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FirstGroup and Hitachi announce new partnership for high speed trains linking London to Edinburgh

Press release   •   Mar 22, 2019 12:01 GMT

Hitachi intercity train CGI in Kings Cross station. The final train design and branding to be released at a later date.

A new high-quality, low fare rail link between London and Edinburgh has come a step closer for customers with news that FirstGroup has confirmed an order for five brand new AT300 125mph intercity electric trains and ongoing maintenance, following completion yesterday of a £100 million deal for the trains between FirstGroup and Hitachi Rail, financed by Beacon Rail.

FirstGroup has secured rights from the Office of Road and Rail to run a new ‘open access’ service between the two capitals, with the aim of encouraging people to use trains rather than planes. Currently two-thirds of journeys between the two capitals are made by air.

Under the plans, customers will benefit from an average fare of less than £25, on-board catering and free Wi-Fi, all offered in one high-quality class of travel. FirstGroup already operates an open access service, the award-winning Hull Trains.

Today’s news that FirstGroup has procured Hitachi’s latest AT300 125mph intercity electric trains provides confirmation that the service will be going ahead and will start in Autumn 2021.

Hitachi will build the five electric intercity trains of five carriages each. As part of the agreement, the new trains will be fully maintained by Hitachi for 10 years.

The benefits of the new trains include:

  • More seats – five new trains will offer an additional 400 seats per train on the route
  • Greater comfort – new interiors, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, power sockets
  • Quieter and more environmentally friendly – electric power is quieter with lower emissions
  • High-quality travel for all – one standard class of service will operate throughout the train

Steve Montgomery, First Rail’s Managing Director, said: “We’re excited to announce the next step to providing our high-quality low fare service for customers linking London and Edinburgh. There’s a real gap in the market for truly affordable rail travel between the two capitals – our plans show we are serious about competing with low-cost airlines and opening up rail travel on this key route to thousands of new passengers.

“The new trains we are introducing will provide the highest level of comfort and service, whilst being great for the environment and air quality.”

Karen Boswell, Managing Director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: "Our Japanese-bullet train inspired fleet will play a vital role in supporting FirstGroup’s exciting new service.

“These trains have been designed to increase the number of seats available whilst harnessing the latest in comfort design to boost passenger experiences.

“Today’s deal extends our long-term relationship with FirstGroup, who already use our pioneering intercity trains in other parts of the country to boost reliability and passenger satisfaction.”

Rob Dee, Commercial Director of Beacon Rail, said: "Beacon Rail is delighted to be financing, procuring and leasing the new Hitachi Inter-City Trains for FirstGroup’s new London-Edinburgh service. We are delighted to extend our existing relationship with FirstGroup and look forward to working closely with the Hitachi Rail Europe team to deliver a fantastic passenger experience, which will encourage passengers out of planes and onto trains, promoting sustainable travel."

Hitachi Rail Europe (HRE) is a global transport specialist with over 100 years of experience building pioneering trains, offering quality maintenance and developing innovative new technology. As a leader in rail we’re improving transport for passengers, connecting communities and helping to boost the UK’s economy.

Having delivered the hugely popular Javelin HS1 fleet in advance of the 2012 London Games, Hitachi is delivering major orders for new trains, with 281 due to be in service by 2021. Our purpose-built factory in County Durham is delivering 122 new high speed trains as part of the UK Government’s £5.7bn Intercity Express Programme and a fleet of 70 regional trains for Scotland. With a proud reputation for innovation, Hitachi is at the forefront of using new digital technology to enhance passenger experience and enrich Britain’s railway’s heritage. Hitachi rail is growing rapidly, employing over 3,000 people and soon to be operational at 15 locations across the UK.

For more information about the company, please visit

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