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New bigger and eventually faster trains on the Great Western Mainline between south Wales and London will be pressed into service for the first time tomorrow.
The up to 125mph first bi-mode Class 800 train, of which 57 have been commissioned, will run on the Monday morning 06:00 Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington service.
On the first journey will be Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, who will then see the train depart on its first scheduled service to south Wales with the 08:15 to Cardiff Central.
The full time savings promised will only be realised when work electrifying the line from Paddington reaches Cardiff, which is expected late next year or early in 2019.
At the moment the trains will only be in electric mode between Maidenhead and Paddington - but this is expected to have extended westward to reach Didcot by January.
But once electrification is completed the new fleet will shave nearly 15 minutes off journey times from Swansea and Cardiff to London.
So, on the fastest journeys times will be:
Built by Japanese firm Hitachi at a factory in the north of England all 57 trains will be operational on the Great Western Mainline (GWML) by December next year.
They will be operated by the current franchise holder for the line, Great Western Railway, as part of the Intercity Express Programme (IEP), which by 2020 will also see bi-mode trains pressed into service on the East Coast Mainline (ECML) and TransPennine Express routes.
What is a bi-mode train?
The new Hitachi trains soon to serve the Swansea to London Paddington routeA bi-mode train is a hybrid, using both electric and diesel power.
Where the line is electrified the train will run using electricity from the overhead lines.
And when an electrified section finishes they switch seamlessly to diesel power using its engines.
So, as electrification is only go as far west as Cardiff, they will switch to diesel mode for the journeys to Swansea and vice versa.
Will they be better or worse for the environmentThey will not be as operationally or environmentally efficient than if new all electric rolling stock had been commissioned on a fully electrified line to Swansea.
But it is fair to say they will be far better on both counts compared to the ageing diesel high speed trains (HST) from Paddington to South Wales.
They will also have the latest Rolls-Royce MTU engines fitted, that are better for the environment.
Lighter than HST trains they can spread their power more evenly across the track, so reducing repair costs.
The wear per mile caused by an IEP train is 56% less than a HST.
Design boostModern engineering means the IEP trains require less maintenance and offer a more comfortable journey experience.
As they are made from aluminium it makes them light and fast - based on the Japanese engineering used to build the world famous bullet trains.
The new Hitachi trains soon to serve the Swansea to London Paddington route
The toilets will be bigger than HSTs with wheelchair access. They will also be fitted with baby changing facilities.
Wifi and technologyThe trains will be fitted with on-board servers that can exchange data using 3G, 4G and high speed wifi connections.
There will also better internal and external display screens that provide passengers with real time information about their journeys.
Modern seat reservation screens will also make finding a seat simpler for passengers.
Screens above every seat will light up either green or red depending on availability and update itself during the journey.
CostThe train operating companies will cover the cost through passenger fares.
However, the whole IEP programme costs £5.7bn.
That includes 122 trains for both the GWML and the ECML, 27.5 years of maintenance and construction of new depots along the length of the both lines.
This article first appeared on www.walesonline.co.uk
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