Building HS2’s trains: what you need to know about the 5 bidders

Credit: HS2 Ltd.
Credit: HS2 Ltd.

HS2 has today confirmed the shortlisted companies for the £2.75 billion contract to build at least 54 ‘conventional compatible’ trains for Britain’s new high-speed line.

To put the figure into perspective, Bombardier’s train contract for Crossrail was for £1 billion, Siemens’ Thameslink order with the British government was for £1.6 billion and the New Tube for London deal, yet to be awarded, will cost up to £2.5 billion.

The five companies have various footprints in the UK, from long legacies of orders and jobs to one which has only recently begun the search for a potential site, but every one will be hoping to outdo the competition.

As they work to finalise their bids ahead of the invitation to tender in spring 2018, we take a look at the capacity and capability of each of the companies to fulfil one of Britain’s most lucrative train contracts.

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An Avelia Liberty high-speed train. Credit: Alstom.
An Avelia Liberty high-speed train. Credit: Alstom.

Alstom Transport

The French firm opened its train modernisation centre in Widnes, Chesire, in June 2017. The 13,000m² site has been described as the largest rolling stock modernisation facility in the country and is currently working through a €28 million (around £24.6 million) contract to repaint a fleet of 56 Pendolino trains for Virgin Trains. The site is also the location of the company’s rail academy.

At the time of the opening, Alstom’s senior vice-president, Gian-Luca Erbacci, said that the company has committed to building new trains at Widnes should it win contracts, giving the example of Transport for London’s Deep Tube Programme.

Reacting to the HS2 train-building shortlist, Alstom UK & Ireland’s managing director, Nick Crossfield, said that the company will use Widnes to train a new generation of apprentices to support the project, but has so far not clarified whether high-speed trains would be built there. He added that it would work with the UK supply chain to “create a sustainable long-term legacy of growth and opportunity”.

Nick also noted that Alstom has the widest range of high-speed trains on the market. It currently manufactures four types: the Pendolino, which travels up to 250km/h; Euroduplex, a double-deck very-high-speed train with a maximum speed of 320km/h; Avelia Liberty, capable of speeds of up to 350km/h; and AGV, another very-high-speed train with operational speeds of up to 360km/h.

An artist's impression of Trenitalia's V300ZEFIRO, Europe's first train based on Bombardier's Zefiro platform. Credit: Bombardier.
An artist’s impression of Trenitalia’s V300ZEFIRO, Europe’s first train based on Bombardier’s Zefiro platform. Credit: Bombardier.

Bombardier Transportation

From its 340,000m² base in Derby, Bombardier is in the unique position of being able to design, develop, build and maintain trains in the UK – although it has never designed and built a high-speed train in the country. The Canadian company currently has an order book of more than 1,500 vehicles, largely from the Aventra family.

Bombardier has been involved in a number of high-speed trains but its latest family of high-speed and very-high-speed trains is the Zefiro platform, which is capable of speeds of up to 380km/h. Bombardier Transportation has taken lessons learnt from its aerospace division to influence the train’s aerodynamic design and improve performance.

A spokesperson for the company did not deny or confirm that the trains would be built in Derby but said that Bombardier is delighted to have pre-qualified. They added that they “are very excited by the chance to be part of this transformational project to transport 300,000 passengers a day on Britain’s new high-speed rail network and the existing railway.”

"The British Bullet" train. Credit: Hitachi.
“The British Bullet train”. Credit: Hitachi.

Hitachi Rail Europe

The Class 395 “Javelin”, based on Shinkansen technology with a maximum speed of 225km/h, became the first domestic high-speed passenger train in the UK when it was built by Hitachi for HS1. That order was the Japanese train manufacturer’s first order in the country and launched the beginning of Hitachi’s ever-growing presence.

Part of Hitachi’s Intercity Express Programme contract with the government included the  construction of a manufacturing and assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Built in 2015, the 127,500m² site has the capacity to build metro, commuter and high-speed trains with a maximum output of 35 vehicles a month, according to Hitachi.

Moving ahead, Hitachi is developing a new very-high-speed train product for the European market place, the AT400, also known as “the British Bullet train”.

Following HS2’s announcement on the train building shortlist, Hitachi Rail Europe managing director Karen Boswell said the company is looking forward to developing proposals for “this hugely exciting and important project”.

A Talgo Avril very high-speed train. Credit: Talgo.
A Talgo Avril very-high-speed train. Credit: Talgo.


Back in October the Spanish firm announced that it was looking at potential sites to build a factory in the UK, and has since scouted locations in Leeds, Liverpool, Wales and in Scotland. Talgo has said it intends implement a long-term industrial plan in the UK to carry out the whole train manufacturing process in the country, with a local supply chain, should it successfully secure contracts in the UK.

Talgo has two products in its very-high-speed range of trains, the Avril and the 350. Talgo says that the Avril is the widest such train in the European market and has a maximum operating speed of 330km/h, and the 350 is also capable of operating speeds of up to 330km/h.

Following HS2’s latest announcement, Talgo’s UK manager Jon Veitch added: “This is just the first step, but we are truly confident in our mobility proposal for the United Kingdom.

“The Avril very-high-speed platform has already proved to offer the lowest acquisition price and a reduced, predictable lifecycle cost curve along 35 full years in another open, competitive procurement which was awarded the last year.”

A Siemens Velaro train in Russia. Credit: Siemens.
A Siemens Velaro train in Russia. Credit: Siemens.


While Siemens has a sizeable footprint in the UK, it doesn’t currently have the facilities to manufacture trains in the country. No confirmation was made following today’s news on where the trains would be built, but CEO Joe Kaeser previously said it would build a new factory should it win an order. Nevertheless, the confirmed merger with Alstom could solve that problem should the two pool resources.

It does, however, have two families of high-speed trains: the Velaro, which currently runs on the Eurostar services between Paris and London at speeds of up to 320km/h; and the ICE 4, a new platform for Deutsche Bahn which has a top speed of 250km/h.

Following HS2’s announcement, Siemens UK’s HS2 bid director Jo Hensher said the contract was a “fantastic opportunity to participate in one of the world’s most prestigious and high-profile infrastructure projects”. She added: “Based on our extensive experience of building very-high-speed trains – including for Russia, Spain, China, Germany and most recently for Eurostar in the UK – we know that this project holds enormous transformative potential for the UK economy.”

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  1. Guarantee it will be Talgo or Hitachi that could build the new trains for HS2. But who ever wins the contract to manufacture the new HS2 trains.

    Siemens could build new trains for HS2. But they are likely to focus on manufacturing the Class 717’s for Great Northern and future Desiro City and Desiro rolling stocks. As they are currently manufacturing the Class 700’s and Class 707’s for Thameslink and South Western Railway. With the Class 700’s nearing its completion.

    Bombardier could be favourites to manufacture new trains for HS2. But are currently manufacturing the Elizabeth Line (TfL Rail) Class 345’s Aventra and nearly completing building the last Electrostar Class 387’s for Great Western Railway. Aswell they are to manufacture the Class 710’s for London Overground, Class 701’s for South Western Railway, Class 720’s for Greater Anglia and new Aventra rolling stocks for West Midlands Trains when the new franchise takes over from London Midland in December.

    Hitachi may be favourites to manufacture the new HS2 trains. But instead they are currently manufacturing the Class 800’s, Class 801’s and Class 802’s Bi-Mode & Electric IET rolling stocks for Great Western Railway and Virgin Trains East Coast plus with Class 802’s IET’s to be manufactured for Transpennine Express and Hull Trains aswell manufacturing the Class 385’s Commuter rolling stocks for ScotRail.


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