Was the Pendolino worth it?

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Philip Phlopp

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They appear to be extremely reliable, even in the worst weather, quick and ride well. The Docker crash proved they’re safe as well. Hard to see how they could have been any better really, other than maybe all of them being 12 cars. Hard to believe they were only 8 cars at first!

That's the English Electric DNA - the traction package was designed in Preston.
 
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Statto

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They've helped speeding up journey times on the WCML, Manchester-London for example, loco hauled was i think around 2 hours 30 minutes, now it's around 2 hours with 2tph now 3tph, Liverpool-London loco hauled was 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours, now 2 hours 15 minutes[one journey each way around 2 hours]

I dislike the interior of the Pendos though, there really in need of a refurb, the interior needs brightening up, with new seats.
 

bramling

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If “worth it” is taken to mean massive passenger uplift in the route over which deployed, smashing the airline competition to Manchester, and making British rail travel “sexy” once more, then the answer is yes.

Not disputing the point, however could the same have been achieved with a fleet of 110mph-capable class 444 clones?
 

Jozhua

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Credit where its due, to fly off the track at 95mph and land in a nearby field almost completely intact is a feat in itself. The emergency lighting remained on in every single carriage.

All but one of the passengers survived, which is super impressive, especially when you consider that trains don't have seatbelts or airbags and some would have been walking around. And it was travelling 25mph faster than anything legally can on the roads.

So I guess this brings us to the much maligned interior, with its lack of space and poor window alignment. Whilst I'm sure safety and design standards have improved to allow for lighter, more spacious interiors whilst keeping standards up, the train as a whole from structure to interior did a good job in reducing passenger injuries.

And on top of that, modern trains have "Ironing Board" seats, so...

I don't know much about what came before, but by the sounds of things they have been positive. I was certainly captivated by them as a kid, especially the tilting.

Even the Voyagers back in the day impressed my family on a trip to Edinburgh, felt very premium and airline like, even in standard class.

While obviously that's looking at things in a rose tinted way, the condition and perception of the trains shouldn't be overlooked. TPE's Novas feel like a proper intercity experience, even if a Manchester - Leeds trip isn't any faster. (Although on Electric they definitely shift!)

While rusty old MK3's and Mk3 based MUs may satisfy those who have no choice or us enthusiasts (I'm both lol), if we are serious about reducing car traffic and air travel by moving people onto public transport, projects like the 390 are important parts of that.
 

Non Multi

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Anyone know why the GNER/Sea Containers plan for 2x 11 car (with a further option for 6 more) Pendolino failed to materialize?
 

Ianno87

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We'll never know, of course.

I don't know what the time penalties would have been for 110mph stock versus what we ended up with - but I'm sure that Virgin's "brand" would have made anything look pretty flashy when it was replacing Class 86/87s (on a railway that struggled to run five days a week) - passenger numbers have certainly rocketed (given that we used to only have one train per hour from London to Manchester, two fast trains per hour from London to Birmingham and Glasgow was a much more irregular/"tidal" market than it is today) - but how much of the increase in passenger numbers would we have had for a flashy Virgin-branded reliable seven-days-a-week railway with improved frequencies and longer trains without those additional fifteen miles per hour of top speed?

Very crudely, it's 3 seconds per mile benefit for 125 vs 110.

From Euston to Crewe, that's about 7.5 minutes difference or so attribitable to 125 running. So about 15 minutes on a typical Euston-North West round trip. On a Manchester circuit, that pretty much saves a diagram on a 20 minute interval service.

The remainder of the journey time benefit comes by:
-Taking out low speed areas, such as the previous 75mph through Rugby
-Timetabling of genuinely fast trains with few stops more consistently
-Removal of pathing time associated with previous bottlenecks such as Rugby and Nuneaton
-Probably some genuinely slicker timetabling of areas like the Coventry corridor to get more out of very little.
 

RailWonderer

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Hard to believe they were only 8 cars at first!
And 4 of 8 coaches were first class! You can imagine the overcrowding (although I’m not sure how often they were declassifying first at the time, I had rarely been on them back then).

To answer the OP it was worth it because the sets were an exotic new type of train and the UKs first intercity EMU (or Multiple Unit full stop) and a revolution to the 91 and Mk4 from 10 years before. It’s reignited some enthusiasm in public infrastructure what with the faster journey times boosted from 110 to 125 and the tilting and Virgin marketing. It coincided with the then Labour party’s punishing of the motorist to encouragement public transport so people flocked to them for journeys where they would have driven before.

They could even be delimited to 140mph easily, since they are geared for it and have the ability for in cab signalling already but since HS2 gained popularity in government we won’t see it happen (and some track problems preventing it in all but a few sections).

Alston had orders until 2009 for 4 more sets and extensions to 11 car for many of them and with a long term maintenance contract it sure was worth it for them.

No one lost out, it was the most innovative, progressive project and the best thing to happen to UK railways in terms of IC travel since the HST.

Even the 800s arguably aren’t as big an event but that is down to marketing, they are being rolled out without branding or marketable infrastructure updates with them. Line speed (‘we’re making trains go faster!’) journey time or frequency increase or buzz around them is almost nil. Branson tried when he hailed the Azuma at Kings Cross a few years back - and no other ToC is using that branding now.
 

Chester1

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The only two classes that are known by name to millions of Brits are Pendolinos and Pacers, for very different reasons. For a train type to become known by name to the general public for positive reasons automatically makes it successful.

If they had chosen loco hauled there would be no 11 coach sets. Tilting has become less important due to increased acceleration but was a good idea at the time.
 

DarloRich

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Has the extra 15mph and Tilt been worth it? Would a new build of 91s and Mk4s done the job?


this is a very odd question with no context. To whom are you asking was it "worth it" and how are you measuring "worth"? The second part of your question is pointless.

Anyway; the sensible answer, on almost every metric that matters to real people, is a resounding yes.
 
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In answer to the original question 'Yes'.

And only tilt could have cut Glasgow - London times so much.

The only limitation (apart from the notorious seat position) is that, by today's standards, they are not that nippy. The IEP-clones now ordered to replace Voyagers may well offer better start-to-stop timings between Euston and Rugby because the C390s are really designed for long cruises at 125mph or higher.
 

CW2

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The whole "Is tilt worth it" question is worth a much bigger debate than can comfortably fit in this forum.

Perhaps a useful question might be "How would the West Coast Main Line have been modernised differently if the new trains were non-tilting?" When considering tilting trains, people tend to look at the benefits of tilt (i.e. faster speeds around tight bends) but ignore the disbenefits (weight penalty of about 5 tonnes per vehicle = higher energy consumption / slower acceleration).
So if somebody had come up with a 125mph non-tilting EMU for the WCML, then the infrastructure upgrade would have been configured differently. Journey times London to Glasgow probably wouldn't have matched the class 390 times achieved, but then that is the lightest-loaded section of the route. Conversely I think a non-tilting 125mph train (with matching infrastructure) could have matched the class 390 journey times from London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.

The Pendolinos were truly transformative on the WCML. They are not my favourite vehicles, but you have to admire and acknowledge the job they have done.
 

Domh245

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No - the Mk4s had a 'tilt profile' but at no point were they fitted with tilt bogies that would have allowed tilt. 91s were never designed for tilt that I'm aware of.
 

jfowkes

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Am I correct that the 91‘s could tilt, but it was “switched off”??

No, the 91s were designed primarily for the ECML, where tilt wouldn't be a benefit. As I understand it the 91s inherited a lot from the ATP project in terms of engineering and design, but not tilt.
 

Western Lord

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I suspect that tilting trains will eventually pass into history filed in the same category as swing-wing aircraft. A good idea at the time but we have subsequently found other, better and or cheaper ways of achieving much the same result with less weight and complication.
 

DannyMich2018

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It must be remembered that although the acceleration, power doors and 125mph top speed of the Pendo's has helped regarding journey times the fact that there are fewer stops such as Liverpool services mostly running non-stop south of Stafford (instead of calling at Nuneaton and one of either Milton Keynes,Rugby/Watford Jct, Glasgow services also non-stop south of Warrington) so removing calls can save time regarding whatever trains are used, some trains more so less than others. Also the 125mph stretches are mostly on the Euston-Crewe-Preston stretch with little or no 125mph running Rugby-Birmingham, Stoke-Manchester, Weaver Jct-Liverpool and north of Preston.
 

janahan

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Having lived most of my childhood and young adulthood about 500 metres away from the WCML at Harrow and Wealdstone, the very first thing i noticed was the quietness of the Pendos over the previous Loco Hauled, Mark 2/ Mark 3. Even with the windows shut, it often woke me up in the evenings, despite mainly large buildings between our house and the railway, and the fact my bedroom window was facing away from the railway. The pendos were almost silent comparitively. When they had finally replaced the old stock, the only vehicles that i was able to noticably hear were the Sleepers, and the Frieghts.

Not a lot of people take into account sound pollution.

Only been on one once, and it was a smooth ride.
 

HamworthyGoods

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Yes that rings a bell, after that fell through I'm sure there was an option for some 225s for the WCML. Can't remember anymore sadly.

It was 11 x 225 sets (and one transferred from the ECML) to replace the Longsight mk3s was Intercity’s plan. The Longsight mk3s were then cascaded to replace the Oxley mk2f sets with Polmadie’s mk3 sets unchanged.

It was pitched against NSE’s bid for 41 Express Networker sets, 25 for Great Northern and 16 for South Eastern. The reason behind the 25 for Great Northern was that would allow 25 Class 317s to cascade to LT&S which was enough stock to run the entire off-peak and weekend services and would allow DOO to be introduced outside the peaks bringing a huge cost staving in displacing guards (shows how “peaky” in terms of volume the route is).

BR was all about cost saving at this time and DOO was a very popular way of introducing this and being able to bring DOO to a high percentage of LT&S services was one of the factors which swayed the decision to NSE.
 

Bald Rick

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Conversely I think a non-tilting 125mph train (with matching infrastructure) could have matched the class 390 journey times from London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.

You might think that, but the modelling done in 1996 was conclusive that a non-tilting 125mph train would not match the timings of the 390. It’s all very well to say ‘matching infrastrucutre’, but that would mean, amongst other things, straightening out significant curves at Bushey, Berko, Linslade (in a tunnel), Wolverton, Banbury Lane, Weedon, Rugby North, Brinklow, Atherstone, Armitage, Colwich - Stafford, Colwich - Stone, Norton Bridge, Stableford, Macclesfield, Payton, etc etc. Most of not all of which would have meant landtake and disruption. It would also mean many, many more alignment and geometry changes elsewhere within the existing railway footprint, which aside from the expense would also compromise geometry for slower trains thus causing higher rates of rail wear and track degradation.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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It must be remembered that although the acceleration, power doors and 125mph top speed of the Pendo's has helped regarding journey times the fact that there are fewer stops such as Liverpool services mostly running non-stop south of Stafford (instead of calling at Nuneaton and one of either Milton Keynes,Rugby/Watford Jct, Glasgow services also non-stop south of Warrington) so removing calls can save time regarding whatever trains are used, some trains more so less than others. Also the 125mph stretches are mostly on the Euston-Crewe-Preston stretch with little or no 125mph running Rugby-Birmingham, Stoke-Manchester, Weaver Jct-Liverpool and north of Preston.

Plenty of 125 EPS north of Preston (but not over the high fells or north of Carstairs) - the upper Clyde valley shows tilt at its best.
There isn't any tilt, oddly, for 15 miles between Acton Grange (south of Warrington) and north of Wigan, despite the sharp curves at Dallam, Winwick and Golborne at 80/90.

Most tilting trains worldwide run on lower speed winding routes, with very little sustained fast running.
People tend to forget the capability of lifting lower speed limits on winding routes, as in Switzerland particularly (their ICN uses the same tilt technology as the 390).
 

CW2

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You might think that, but the modelling done in 1996 was conclusive that a non-tilting 125mph train would not match the timings of the 390. It’s all very well to say ‘matching infrastrucutre’, but that would mean, amongst other things, straightening out significant curves at Bushey, Berko, Linslade (in a tunnel), Wolverton, Banbury Lane, Weedon, Rugby North, Brinklow, Atherstone, Armitage, Colwich - Stafford, Colwich - Stone, Norton Bridge, Stableford, Macclesfield, Payton, etc etc. Most of not all of which would have meant landtake and disruption. It would also mean many, many more alignment and geometry changes elsewhere within the existing railway footprint, which aside from the expense would also compromise geometry for slower trains thus causing higher rates of rail wear and track degradation.
Remember that the West Coast Route Modernisation took place with the Pendolino already in place, so the infrastructure was designed to fit the 390 (and to a lesser extent the 221). So if the starting point had been different, i.e. a non-tilting 125mph lightweight train, then the infrastructure would also have been designed differently. I'm not saying that you could achieve 125 mph with a non-tilting train in all locations, but with a lighter train you could accelerate faster from the remaining slacks. The overall result would have been much closer than you suggest.
Having said that, the passenger experience would be less comfortable than with tilt.
 

edwin_m

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Credit where its due, to fly off the track at 95mph and land in a nearby field almost completely intact is a feat in itself. The emergency lighting remained on in every single carriage.

All but one of the passengers survived, which is super impressive, especially when you consider that trains don't have seatbelts or airbags and some would have been walking around. And it was travelling 25mph faster than anything legally can on the roads.

So I guess this brings us to the much maligned interior, with its lack of space and poor window alignment. Whilst I'm sure safety and design standards have improved to allow for lighter, more spacious interiors whilst keeping standards up, the train as a whole from structure to interior did a good job in reducing passenger injuries.
I don't think you can draw those sorts of conclusions based on a single serious accident, other than noting that severe accidents are now so rare that it's difficult to draw conclusions from them.

There have been plenty of accidents where Mk3 stock has survived just as well. Basically if the train is free to come to a halt without hitting anything hard then the accident is highly survivable with any reasonably modern train design. Had it collided head-on with a 66 as at Great Heck then the story would have been very different.
You might think that, but the modelling done in 1996 was conclusive that a non-tilting 125mph train would not match the timings of the 390. It’s all very well to say ‘matching infrastrucutre’, but that would mean, amongst other things, straightening out significant curves at Bushey, Berko, Linslade (in a tunnel), Wolverton, Banbury Lane, Weedon, Rugby North, Brinklow, Atherstone, Armitage, Colwich - Stafford, Colwich - Stone, Norton Bridge, Stableford, Macclesfield, Payton, etc etc. Most of not all of which would have meant landtake and disruption. It would also mean many, many more alignment and geometry changes elsewhere within the existing railway footprint, which aside from the expense would also compromise geometry for slower trains thus causing higher rates of rail wear and track degradation.
Interesting thoughts, but I wonder how that compares with the best performance available today. Avanti ordering 80x units suggests they expect them to keep to Pendolino timings at least on the southern WCML, with the more motored axles and better power to weight ratio reducing the time penalty of each of those restrictions. The lack of tilt also gives a lower entrance height, allowing elimination of the step that unfolds before door opening on the 390 and therefore shortening dwell times. I've also read that a 110mph TPE 350 isn't far off Pendolino timings on the more curved sections further north, and would be interested to see how the 397 compares.
 

The Planner

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I don't think you can draw those sorts of conclusions based on a single serious accident, other than noting that severe accidents are now so rare that it's difficult to draw conclusions from them.

There have been plenty of accidents where Mk3 stock has survived just as well. Basically if the train is free to come to a halt without hitting anything hard then the accident is highly survivable with any reasonably modern train design. Had it collided head-on with a 66 as at Great Heck then the story would have been very different.

Interesting thoughts, but I wonder how that compares with the best performance available today. Avanti ordering 80x units suggests they expect them to keep to Pendolino timings at least on the southern WCML, with the more motored axles and better power to weight ratio reducing the time penalty of each of those restrictions. The lack of tilt also gives a lower entrance height, allowing elimination of the step that unfolds before door opening on the 390 and therefore shortening dwell times. I've also read that a 110mph TPE 350 isn't far off Pendolino timings on the more curved sections further north, and would be interested to see how the 397 compares.
Don't be so sure on that with the 800s, they will be in service around the time of a proposed re-cast so they may be made to fit. The dwells will be no shorter either I'd bet.
 

hexagon789

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Has the extra 15mph and Tilt been worth it? Would a new build of 91s and Mk4s done the job?

I think you have to look at the time savings, particularly on longer journeys such as to Glasgow. The increased frequencies, the increase if passenger numbers which ended up requiring four extra 390s and existing ones lengthened to eleven cars.

They aren't perfect but proved the design at Grayrigg and if Railtrack had delivered the originally planned 140mph running I think they would've been more "revolutionary" rather than an upgrade.

Also not just a 15mph increase in top speed, TASS and tilt has allowed the 390s to run at faster speeds in slower places as well than the old stock.
 

Bald Rick

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Remember that the West Coast Route Modernisation took place with the Pendolino already in place, so the infrastructure was designed to fit the 390 (and to a lesser extent the 221). So if the starting point had been different, i.e. a non-tilting 125mph lightweight train, then the infrastructure would also have been designed differently. I'm not saying that you could achieve 125 mph with a non-tilting train in all locations, but with a lighter train you could accelerate faster from the remaining slacks. The overall result would have been much closer than you suggest.
Having said that, the passenger experience would be less comfortable than with tilt.

I remember the WCRM very well in 1996, as I was doing it! For clarity, the modernisation back then was not designed on the back of a Pendolino. Tilt was certainly an option, but so was not tilting. Indeed one of the bidders for the franchise proposed a non tilting answer. They didn’t win.



Interesting thoughts, but I wonder how that compares with the best performance available today.

Well that’s a good question.

Who was carrying out the research in 1996?

Railtrack, with the help of consultants.
 

CW2

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It may be worth recalling that it was the disastrous deal that Railtrack did with Virgin which left them with huge financial liabilities, and ultimately brought about their downfall (even without the post-Hatfield fiasco). Railtrack had firmly bought in to the Virgin proposals, and in a fit of utter incompetence promised to deliver an upgrade that could never happen.
I may be being unduly scpetical here, but I wouldn't put too much weight on the even-handedness of any document produced by Railtrack at any time on any subject. They were not fit for purpose, as history shows.
 

mmh

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Don't be so sure on that with the 800s, they will be in service around the time of a proposed re-cast so they may be made to fit. The dwells will be no shorter either I'd bet.

I think sometimes people can read too much into the impact of the Pendolino's folding step. In practice it adds a couple of seconds to the initial door opening time, comparable to the delay on many units e.g. class 158 and some more modern ones e.g. 175s. It's only noticeable to the first user, inevitably there will be people behind still grappling with luggage and the vestibule door etc which will make its impact reduce to insignificance. If it had been thought to be a problem, it could have been designed to lower on door release - that it wasn't means it can't have been considered an issue.
 

Ianno87

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I think sometimes people can read too much into the impact of the Pendolino's folding step. In practice it adds a couple of seconds to the initial door opening time, comparable to the delay on many units e.g. class 158 and some more modern ones e.g. 175s. It's only noticeable to the first user, inevitably there will be people behind still grappling with luggage and the vestibule door etc which will make its impact reduce to insignificance. If it had been thought to be a problem, it could have been designed to lower on door release - that it wasn't means it can't have been considered an issue.

The step adds perhaps 5-10 seconds (opening and closing combined). Which is quite a high proportion of, say, a 90 second dwell times.
 
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