THIS month sees the start of a new era for HSTs. The rail icon has already notched up more than 40 years of front line service, providing Intercity comfort to nearly all corners of the country within that time, and is still the train of choice for non-electrified routes today.
Now that role is changing as more Hitachi-built IETs enter service on both the Great Western and (soon) the East Coast Main Lines. But that does not mean the end of the road for the 1970s design classic. Partly because there is a shortage of diesel units, partly because electrification schemes have been cut back (see page 9) and partly because there is life in the power cars and Mk.3s yet – a number of sets are being repurposed in shortened form for use by both Great Western Railway and ScotRail on regional duties.
The first of these has now entered service with GWR in Devon and Cornwall, and the initial impressions are favourable. The 2+4 Standard Class formation should provide a step-up in both performance and comfort compared to the DMUs they will replace – in fact the biggest problem so far seems to be how to get all that power down without slipping!
There is a question mark hanging over what will happen to full-length HSTs on the Midland Main Line, where diesel traction will be needed into the next decade (see page 17). But with electrification to the likes of Penzance, Aberdeen and Inverness not even on the remotest horizon yet, and the newly-modified Mk.3s now compliant with the disabled passenger legislation due to come into force in 2020, this means we can still look forward to seeing HSTs in service for years to come – and hopefully be able to celebrate their 50 years of use in 2026.