Pendolino and IEP capacity
[Richard Branson, 18 March 2016]
We’ll be adding 65 Virgin Azuma trains to our fleet from 2018, providing an extra 12,200 seats to services on a new and improved timetable. What’s more, the Azumas have the potential to reach speeds of(subject to Network Rail delivering on the track), meaning our passengers will get to their destinations much quicker.
However, the costs and benefits of increasing East Coast linespeed to 225 km/h remain unclear. The works required might include track and overhead line alterations, new signalling, and level crossing closures. Network Rail has decided not to go ahead with a “single programme of level crossing closures” on the route between Doncaster and London.
The future use of the non-tilting IEP trains for the East Coast franchise was imposed by the Department for Transport. Whatever the shortcomings of the design, the IEP does at least demonstrate the capacity achievable with longer carriages. For example, a 234-metre nine-car Azuma has more seats (~627) than a 265-metre eleven-car Pendolino (589).
A ten-car (260-metre) IEP would seat around 715 passengers, so if such units were used on the West Coast Main Line, there could be a capacity uplift of 20%, without needing to lengthen any platforms or run more trains.
On the London Euston — Manchester Piccadilly run, a 12-car IEP (312 metres) could provide up to 900 seats, but would require new or lengthened platforms at the small number of stations used by the service. The cost would be a tiny fraction of the sum required for building HS2.