At 12:52 on 23rd July a train formed of four-car unit 385104 and three-car unit 385003 left Glasgow Queen Street for a non-stop run to Edinburgh. This train entered normal passenger service the following day. On this inaugural run of Hitachi’s Class 385 EMU ScotRail’s managing director Alex Hynes and Hitachi Rail Europe’s managing director Karen Boswell were on hand to talk to the press and stakeholders.
These seven-coach trains have 479 seats which is 27 per cent more than the Class 170 DMUs operating on the route. Eight-coach Class 385 trains with 546 seats will operate once the station enhancement work at Queen Street enables its platforms to be extended.
Introduction of the Class 385, scheduled for autumn last year, was delayed due to the late completion of the line’s electrification, the time taken to ramp up production at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe’s plant and the much-publicised windscreen problem. This was resolved within a few months as it was possible to fit the new windscreens to the already-built units at their Craigentinny maintenance depot in a day or so.
Furthermore, the windscreen problem did not halt the mileage accumulation runs that are needed to demonstrate 2,000 miles fault free running before trains can be accepted. This was done during the daytime by DB Schenker drivers.
Due to this delay the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line is currently operated by a mix of trains. As well as the Class 170 DMUs that have been operating the service since 2000, ScotRail has arranged for Class 380 EMUs (released from Ayrshire and Inverclyde services) and Class 365 EMUs (surplus units leased from Eversholt) to operate the service. On July 20th all services on the line were electric trains.
There are currently 11 Class 385 units in Scotland and the Newton Aycliffe plant is producing them at the rate of around one a week which would complete the order for 70 Class 385 units by summer next year.
The two units on the inaugural train are currently the only units accepted by ScotRail. A further two units are expected to be accepted this week, it is likely that these will initially be used for ScotRail’s driver training programme for their enhanced services. As well as the Class 385 EMUs, this requires hundreds of drivers to be trained on HSTs and Class 365 EMUs.
Acceptance is a time-consuming process which ScotRail can do at the rate of two per week. It is understood that, other than minor software issues, there have been few problems with these units and no infrastructure interface issues.
As these units are gradually introduced the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line should have a full Class 385 service by the end of the year when it is planned to reduce journey time to 42 minutes between the two cities. This will only be possible with the electrification of local services to Stirling to remove slower DMUs from the line.
Services to Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa for Glasgow and Edinburgh will eventually be operated by Class 385 EMUs but will initially be operated by Class 365 EMUs. When the full fleet of 70 Class 385 units has been introduced, they will also operate services to North Berwick, Edinburgh to Glasgow via Shotts (due to be electrified in March 2019) and Glasgow’s Cathcart circle services.
It was clear from his public-address announcement on the inaugural Class 385 train that Alex Hynes was clearly delighted to have the Class 385 trains running between Glasgow and Edinburgh. This, and their introduction on other soon-to-be electrified services, will give passengers in Scotland’s central belt many extra seats. However, as Alex pointed out, rail passengers throughout Scotland will benefit due to the cascade of diesel units made possible by these new electric trains.
Read more: Changing trains in Scotland