ScotRail unveils new ‘bullet train inspired’ fleet

The first of ScotRail's new Class 385 electric trains at its Shields Road depot in Glasgow today. Picture: SNS

The first of ScotRail's new Class 385 electric trains at its Shields Road depot in Glasgow today. Picture: SNS

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It is hailed as being inspired by Japan’s Shinkansen “bullet” train – but ScotRail’s new fleet will be the first in a generation without teething troubles if it proves that reliable.

The first Hitachi Class 385 electric train has been unveiled, nine months before making its passenger debut to help the train operator ease acute overcrowding on parts of the network.

Shinkansen bullet trains  in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Shinkansen bullet trains in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

It will start being tested in Scotland before Christmas prior to carrying passengers on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line from September.

The introduction of the 70-strong fleet over the ­following two years will free up existing trains to provide more seats on other routes.

Hitachi said the model had been inspired by its Shinkansen “bullet” train, using the same technology to mould a thin and light but strong aluminium body shell.

Other features include more comfortable seats, larger tables and power sockets.

ScotRail has also promised more luggage space, improved toilets and “enhanced” wi-fi.

The trains should provide a smoother ride and can accelerate faster than ScotRail’s current diesel trains.

However, the fastest journeys on Scotland’s busiest route won’t be cut by ten minutes to 42 minutes until December 2018.

The trains will operate as three and four carriage sets with interlinked corridors compared to the present three and six carriage trains.

The busiest services will be lengthened to seven carriages in December 2017 and eight carriages in December 2018 after platforms at Queen Street Station in Glasgow have been extended. The first train will be checked at a ScotRail depot in Glasgow before being tested overnight on the ­Glasgow-Gourock line within two weeks.

The driver’s cab has been fitted but the interior, including seats, has yet to be installed.

ScotRail managing director Phil Verster said he was confident the trains would work “out of the box”.

He said: “This is based on working with Hitachi. We have bought into a supplier, not a product, which was a big consideration.”

ScotRail’s last three new fleets all proved initially unreliable. In 2000, its Class 170 ­diesels, which operate the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line, suffered frequent breakdowns, and problems also dogged its Class 334 electric trains.

In 2010, technical problems with the Class 380 electric fleet forced cuts to services on the new Edinburgh-Glasgow line via Bathgate.

The latest fleet will start by taking over the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line from Class 380s, which will provide the first electric services when line upgrading is completed – seven months late – in July.

The Class 385s will then operate on the Edinburgh to North Berwick/Dunbar lines in December 2017; Glasgow-Falkirk Grahamston, Glasgow-Cathcart Circle/Newton/Neilston and Glasgow-Edinburgh via Carstairs in May 2018; Edinburgh and Glasgow-Dunblane and Glasgow-Alloa in December 2018, and Glasgow-Edinburgh via Shotts in May 2019.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf, who viewed the train yesterday, said extensive testing should remove all “niggles and kinks”.

He said its arrival was a “tangible sign to passengers of the very real efforts we are making to improve capacity and comfort”.

He added: “I have no doubt that once these carriages go into service, the extra space and seats will transform the experience of users.”

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