MEET the new face of express train travel in Oxford, Didcot and the Cotswolds.

This is the nose of the IEP trains which will operate Great Western high-speed services between Oxfordshire, London, Bristol and South Wales from 2017.

Construction of the first of four prototype trains is now under way at Kasado in Japan, at a factory owned by Hitachi.

The company, which made the Class 395 Javelin trains used on high-speed commuter services running between Kent and London, is building a plant at Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, to manufacture the rest of the fleet.

The first prototype is due to be completed next month and will arrive in the UK to start tests in the autumn.

High-speed trial running is expected to take place next year between Didcot and Reading, once overhead electric wires are installed there as part of the Great Western main line electrification programme.

A full-size mock-up of parts of the train was produced by DCA Design International, of Leamington Spa, to help develop the final design.

Staff from First Great Western have been involved in the project, with drivers asked to give their views on the layout of the cab. As well as the nose cone and driving cab, the mock-up includes standard and first class seating areas, toilets and the luggage and cycle racks which will be installed in the vestibules of coaches.

Two versions of the 125mph trains are on order for Great Western services, 21 nine-coach Class 800 electric trains and 36 five-coach Class 801 bi-mode, electro-diesel units. These will use electricity from overhead power cables where these are installed, then switch to underfloor diesel engines on non-electrified routes, such as the Cotswold Line between Oxford and Worcester.

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After a recent visit to DCA’s workshops in Warwick, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond, above, said: “I was very impressed with the mock-up of the Class 800/801 train, and interested to hear about the lengths that the designers have gone to in ensuring that the views of passengers and other stakeholders have been included.

“The new trains will provide passengers with an improved travelling experience. I look forward to seeing them come into operation.”

Draft seating designs show the nine-coach trains will have about 630 seats. The five-coach sets will have about 320 seats and will be able to couple together to create a 640-seat train for busy peak services.

Another 12 five-coach electric trains, 10 five-coach bi-mode trains, and 13 nine-car bi-mode trains are also on order for the East Coast rail franchise, which links London with Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.

The IEP fleet was ordered by the Government under a £5.8bn private finance initiative contract with Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi and British infrastructure management firm John Laing.

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