The fleet will consist of 22 five-car and seven nine-car trains, with the five-car sets able to operate in multiple as 10-car trains. The acquisition of the 173 vehicles will be funded by British rolling stock leasing company, Eversholt Rail Group. The trains will be built in Japan.

The AT300 trains will operate electrically between London Paddington, Reading and Newbury, once electrification of this line has been completed, and then switch to diesel traction for the remainder of the trip.

The trains will have more powerful diesel engines and larger fuel tanks than the fleet of class 800 Inter-City Express Programme (IEP) trains which Hitachi is currently building for FGW and Virgin Trains East Coast although they will be mechanically similar.

“The AT300 fleet will be delivered to FGW from May 2018 and we expect the full fleet to be in passenger service from December 2018,” Mr Andy Barr, COO of Hitachi Rail Europe, told IRJ. “We are still working with the operator to devise the best solution for maintenance of the AT300 fleet. It is intended that the trains will be maintained alongside the class 800s.”

The trains will replace 200km/h diesel-electric HST trains and will allow capacity to be increased by up to 24% on the route. Journey times on the 491km main line between London and Penzance are expected to be cut by 14 minutes when the trains enter service.