Railwatch

Turbostars prepare for take-off

A new service will begin on the Midland main line next year with new trains which are already rolling out of Derby works.

It is one of the most significant developments since the railways were privatised.

The new 100 mph two-car Turbostars will be providing a back-up to the InterCity 125 trains which already provide a service from London St Pancras to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield with some trains stopping at Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Loughborough, Long Eaton, Chesterfield and Dronfield.

The 17 new air-conditioned diesel trains costing 1 million will run from St Pancras, flighted behind the IC125s but stopping at most of the intermediate stations - freeing up the IC125s to run faster with fewer stops between the major stations. Some will run non-stop to Leicester which is MML's biggest customer base.

"Midland Mainline is already a force to be recognised," said Richard Brown at the launch of the new trains in November.

"Turbostar will be the next stage in our development.

"It will be very different to the 'national disgrace' we saw at Blackpool a few weeks ago."

Each day the number of trains run by MML will increase from 66 to 137 and 10,000 more seats will be available.

Mr Brown who is chief executive of the National Express trains group which operates five rail franchises, added:"Some train operators will not have new trains until 2001. Ours will be operating next year.

"The passengers don't want to wait. They want them now."

In all, 65 new Turbostars are being built by ADtranz at Derby which is a "great breakthrough for inter-urban travel in the United Kingdom" said Mr Brown. "With these 'state of the art' trains MML can take on the M1 motorway (which runs parallel to the line) like never before. We will take on the car in a new way."

He said MML had already attracted a million new pasengers in the last two years.

"We expect a lot more when we introduce our castly improved timetable. Turbostars will change the way people travel. There will be a new golden age of railways again and both MML and the National Express Group as a whole will make it happen."

Many passengers will however find the small number of table seats and the preponderance of airline-style toast-rack seating is not a comfortable way to travel.

Mr Brown is acting managing director of MML until Railtrack's passenger liaison director Brian Burdsall takes over.

Former MML managing director Nick Brown has moved to become managing director of Central Trains, another National Express franchise.

Central Trains will also be taking delivery of even more Turbostars han MML- to boost its long-distance services which are attracting more passengers.

Central is taking 33 new Turbostars, 10 of them two-car and 10 of them three-car units.

It had ordered 13 but in August asked for an extra 20 (worth around 48 million).

MML and Central will take delivery next year with Central's extra 20 being delivered in 2000.

Central's new trains will be used on its City Hops network from Liverpool to Stansted Airport, Liverpool to Norwich, Nottingham to Cardiff and Birmingham to Aberystwyth.

At the moment, Central's train fleet has to go to Manchester or Bletchley for maintenance and repair.

So Central and Railtrack are currently building a new 3 million train depot at Soho, Birmingham.

Central also reports that its expanded services between Lincoln and Newark North Gate - which replaces the Newark rail-bus with trains - are attracting an average of over 700 extra rail passenger journeys a week in Lincoln.

The City Hops trains which connect to GNERhave also boosted journeys between Lincoln and London by 200 per week.

More than 500 extra journeys have been attracted between Lincoln and Nottingham.

"Iam delighted that the new Lincoln timetable has created a mini railway boom," said Nick Brown.

National Express has pride in its achievements. As well as MML and Central, it has Gatwick Express, ScotRail and Silverlink in its portfolio as well as a share in Eurostar. They can all chalk up solid achievements and have not attracted hostility from either press or public.
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This is the flexible space in the new Turbostar trains being shown off by Richard Brown. There are two flip-up seats so there is room for two wheelchairs and even a sleeping baby in a buggy. The adjoining toilet is suitable for both wheelchair access and baby changing. Let's hope the dot matrix display will have something meaningful to say. The displays on the ADtranz class 165s and 166s do not even match the latest Paris buses indicating the next stop.

One major drawback is that the train will not take bikes. MML is involving Raleigh of Nottingham in making its IC125s which however will be making fewer stops in future. MMLserves areas which are very popular with cycling groups and families but does not seem to realise the contribution that the train and bike combination can make to both a greener Britain and the Government's aim of integrated transport.


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