Tilting train makes return trip to Britain

Tilting trains are set to make a comeback on the British rail network as the company which runs the East Coast Main Line is set to order two sets for a high speed service between London and Edinburgh.

Tilting trains were to have been introduced in Britain a decade ago but the prototype Advanced Passenger Train was consigned to York Railway Museum after a disastrous few weeks in service when it suffered continual breakdown and passengers had a very uncomfortable ride.

Despite the British experience, tilting trains have now become an established part of the Swedish and Italian railways as they allow high speed trains to travel on conventional tracks with relatively sharp bends. The newest generation of trains use electronic equipment originally designed to allow tanks travelling on rough terrain to keep their gun barrels permanently aimed at a target.

Sea Containers, which took over the line six months ago, says it needs new trains because of growth in the number of passengers. It has approached the manufacturers of the two successful tilt trains currently in use in Europe, Adtranz which makes the tilting Swedish X2000 trains and Fiat which manufactures the Pendolino trains used in Italy, with the intention of placing orders "in the near future" for two train sets.

The chairman of Sea Containers, James Sherwood, said: "We are planning to order two train sets very soon. We want to bring the travel time between Edinburgh and London down to three and a half hours, from just under four hours. We are starting a schedule next year of three hours 59 minutes but we don't think we can do any faster with the existing rolling stock." Trains would stop once, probably at Newcastle. This would make the line much more competitive with airlines.

The two tilting trains would be used as the peak hour morning train, probably the 8am in each direction, and return in the peak hour in the evening. The trains could be introduced on the east coast within three years. While Railtrack is examining the possibility of using tilting trains on the West Coast Main Line, that requires a complete refurbishment of the line.

Sea Containers is confident that it is possible to schedule the train, but between Peterborough and London there is a problem over line capacity and Sea Containers hopes that Railtrack can be persuaded to add more passing loops on that section.

Roger Ford, technical editor of Modern Railways, said that the existing rolling stock on the East Coast Main Line was built to enable it to be used on tilting trains: "They would have to change the bogeys but that is a relatively small cost."

However, he is sceptical that tilting trains are viable without massive investment in signalling. While the existing trains can cruise at 140mph and reached 154mph in a test last June, changes to the signalling system would be needed to allow the trains to run regularly above 125mph. Mr Ford said: "Even if it went for 140mph for long periods of the journey, it would only shave a quarter of an hour or so off the overall journey time. It would need to run at 160mph to bring the journey down by half an hour."

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