The Future of High Speed Rail Travel in the UK

If you've ever had the good fortune to visit and travel within Japan you'll already have experienced the ultimate in present day high speed train travel. The Japanese Bullet Train - the Shinkansen - is such an integral part of Japanese life and culture that one can't fail to be impressed. The iconic Japanese train is the first one anyone thinks of when high speed trains are mentioned.

But high speed trains are not just limited to Japan. Even the UK already has it's own version of the bullet trains running - known as the Javelin Train (by its association with the London Olympics of 2012), or as the Class-395 on its scheduled services from London St Pancras to Kent and the UK side of the Channel Tunnel.

Since the Javelin Train completed its inaugural trip into London in 2008, and the start of scheduled Kent to London services in December of 2009, the attractive, futuristic looking Class 395s used to deliver the service have been giving travellers a taste of the fastest domestic rail services in the UK.

Running at 140 mph, the Javelin reduced the previous London to Kent journey time from around 83 minutes to near 37 minutes. It was used to shoot Olympics Games visitors across London in 7 minutes during the 2012 Olympics, contributing perfectly to well laid plans by the Olympics organisers to ensure that travel within London was made enjoyable rather than painful during the two weeks when London was flooded with extra visitors.

With the success of the Javelin Train, eyes have turned to the future of high speed rail travel in the UK - the UK Bullet Train, also known as the Intercity Express Project.

What Is The UK Bullet Train?

The next evolution of high speed rail travel in the UK will come with the introduction of the UK bullet train which was announced for development with a potential delivery date of 2016. These new UK bullet trains will replace the ageing but highly successful Intercity 125 fleet, giving UK travellers the chance to experience rail speeds of around 125 mph. They'll look similar to the Japanese version, but with shorter noses.

The July 2012 announcement by the British Government signalled intent to place a 4.5 billion (total over the 27 year term of the contract), 92 train, and 596 carriage order for the trains to be built. But the news caused uproar in some circles once it became clear that they would be built mainly by Hitachi in Japan, although overall the project will be run by a consortium known as Agility Trains - a combination of Hitachi and John Laing.

In fact Hitachi will reportedly build the shells at a factory in near to Hiroshima - they state because of the complex technology needed - then ship them to the UK for final fitting. That final UK build will take place in a newly built complex at Newton Aycliffe in the North East of England. Construction of the facility will begin shortly to be ready for production of the trains to start in 2015. New maintenace depots will also be built for the bullet trains at Swansea, Bristol, and Doncaster.

The Intercity Express Programme

The fleet will be composed of 92 electric and bi-mode trains, a mixture of 5 carriages or 9 carriages long.
UK operator First Great Western are likely  be the first to take delivery, with intent to put the trains into service in 2017 on the increasingly popular route from London Paddington across to the west of England into Bristol and Cardiff. Other stops on the route will include Oxford, Newbury, and Swansea.

Travel times are expected to be reduced by around 20 minutes, with the added benefits of increased reliability,  safety, and enhanced passenger comfort in the 628 seat trains too. In fact this increase in  capacity may well turn out to be one of the biggest benefits. East Coast Rail will also run the trains on routes from London up to Newcastle, probably starting in 2018.

The overall project is known as the Intercity Express Project, though it's unclear if this is how the bullet trains will ultimately be known. One thing is for sure, they'll need to be modern, energy efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly. With Hitachi in the driving seat that's the least we can expect.

The Technology - How Are The Trains Built

It's early days fo any detailed information on contruction, but as we covered a minute ago, the trains will be  put together to use a combination of electric and bi-mode (diesel) power. Long strips of aluminium, reportedly 26 meter lengths, will be used to ensure the most effective safety standards n the event of a crash.

High Speed Bullet Trains In The UK

The Uk's Bullet Trains - History & Timeline

Aug 2012 - Deal signed with Agility Trains - a consortium of Hitachi and John Laing - for delivery of 92 high speed bullet trains by 2017.