With the oldest Class 390 Pendolino vehicles now over 20 years old, the whole fleet is undergoing a comprehensive internal refurbishment. On April 28, Rail Express was invited to Alstom’s Widnes depot to see first-hand work progressing at full tilt on two units. All text/images by Mark Simmons.
AVANTI West Coast had hoped to celebrate the twentieth birthday of the Class 390 Pendolinos with a record-breaking run from London to Glasgow. Sadly, the attempt, as featured in our August 2021 issue, didn’t quite come off, though a rerun remains on the cards.
In the meantime, the West Coast Main Line train operator is putting the whole fleet through an internal refurbishment programme, while a new fleet of 23 bi-mode and electric Class 805 and 807 units are under construction at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant.
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The Class 390 refit will see most interior fittings removed and either replaced or refurbished. A total of 1372 tasks need to be completed on each set, progress monitored and checked via digital means, including tablets and computers. Around 60 people at any one time will be working on the units as they pass through the three-road depot at Widnes, where Alstom has invested £3 million in providing multi-level platforms for working the full length of trains. (The facility is also working on the reworking of Class 458 express EMUs for South Western Railway – the first units Nos. 458517 and 458507 arrived in January).
The Pendolino project will see the units given three class interiors for the first time, following AWC’s decision to offer a ‘Standard Premium’ option between Standard and First Class. The 35 11-car units will be refurbished first, followed by the 21 nine-car sets. Younger units have been selected at the start of the programme to allow the process to bed in, as older units will require more intensive floor works following the discovery of floorboard degradation.
Set No. 390125 was the first set to undergo refurbishment, with work starting under Covid conditions in July 2021. Completion was 30 weeks later, with the second set (No. 390123) emerging just 16 weeks later and the third (No. 390148) taking half that time. (These units have gone to Longsight for commissioning.) The two units at Widnes at the time of RE’s visit (Nos. 390155 and 156) are expected to pass through the facility in four weeks and two weeks respectively. A night shift was due to be implemented in early May to work towards an aspiration to ultimately process units at the rate of one per week. All units are expected to have been refurbished by 2024.
Pendolino refurb – in numbers
|Kilometres of new Axminster carpet flooring
|New tables (with integrated USB and wireless phone charging)
|New shop installations
|Passenger infotainment screens in each 11-car set
|Total project spend within the UK supply chain