Are HSTs being removed too soon?

It’s an easy decision for the Department for Transport to save some cash from its hard-pressed budget, so the removal of the small fleet of five InterCity 125 trains from Arriva’s CrossCountry franchise by October (RAIL 979) makes sense… on paper, at least for now. 

Although it hasn’t publicly acknowledged the policy, the DfT’s demand that 10% of costs are stripped out by operators has led to a host of passenger-unfriendly moves, among them the widely criticised axing of paper timetables at all its contracted train operating companies (TOCs). 

It also follows news that (for similar reasons) the final sets in Great Western Railway’s small . fleet of ‘Castle’ HSTs will be removed from service by December 

That will leave ScotRail as the only scheduled passenger HST operator, using 25 ‘Inter7City’ 4/5-car sets. 

Despite reports of overcrowding on some services, principally around its Birmingham hub, CrossCountry (XC) says that its fleet of 

Class 220/221 Voyager diesel-electric multiple units (DEMUs) can deliver the required capacity on long-distance routes linking Scotland and northern England with the Midlands and the South West. 

It all seems a far cry from 1997, when Virgin won the first CrossCountry franchise with ambitious plans to deliver a high-frequency clock-face interval service to drive growth on the routes that all called or terminated at Birmingham New Street. 

Even in BR days, the cross-country group of services (then known as inter-regional trains) had long been a difficult operation. 

Long-distance trains serving busy centres with irregular services and cascaded stock was the offer. Punctuality was a long-standing problem - especially as, under the regional structure, late-running trains were seen as ‘someone else’s problem’.

Read this feature in full in RAIL issue 981 here

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  • Mr Edward c king - 25/04/2023 21:51

    I think the hst trains were the most comfortable,and effective,that BR ever introduced,it's a travesty to withdraw them,with updates they have many more years of service.

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  • The Rail Enthusiast 2021 - 25/04/2023 21:59

    Why Are GWR Getting rid of The HSTs First Group Should Be Stripped off The Franchise For It The IETs aka Class 800s On GWR Suck I Guess It's Because GWR Just Don't Appreciate Amazing Trains That Much

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    • D - 30/04/2023 16:37

      It's cost-cutting measures from DfT. First Group only "manages" the GWR as a direct award from the DfT, i.e. First Group gets a fixed payment for doing what the DfT asks.

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  • Robert Jordan - 29/06/2023 18:31

    Yes they are, why are Cross Country withdrawing HSTs in favour of single voyagers. Overcrowding was and is odvious hsts must continue until class 221s can be released by Avanti when its new trains enter service

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