HomeRail NewsHitachi’s Class 385 enters service

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.

New drivers cab windscreen (right) and original windscreen (left).
New drivers cab windscreen (right) and original windscreen (left).

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

David Shirres BSc CEng MIMechE DEM
David Shirres BSc CEng MIMechE DEMhttp://therailengineer.com

Rolling stock, depots, Scottish and Russian railways

David Shirres joined British Rail in 1968 as a scholarship student and graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Sussex University. He has also been awarded a Diploma in Engineering Management by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

His roles in British Rail included Maintenance Assistant at Slade Green, Depot Engineer at Haymarket, Scottish DM&EE Training Engineer and ScotRail Safety Systems Manager.

In 1975, he took a three-year break as a volunteer to manage an irrigation project in Bangladesh.

He retired from Network Rail in 2009 after a 37-year railway career. At that time, he was working on the Airdrie to Bathgate project in a role that included the management of utilities and consents. Prior to that, his roles in the privatised railway included various quality, safety and environmental management posts.

David was appointed Editor of Rail Engineer in January 2017 and, since 2010, has written many articles for the magazine on a wide variety of topics including events in Scotland, rail innovation and Russian Railways. In 2013, the latter gave him an award for being its international journalist of the year.

He is also an active member of the IMechE’s Railway Division, having been Chair and Secretary of its Scottish Centre.


  1. I interrupted my trip home from Dunfermline last Monday and saw this non-stop train at Linlithgow, thinking it to be a driver-training run. All the Edinburgh – Glasgow service trains I saw were 365s or 380s, except one which was a pair of 170s. Hopefully my local operator Northern will start to receive some more cascaded 170s!

  2. A good start with the Class 385’s in service. As more of them are coming throughout 2018 & 2019. And replacing some of ScotRail’s trains including the ageing Class 314’s that are to be sent for scrap. As well more Class 170’s to be cascaded to Northern with some Class 170’s as well as Class 153/156’s to be kept for local services in the North of Scotland.

    Plus Class 43 HST Mk3 that will serve the 7 cities in Scotland as more rolling stock are being cascaded from GWR & LNER because of Class 800’s & Class 802’s on GWR are replacing most of the 40 year old fleets but keeping some. And LNER to recieve the Class 800’s and Class 801’s that are due to start service on the ECML in December this year.


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