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Railwatch 072 - July 1997

Let the good times roll

A completely new train service - and new trains costing £32million - were announced in May by Midland Mainline.

The 100mph service backs up the existing green and orange 125 trains from London St Pancras to the Midland cities of Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

It will double the frequency of trains within two years. The aim will be to provide an "InterCity style ambience" on the two- and three-car Turbostars.

The new trains will provide a frequent stopping service for shorter journeys, allowing the existing fleet of 14 high-speed trains to offer faster services over longer distances.

It represents the biggest step forward by any of the new train operators and it will mean National Express's franchise of MML will increase from seven years to 10.

The contract was awarded to Adtranz of Derby and the trains will be similar to the new trains ordered by Chiltern for their London-Birmingham services.

But the Midland trains will have a first class section. Each train will also have toilets for the disabled, a buffet and telephone and "will probably carry cycles" but as managing director Nick Brown said: "We're still working on the bikes."

For places like Leicester, the new Turbostars will double the frequency of service (to four an hour) and for places like Bedford, a train every hour will give a reasonable northbound service, although nothing like the five trains an hour southbound service from Bedford on Thameslink.

"We are not aiming to pinch passengers from Thameslink," said Mr Brown. "We aim to expand the market."

New platforms will be built on the fast tracks at Bedford to prevent congestion in the current station.

The train service will be doubled at Market Harborough, Loughborough, Wellingborough and Kettering.

Railtrack will be spending £7million to upgrade track for 100mph running in certain sections and there will be new signalling at Leicester.

Midland and Railtrack are also hoping for "partnership" deals to pave the way for station reopenings in the future.

The 13 class 170 sliding door trains are the product of a fourway deal between MML, Railtrack, Porterbrook Leasing and Adtranz.

Adtranz will have responsibility for maintaining the German-engined trains at Derby Etches Park. It recognises that MML could refuse to accept the train for service even "if the light in the toilet is not working".

A new Australian air conditioning company has been found - "they're used to dealing with hot weather" - and there will be two units per vehicle to give a back-up should one air conditioning unit fail.

The companies are trying to devise ways of reducing noise to the level of a 125 train.

The two-car trains which have aluminium bodies and steel cabs can have an extra vehicle added if needed.

"As the largest operator in the rail industry, National Express Group is committed to developing and improving its rail service.

"It is our aim to make travel on Midland Mainline the only sensible option to London.

"We want to carry more passengers and increase our revenue. We are also committed to ever-improving levels of customer service."

He cited free tea and coffee, free Track Packs for children, on-board baby changing facilities and the 4Sight ticket as examples of the Midland's success so far.

He also promised action to improve door-to-door journeys. The Kettering-Corby bus link would be only "the beginning".

Adtranz now has a range of almost off-the-peg trains on offer, including the Turbostar, the Metrostar, and the Electrastar as well as the Eurotram and the Classic.

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