliers selected who – together with Hitachi – combine to give the IEP solution a truly global feel in how it’s being built.

What’s Built Where?

Although the train cabs and carriages have been built at Hitachi’s Kosodo Works, local suppliers have been awarded contracts to supply elements such as communications systems, seating, break systems, glass fittings, and pantographs. And of course, it’s not only the IEP trains themselves that need a manufacture and supply chain – there are a number of other associated projects that are also involved:

• Mockup – DCA Designs

• GWML Electrification – Atkins and Parsons Brinckerhoff

• Testing & Commissioning – GB Railfreight

• Construction of Additional Depots – EC Harris

For the trains specifically, here’s a run down of some of the firms involved:

• Signalling Systems – ATP Signalling Solutions

• Interior Lighting – LPA

• Passenger Counting/ Driver Safety Switches – Petards

• Braking Systems – Knorr-Bremse

• Diesel Engines/Powerpacks – MTU Friedrichshafen

• Passenger Information/ Seat Reservation Systems – Televic Rail.

• Computer Servers – Nomad Digital

• TOC antennas for the trains will be provided by H&S

• Driver Safety Devices – Arrowale

• GSM-R Signalling Systems Siemens

• Couplers and Gangways – Deline

• Exterior Lighting – BMAC

• Wheelsets – Lucchini

• Fuel Tank – Johnson Security

• Exhaust System – TBC Eminox

• Carriage windows – TBC Romag

• Pantograph – Breckneil Willis

Standards Compliance

Standards is a word you’ll hear wherever services are being delivered – they deliver a framework for excellence which should ensure high quality experiences for paying Customers. Hitachi have designed the IEP to meet both the UK Railway Group Standard and the European Technical Specifications for Interoperability.

They’ll need to be regularly aware of and on top of changes in safety regulation too.


ISS – one of the world’s largest facilities management providers – has been chosen to provide cleaning services on the IEP trains until lAugust 2020. Trains will be cleaned at  Hitachi’s train maintenance centres. 

Resources – More Info

Hitachi themselves are obviously a great place to start for any detailed info on train configuration and technical details this Hitachi design PDF should be high on the reading list.


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