40-year-old train destined for ScotRail catches fire

The train ablaze in Exeter. Picture: Devon Live
The train ablaze in Exeter. Picture: Devon Live
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A 40-year-old train from a fleet due to operate ScotRail inter-city services from next year has caught fire hours before the operator showed off the first train.

The empty Great Western Railway (GWR) " InterCity 125 High Speed Train" went up in flames at Exeter in Devon around 5am.

How the trains will look in the temporary ScotRail livery. Picture: MullySoft

How the trains will look in the temporary ScotRail livery. Picture: MullySoft

It is among a 26-strong fleet scheduled to be transferred to ScotRail to operate between Edinburgh/Glasgow and Aberdeen/Inverness, starting next May.

The fire broke out five hours before ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes unveiled a new livery on the first of the fleet at Aberdeen Station.

It arrived in Scotland from GWR last week and has been repainted with the temporary slogans "A New Era" and "We're building the best railway Scotland's ever had".

Similar trains are also being replaced by Virgin Trains East Coast on routes ScotRail's fleet will run on, such as Aberdeen and Inverness to London.

Virgin is introducing Japanese-designed Azuma trains instead, which use bullet train technology.

But despite their age, ScotRail's new trains have a good reputation within the rail industry, and are expected to run until 2030.

BACKGROUND: Roomier trains to make inter-city travel more comfortable unveiled by new ScotRail operator Abellio: http://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/cheaper-advance-fares-among-abellio-scotrail-plans-1-3567137
A GWR spokesman said: “We are currently investigating the cause of a fire in one of our train engines at our Exeter maintenance depot.

"As the train was out of service at the time, no customers or staff were affected.

"This caused delays of around 20 minutes to some of our services on Thursday morning."

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: "Fire control received a call stating an empty passenger carriage was on fire.

"Five pumps from in and around the Exeter area were mobilised, plus several specialist supporting vehicles and several officers.

"Upon arrival, this was found to be a fire in the engine compartment of a parked up train.

"Crews used two breathing apparatus, two compressed air foam jets and one thermal image camera to extinguish."

Mr Hynes was due to be joined by Bill Reeve, rail franchise director of the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency to show off the first train.

It will be used for driver training over the next few months, but has still to be refurbished before entering passenger service.

The fleet's £50 million upgrading programme is due to continue until all the trains are in service in May 2019.

ScotRail said the trains will provide one third more seats on the routes, more luggage space, power sockets and better catering.

Mr Hynes said: “The arrival of the first high-speed train in Aberdeen is an exciting milestone in our plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.

"Our refurbished high-speed trains will connect Scotland’s seven cities, offering better connections for commuters, business travellers and an opportunity for tourists to get out and about across this great country.

“The investment we are making in high-speed trains is a clear sign of the ScotRail Alliance’s commitment to building a world class railway for the whole of Scotland.”

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “It is great to see this train arrive in Scotland for driver training, an important step towards delivery.

"Next year sees the start of a transformed inter-city service.

“When the 26 fully-upgraded trains roll out across the country, I know they will be popular with passengers."

Malcolm Brown, chief executive of Angel Trains, which will lease the fleet to ScotRail, said the trains would undergo "interior and technical improvements prior to entering into passenger service to ensure that it can meet the requirements of modern intercity travellers."

Nigel Harris, managing editor of RAIL magazine, said: "Don't be fooled by all this 'old train' nonsense.

"The HSTs are great trains as they stand right now.

"Once they have been refurbished, they will be 'as new' and offer some of the best quality long-distance travel in the UK.

"They will play a key role in giving Scotland not only the railway it deserves but the best railway it's ever had.

"If passengers don't love them I'll eat my hat."