Tilting trains make a return to Lancashire’s railways

The famous tilting trains that have run on the West Coast Main Line through Lancashire for years are making a return.

By Tim Gavell
Monday, 25th April 2022, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 3:20 pm

The first of the refurbished Pendolino trains returned to service with the 5.05am departure from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston on Monday.

Rail operator Avanti West Coast said they will “look and feel like new trains”, with more comfortable seats, a redesigned shop and better on-board information.

Its entire fleet of 56 Pendolinos will be refurbished as part of a £117m programme.

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The Pendolino trains will return to service with the 5.05am departure from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston

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Other changes include upgraded lighting, refurbished toilets, on board shop, power points at every seat and new carpets.

All 35 Pendolinos with 11 carriages will see one first class carriage converted to standard class to increase available seats.

Rail minister Wendy Morton said: “The iconic Pendolino is back and better than ever before. This refurbished version of the classic fleet is a fantastic example of our cutting-edge rail network and how our railways are leading the way in creating a cleaner, more environmentally friendly and modern transport system.”

New signage inside the Pendolinos

Avanti West Coast managing director Phil Whittingham said: “This investment has been one of the key promises to our customers, and they will see a dramatic transformation of our well-loved fleet.

“The refurbished Pendolinos look and feel like new trains, with state-of-the-art technology as well as brand new seats that promise best-in-class comfort.”

The refurbishment is being carried out by manufacturer Alstom at its new depot in Widnes, Cheshire.

The £117m upgrade programme was two years in the making and involved experts in technology, customer information and ergonomics.

Inside the revamped Pendolino train

The second train to be overhauled will return to service in early May.

Rolling stock asset manager Angel Trains has financed the programme, which is due to run until 2024.

UK suppliers are benefitting from 80 per cent of the investment from Angel Trains.

Malcolm Brown, CEO of Angel Trains, said: “We are delighted to see the first of our new refurbished Pendolino trains re-enter passenger service. As one of the UK’s most iconic fleets, this project demonstrates how, through sustainable methods, existing trains can be renovated to provide a top-tier passenger experience.

Avanti West Coast said the £117m scheme will make its 56 Pendolinos look and feel like new trains

"It has been a pleasure to collaborate with our industry partners to deliver a fast, comfortable, and low carbon mode of transport for passengers on the West Coast Mainline.”

Peter Broadley, managing director for services at Alstom, said: “We are delighted with the launch of the newly modernised Pendolino. Working closely with our partners at Avanti West Coast and Angel Trains, we have created something truly special for the customers travelling on the West Coast Mainline.

“Our team at Widnes have created something amazing and we are incredibly proud of the final product.

“We hope it secures the future of the Pendolinos on the West Coast for many years to come.”

The upgrade programme will run until 2024 when the last of the 56 strong fleet is expected to leave Widnes.

The tilting, electric Pendolinos transformed long-distance rail travel when they were introduced on the West Coast Main Line by then-operator Virgin Trains in July 2002.

An Avanti West Coast Pendolino

They have clocked up more than 272 million miles serving cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Widely regarded as the UK’s hardest working train fleet, the Pendolinos have served towns and cities along the West Coast Main Line for close to 20 years, clocking up more than 270 million miles – enough to go to the moon and back more than 500 times.

Avanti West Coast’s other train fleet – diesel-powered Voyagers – is being replaced by new electric and hybrid trains built by Hitachi from 2023.

And the company said the investment in the Pendolino fleet was just part of the changes taking place on the West Coast route.

It said the ground-breaking Standard Premium has already been introduced, as has at-seat ordering for customers in Standard or Standard Premium, as well as an upgraded menu and bespoke service for passengers in First.

Customer improvements include:

25,000 new, ergonomic Standard Class seats;

Conversion of one First Class carriage on each of the 35 eleven-carriage Pendolinos to provide more than 2,000 extra Standard Class seats;

The introduction of a new onboard shop;

Improved lighting and new interior carpets;

Greater use of technology with customer-friendly passenger information screens;

Additional luggage space in Standard Class;

Power points at every seat;

New carpets throughout using sustainable British wool;

Refurbished toilets and

New First and Standard Premium seats

Avanti took over the running of the inter city services in December 2019 after Virgin lost the franchise.

Its distinctive orange triangle logo symbolises the three geographic points of the 400-mile long West Coast Main Line, connecting towns and cities like Preston, Blackpool, Lancaster, Manchester, Liverpool, Crewe and Carlisle to destinations across England, North Wales and Scotland.

The company, a partnership between First Group and Trenitalia of Italy, said at the time that Avanti, Italian for “Forward! ”, reflected a mission to deliver an innovative railway service that was “ready for today and fit for the future”.

Virgin Trains, a partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Stagecoach, had run services on the West Coast line since March 1997, but were ousted after the Department For Transport rejected its bid to continue in favour of Avanti, because of a row over pensions.

The Class 390 Pendolino trains were ordered from Alstom/Fiat Ferroviaria. The ability to tilt as the went round curves at high speed was designed to make the journey more comfortable for passengers by reducing the sideways forces. The original Pendolino order was for 54 nine-car units, costing £500m and they were originally hoped to run at 140mph. However track improvements ran into difficulties and the top speed was regulated at 125mph.