Great Western Railway’s brand new Intercity Express Train carried passengers for the first time today [Monday 16th October], marking the start of the biggest fleet upgrade on the Great Western in almost 40 years.
Providing more seats, more frequent trains, and shorter, more comfortable journeys the Hitachi built Class 800 Intercity Express Train came into service this morning with  and  operating from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington.
The new trains have over 24% more seating capacity than the High Speed Train they replace; increased legroom and luggage space, and more tables. A new timetable will be introduced once Network Rail’s electrification programme has been completed, adding even more seats and quicker, more frequent journeys.
The new Class 800, 10-carriage train built in Britain by Hitachi is expected to cover 803 miles on its first day, with two further five carriage trains,  and  operating as a second ten carriage train. In total the two trains will cover over 1,550 miles on their first day in service, with the potential to carry over 6,500 passengers.
The trains will benefit from Network Rail’s route modernisation programme with electrification already delivered to Maidenhead; congestion-busting upgrades to the railway such as a dive under at Acton to take freight traffic off the mainline; improved stations with longer platforms and transformation of signalling, and track to help improve journeys for passengers.
GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:
“Today, we at GWR are once again making history as we launch the first new Intercity Express Train in almost 40 years – and continue our journey to revalue rail in the hearts and minds of the travelling public.
“After much hard work, I am delighted to have this first train in passenger service. Over the next year we will continue to expand the operation of these new trains, including the introduction of another fleet specific to Devon and Cornwall.
“The new trains, alongside our new Electrostar fleet for London and the Thames Valley, will bring about a step change in passenger transport – delivering more seats, and enabling us to operate more frequent and faster services.
Network Rail’s Route Managing Director Western, Mark Langman said:
“I am delighted to welcome GWR’s fantastic new trains. This is another major step forward in the biggest ever transformation on the Great Western Mainline as we deliver more trains, more seats and better journeys for communities across the route.
“It has been a real team effort as Network Rail and GWR staff worked tirelessly to get to this stage. It is an example of track and train working together for the benefit of the passenger and really does herald an exciting time for the railway.
“The hard work does not stop here as there is still much more to do all across the route. However, that means there are more exciting days to come with more services in Devon and Cornwall, electrification to Cardiff and Chippenham and the introduction of new Electrostar services between Didcot and London Paddington.”
Hitachi Rail Europe Managing Director Karen Boswell said:
“We at Hitachi Rail are really proud to have built trains in the UK, designed using Japanese bullet train technology, that are now improving passengers’ journeys on the Great Western route.
“Nine years of hard work has gone into making today happen, from creating a brand new factory and workforce to establishing modern maintenance facilities from Swansea to London.
“We delivered pioneering 21st century trains for passengers and sparked a manufacturing renaissance in the North East.”
The new trains will operate initially between South Wales and London Paddington, and between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington. As more of the trains are introduced, the new trains will extend to Taunton, and Hereford via Oxford by December, and to Cheltenham by next summer.
The trains are being built at Hitachi’s purpose-built £82 million factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, by a newly recruited workforce that is over 1,000 strong.
In total Hitachi will deliver 36 x 5 carriage and 21 x 9 carriage trains with the full fleet due in service by December 2018. A significant timetable change in January 2019 will realise the full capacity and frequency benefits the new trains will bring with journey times from Bristol slashed by up to 17 minutes, and by up to 14 minutes from Swansea.
The IETs operate using bi-mode technology, allowing trains to use both diesel and electric power, which is allowing passengers to benefit from the new trains from today.
A further fleet of 36 Intercity Express Trains – (known as Class 802s) has also been ordered from Hitachi to improve services between London Paddington and Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance. These trains are being built to cope with the more demanding geography of Devon and Cornwall and are due in passenger service next summer.
Alongside new class 387 Electrostar trains operating commuter routes in London and the Thames Valley the IETs will reduce GWR’s fleet age by more than half, and will help create 9,000 additional seats every day into London Paddington.