British Rail Class 390

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British Rail Class 390 Pendolino
Class 390 016 At Lancaster In The Snow.jpg
Newly liveried 390 016 stood at Lancaster in the snow.
The interior of Standard Class aboard a Class 390
In service23 July 2002 – present
(Fiat Ferroviaria tilting system)
Built atWashwood Heath, England
Savigliano, Italy
Family namePendolino
Constructed2001 – 2004
2009 – 2012[1]
Entered service2002
Number built57 trainsets
Number scrapped1 trainset
(due to the Grayrigg derailment)
  • 390/0 (9 cars):
  • 390/1 (11 cars):
Fleet numbers
  • 390001-390057 (sets, as built)
  • 69201-69257 (DMS)
  • 69901-69957 (MS)
  • 69801-69857 (PTSRMB)
  • 69701-69757 (MS)
  • 68801-68857 (TS)
  • 696xx (MF)
  • 696xx (MS)
  • 653xx (TS)
  • 689xx (MS)
  • 69501-69557 (PTF)
  • 69401-69457 (MF)
  • 69101-69157 (DMRF)[3]
  • 390/0: 99 first class seats, 370 standard class seats
  • 390/1: 145 first class seats, 444 standard class seats
Operator(s)Virgin Trains West Coast
Depot(s)Longsight Electric TMD
Line(s) servedWest Coast Main Line
Car body constructionAluminium
Car length23.9 m (78 ft 5 in) intermediate cars, 25.1 m (82 ft 4 in) cab cars
Width2.73 m (8 ft 11 in)[3]
Height3.56 m (11 ft 8 in)[3]
DoorsHinged Plug, electrically driven
Maximum speed
  • Design: 140 mph (225 km/h)
  • Service: 125 mph (201 km/h)
  • Record: 145 mph (233 km/h)
Weight390/0: 466 tonnes (459 long tons; 514 short tons)
390/1: 567 tonnes (558 long tons; 625 short tons)
Traction motors2 × Alstom ONIX 800[4] (per motor car)
Power output
  • 390/0: 5.1 MW (6,840 hp)
  • 390/1: 5.95 MW (7,980 hp)
  • 425 kW (570 hp)[4][5] (per motor)
Electric system(s)25 kV 50 Hz AC Overhead
Current collection methodPantograph
BogiesFiat/SIG tilting[3]
Braking system(s)Regenerative, Rheostatic, Disc[4]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system
Multiple workingNo multiple facility,[3] within class only[4]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Class 390 Pendolino is a type of electric high-speed train operated by Virgin Trains in the United Kingdom, leased from Angel Trains.[8] They are electric multiple units using Fiat Ferroviaria's tilting train Pendolino technology and built by Alstom. Fifty-three units were originally built between 2001 and 2004 for operation on the West Coast Main Line (WCML). The 8-car units were all later lengthened to 9 cars, then an additional four trains and also a further 62 cars were built between 2009 and 2012. The trains of the original batch were the last to be assembled at Alstom's Washwood Heath plant, before its closure in 2005. The remaining trains in the fleet were built in Italy.

The Class 390 is one of the fastest domestic electric multiple units operating in Britain, with a design speed of 140 mph (225 km/h); however, limitations to track signalling systems restrict the units to a maximum speed of 125 mph (200 km/h) in service. In September 2006, the Pendolino set a new speed record, completing the 401 miles (645 km) length of the West Coast Main Line from Glasgow Central to London Euston in 3 hours, 55 minutes, beating the 4-hour-14-minute record for the southbound run previously set in 1981 by its ancestor, British Rail's Advanced Passenger Train. The APT retains the ultimate speed record for this route, having completed the northbound journey between London Euston and Glasgow Central in 3 hours 52 minutes in 1984 which included a 5-minute delay due to a signal fault.[9] The fleet is maintained at Longsight TMD near Piccadilly station.


The interior of First Class

During 1997, private operator Virgin Rail Group commenced operations of the InterCity West Coast franchise, taking over from state-owned operator British Rail; it had been awarded the franchise having made a commitment to replace the existing locomotives and rolling stock used on the route, namely the British Rail Class 86, 87 and 90 electric locomotives and Mark 2 and Mark 3 coaching stock, with brand new tilting trains. Following negotiations with several different manufacturers, Virgin placed an order with Alstom/Fiat Ferroviaria to produce the envisioned tilting train, which were known by the name Pendolino and was subsequently designated under TOPS as the Class 390.[10]

From the onset, the Pendolino was designed to be a tilting train, a technique which is largely employed to maintain passenger comfort levels while traversing curves at high speed by reducing the sideways forces that the train's occupants are subjected to, minimising the tendency to otherwise slide around the carriage.[10] In addition to its functionality, the train was designed to be visually impressive; the concept design for the Pendolino was originally produced by industrial design firm Priestman Goode in cooperation with JHL and Start Design; many aspects of the finished product, such as the shaping of its aerodynamic nose and much of the train's interior areas, can be attributed to their work.[10]

During the 1980s and 1990s, British Rail had developed several plans to introduce new trains upon the West Coast Main Line; in fact, the concept of deploying tilting trains was not an original one, having pursued development of the revolutionary, but ultimately unsuccessful, Class 370 Advanced Passenger Train (APT) for a protracted period.[10] Some years following the cancellation of the APT, British Rail had intended to replace the existing fleet of trains on the West Coast Main Line (in conjunction with a planned route modernisation) as part of the InterCity 250 project, but this was cancelled by the government shortly before the Privatisation of British Rail during the late 1990s.

The original order, costing £500 million, was for 54 eight-carriage sets.[11] As originally planned, a pre-series test train was scheduled to be completed and to be in active testing by July 2000, while the first Pendolino was to enter revenue service during March 2001. It was expected that the whole fleet would be delivered by May 2002.[11]

The Pendolinos were intended to be run at service speeds of up to 140 mph (225 km/h); to enable this, Railtrack embarked upon the West Coast Main Line modernisation programme, which was intended to modify the route's infrastructure to allow for the faster line speeds.[11] However, the programme ran into serious difficulties, by the end, it was almost four times over-budget, had been delayed by a number of years, and had failed to advance the infrastructure as much as had been planned. Consequently, the work were scaled back, and in a manner reminiscent of the introduction of the InterCity 225, the lack of signalling upgrades resulted in the maximum line speed, and therefore then Pendolino services, being restricted to 125 mph (200 km/h). Although the Penolino's in-service top speed is well below British Rail's hopes for the APT, which was to reach up to 155 mph (249 km/h), it does match the maximum speed of 125 mph (200 km/h) for the APT in passenger service (although one APT set reached 162 mph (261 km/h) in testing).

During the 1970s, Fiat Ferroviaria had introduced its first tilting trains, these had been first operation upon the Italian railways in 1976.[10] Fiat Ferroviaria supplied much of the content of the Class 390, including the unit's bodyshell and the bogies, while final assembly was carried out at Washwood Heath. The tilting technology was developed by SIG Switzerland (later Fiat-SIG, today Alstom). Each car uses a pair of electromechanical actuators to achieve the desired tilting angle on curved stretches of track. The train can tilt to a maximum of eight degrees, at which point one side of the cabin train is 380 mm higher above the track than the other. In contrast to other Fiat Ferroviaria tilting trains which use hydraulic tilting actuators, the electromechanical systems offers lower maintenance cost and higher efficiency.[10]



The Pendolino is a high-speed electric multiple unit train, which incorporates Fiat Ferroviaria's tilting train Pendolino technology. According to Ian Scoley of the design firm Priestman Goode, the design of the Pendolino is "more reminiscent of an aircraft than a train".[10] It has a maximum design speed of 140mph, which requires compatible infrastructure to do so. An eight-carriage Pendolino reportedly weighs around 471 tonnes, which is equivalent to a dozen fully laden lorries.[10] The structure of the Pendolino is largely composed of extruded aluminium panels; allegedly, this material is responsible for the train’s exterior surface being considerably smoother than its steel counterparts.[10] The cross-section of the bodyshell is deliberately tapered; this shaping is a necessary requirement imposed by the train’s ability to tilt around corners. To avoid the risk of striking passing trains or static structures whilst a carriage is being tilted, it necessitates that the body be narrower towards the top than it is at wheel height.[10]

The nose of the Pendolino is manufactured out of composite materials and moulded in a similar fashion as has been used to produce the shells of racing cars.[10] This construction methodology has been claimed to have been readily compatible with the aerodynamic contouring techniques practiced while also retaining considerable structural strength. Allegedly, at one stage of development, the nose was intended to taper as far forwards as seven metres, similar to the noses of Japanese bullet trains.[10] However, as the design was refined, this was reduced to a tapering length of just 3.5 metres due to design constraints, while a roof fairing extends the curvature rearwards by a further three metres, located directly above and behind the driver's windscreen. To validate its performance, the forward section of the trains was subject to considerable aerodynamic testing to prove its suitability for high-speed operations.[10]

In preparation for a possible change of franchise operator, Class 390 Pendolinos are being re-liveried into a neutral white with red 'Flowing silk' design on the driving cars, recalling the planned Virgin Azuma Class 800 livery operated by the then-Virgin Trains East Coast franchise. The trains are being re-liveried in Alstom's new train maintenance facilities in Widnes.[12]


The Pendolino features an actively-actuated tilt system.[10] Each of the carriages can tilt up to eight degrees from the horizontal; this is done for the purpose of better managing the forces imposed between high speed trains and the track while traversing corners. On top of this, the lines of the National Rail network are often canted up to six degrees, akin to a shallow-banked cyclodrome; when combined with the Pendolino's tilt system, the train can reportedly comfortably take curves at a 20 per cent greater speed than it otherwise would be able to do so.[10]

The active tilting mechanism is achieved using electrically operated tilt activators, which are situated under each carriage.[10] Unlike some alternative systems, which are pre-programmed to tilt at sections of a pre-determined route, the Pendolino's tilt system actively detects the upcoming corners using sensors and tilts appropriately to correspond. As tilting may not be appropriate or possible at some locations along the route, such as when travelling close to bridges and tunnels, the tilt mechanism can be disabled by an on-board system, called the Tilt Authorisation and Speed Supervision (TASS). This system relies upon trackside beacons, which are typically spaced around five miles from one another, to transmit data to the train; this information, as well as temporarily locking-out the tilting mechanism from being used on relevant stretches of track, also relays the maximum permissible speeds for the adjacent corners.[10]


The Pendolino incorporates several different onboard safety systems, including the Automatic Warning System (AWS) and the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS); it was also planned to install compatible equipment for the European Train Control System (ETCS).[10] These systems automatically deliver situational warnings regarding the relevant signals and speed limits to the driver and, if not reacted to appropriately, are able to bring the train to a complete halt. Unlike most trains, it also features a Tilt Authorisation and Speed Supervision (TASS) system, which is used to control the onboard tilting mechanism.[10] In the event of an accident, each Pendolino also incorporates a black box data recorder; another structural measure, designed to help dissipate the forces involved in an incident involving a severe collision, are the crush zones, which can reportedly absorb three times the forces of existing High Speed Trains.[10]

The Pendolino features relatively slim windows in comparison to trains such as the Voyager; visually, the windows are linked by a black livery line to form a continuous band running along the length of the train. A combination of structural constraints and internal configuration selections had determined the narrowness of the windows; the adoption of larger windows would have intrinsically weakened the bodyshell of each carriage. Reportedly, consideration was given to the adoption of asymmetric window layout during the design process, but this was ultimately discarded in favour of the arrangement used in service instead.[10]

Due to these design choices, the Pendolino has a very high level of structural integrity. In the Grayrigg derailment incident, where the unit involved was travelling at a speed of 95 mph (153 km/h) and derailed at a set of points sending the carriages off the track and off a bank, only a single person perished. Furthermore, the majority of passengers were not even seriously injured due to the carriages' structual properties. [13]

Traction systems[edit]

The Pendolino's propulsion system incorporates Alstom's Onix traction drive system, which controls 12 separate traction motors, each capable of providing up to 570 horsepower.[10] Combined, they are capable of producing a rate of acceleration of up to 0.43 metres per second, which enables the train to accelerate from nought to 60mph within the space of 60 seconds. Power for each Pendolino is supplied in the form of 25,000 volts AC, and is delivered via the overhead catenary infrastructure installed across its route.[10] A particularly unusual measure, which was adopted to account for the train's tilting ability, is incorporated into the pantograph, the roof-mounted mechanism which connects the train to the overhead wires; it also features an active tilting system, which moves the pantograph to a precise angle in opposition to the direction of the carriages' tilt, allowing contact with the overhead catenary to be smoothly maintained.[10]

Passenger amenities[edit]

To provide both convenience and comfort, the Pendolino features a number of amenities and innovations, such as a walk-in shop in place of the traditional buffet/restaurant car and the extensive presence of passenger visual information systems, which are installed on both the inside of the car ends and upon the outside of the doors themselves.[10] In response to criticisms of the pressure-operated automatic gangway doors that had been installed upon the older Mark 3 and Mark 4 carriages (which could easily be held open by items of luggage resting on the floor sensor, allowing draughts into the passenger saloon), the gangway doors of the Class 390 deliberately make use of push-button "open on demand" actuation instead. To assist the boarding process, the doors incorporate automatically extending steps, which are deployed upon the opening of the doors; this feature is claimed to have been first used on the APT-P.[citation needed] If there are too many standard class standing passengers, coach G (MFO) can be re-classified as a standard class coach, providing additional standard-class seating capacity when this is required.[citation needed]

All of the seats were originally fitted with an integrated on-board entertainment system; this system featured several radio stations, which included Virgin Radio and multiple BBC stations, along with a number of pre-recorded music channels. Up-to-date information on the available channels was provided via listing booklets, which were freely available onboard; headphones would be necessary to listen in, which could be purchased at the shop.[10] During March 2010, this feature was permanently disabled, having been withdrawn to make way for new on-board WiFi, provided by mobile operator T-Mobile.[14] First class passengers were provided with a 240 volt mains power socket at each seat, enabling them to power a single item of their own choosing.[10]

The Pendolino is fitted with a digital seat reservations system, allowing traditional paper reservation tickets to be dispensed with entirely.[10] Akin to the Voyagers, each seat is provisioned with a small dot-matrix LCD installed near the top which, if is has been reserved, displays the name of the traveller, as well as where they are set to board and depart from their seat. The reservation information is provided via an onboard Train Management System (TMS), which downloads current data via mobile operator Vodafone’s wireless network from the national Customer Reservation System shared by all train operators and automatically appears above the corresponding seats.[10] The TMS is also used to provide route information to the passenger visual information systems; in the event of a train being rescheduled, the TMS can rapidly be updated and the displayed information automatically changes to reflect the newly-acquired data.[10]


The unit formation as of January 2015 is described in the table below, with vehicles listed in the order they are formed in the unit:[15]

Vehicle numbers Type Description Seating
Letter 1ST STD Toilets
69101-69157 DMRF Driving motor: first class open with kitchen K 18 - -
69401-69457 MF Intermediate motor: first class open (with disabled seating) J 37 - 1(D)
69501-69557 PTF Intermediate trailer with pantograph: first class open H 44 - 1
696xx MF Intermediate motor: first class open
11 car sets only. Last two digits (xx) = set number.
G 46 - 1
696xx MS Intermediate motor: standard class open
9 car sets only. Last two digits (xx) = set number.
F - 76 1
653xx TS Intermediate trailer: standard class open
11 car sets only. Last two digits (xx) = set number.
U - 74 1
689xx MS Intermediate motor: standard class open
11 car sets only. Last two digits (xx) = set number.
F - 76 1
68801-68857 TS Intermediate trailer: standard class open E - 76 1
69701-69757 MS Intermediate motor: standard class open (with disabled seating) D - 62 1(D)
69801-69857 PTSRMB Intermediate trailer with pantograph: standard class with shop/buffet & train managers office C - 48 -
69901-69957 MS Intermediate motor: standard class open (with disabled seating) B - 62 1(D)
69201-69257 DMSO Driving motor: "Quiet Zone" standard class open (with cycle storage) A - 46 1


390001 at Milton Keynes Central in April 2011
390012 cab interior at Glasgow Central
390104 Alstom Pendolino departing Stoke-on-Trent

The service introduction of the Pendolino was repeatedly delayed, a fact which has been attributed to the bad project management and collapse of infrastructure owner and maintenance company Railtrack.[16] The fleet was introduced into passenger services from Birmingham International to Manchester Piccadilly on 23 July 2002 to coincide with the opening of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.[17] During the Games, they operated a daily return service between the two cities, however, it was not until 27 January 2003 that the first Pendolino carried passengers between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston.[16]

For some time, a return trip was worked by a Pendolino on Thursdays only, but over the following months, the type took over the Manchester services, and was soon introduced on routes from London to Liverpool Lime Street, Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton and Preston.[citation needed] By late 2003, the last of the elderly Class 86 locomotives had been withdrawn from the route.[citation needed]

During 2004, the fleet's sphere of operation was expanded further. Pendolinos started to operate services to Glasgow Central, and by the end of summer, in theory all services north of Preston were worked by Class 390 units. This allowed the final Class 90 locomotives to be withdrawn, and inroads were made into the main Class 87 fleet. It was expected that all locomotive-hauled trains would have been replaced by the end of 2004, but the Pendolinos suffered from several technical problems, which granted the Class 87s a temporary reprieve. By January 2005, only eight locomotives remained, for use on peak London Euston-Birmingham New Street services.[citation needed]

Another development during 2004 was the clearing of the units for the North Wales Coast Line from Crewe to Holyhead. This line is not electrified, so Virgin's Class 57/3 Thunderbird diesel locomotives were used to haul the Pendolinos. After Virgin's loss of the CrossCountry franchise, the company decided to allocate its remaining Class 221 "Super Voyagers" to the coastal line, ending the practice of hauling Pendolinos from Crewe and thus making several Class 57 locomotives redundant. These locomotives have special Dellner coupling adaptors and electrical systems to make them compatible with Pendolino trains, allowing failed units to be rescued quicker. The Class 57s are also used when engineering works force Pendolino services to run over non-electrified diversionary routes.

Virgin Trains has named its entire fleet of Pendolinos. The majority carry promotional names such as "Virgin Valiant", "Virgin Crusader" and "Virgin King", while some trains have received traditional names, such as "City of London" and "City of Liverpool". The names are carried on the 696xx vehicle. However, during the repainting programme which commenced in September 2017 with 390010 most units are being de-named and their cast plates are being removed; some have received edited/new "nameplates" on vinyl transfers.[citation needed] Repainting of the nine car 390/0 fleet was completed in August 2018 (390002 was the last set to be treated).

The entire Pendolino fleet is allocated to the (Alstom) Manchester Traincare Centre at Longsight, where heavy maintenance is carried out. Longsight has a hoist on which an entire Pendolino set can be lifted. Lighter maintenance, cleaning and overnight stabling is carried out at Alstom's other centres: Wembley (London), Oxley (Wolverhampton), Edge Hill (Liverpool) and Polmadie (Glasgow).

On 5 April 2012, the first 11-car Pendolino entered service on the London-Birmingham-Wolverhampton and London-Manchester routes.[citation needed]

Pendolino names[edit]

Number Name Notes
390001 Bee Together Formerly Virgin Pioneer. Named on 20 July 2018 to mark launch of exhibition of over 100 sculptures of Manchester's worker bee emblem.
390002 Stephen Sutton[18] Formerly Red Revolution, then renamed Virgin Angel
Virgin Hero Carries Royal British Legion World War I commemorative branding[19]
Alstom Pendolino[20] Formerly "Virgin Scot", wears a unique co-branded livery in partnership with Alstom and Virgin Trains. In September 2010, Virgin Trains and Alstom launched the co-branded Pendolino which carries a Virgin/Alstom livery on coaches A and K in recognition of the partnership between Alstom and Virgin Trains.[21] Additional branding added on coach A, G and K marking the 175th anniversary of Longsight depot.
390005 City of Wolverhampton[22]
390006 Rethink Mental Illness[23] Formerly Virgin Sun, then Tate Liverpool. New name carried as a sticker.
Formerly Virgin Lady, then Independence Day Resurgence. Carried temporarily applied vinyls on each vehicle to promote the film for several months commencing June 2016.

First 11 Car Pendolino to have the Virgin Trains new white 'Flowing Silk' livery.

390008 Charles Rennie Mackintosh Formerly Virgin King. Named at Glasgow Central on 19 March 2018 as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of famed architect and artist[24]
390009 Treaty of Union[25] Formerly Virgin Queen
390010 Cumbrian Spirit[26] Formerly Commonwealth Games 2002, then renamed Chris Green, then renamed A Decade of Progress at Wolverhampton in May 2007 after a book written by John Balmforth.

First 9 Car Pendolino to have the Virgin Trains new white 'Flowing Silk' livery. Cast The Cumbrian Spirit nameplates removed and name now carried by a sticker in the same style.

390011 City of Lichfield
Formerly Virgin Star. Wore temporarily applied Christmas-themed vinyls on each driving car during December 2014 and branded 'Traindeer'[27]
390013 Blackpool Belle Formerly Virgin Spirit[28]. In December 2015 it was given the name 'Penguilino' and a special Christmas-themed livery designed by Amber Maxfield, a schoolgirl from Carlisle as part of a competition held by the Book Trust, a competition that also resulted in a Class 91 receiving a similar special livery.[29] Named ‘Blackpool Belle’ in 2018 to celebrate the launch of pendolino services to Blackpool.
City of Manchester
Formerly Virgin Crusader
390016 Formerly Virgin Champion
Blue Peter Formerly Virgin Prince. Current name unveiled in October 2018 to mark the 60th anniversary of the BBC children's TV programme of the same name.[30]
Formerly Virgin Princess
Unknown Soldier Formerly Virgin Warrior. Current name unveiled on 11 November 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
390020 Formerly Virgin Cavalier
Virgin Dream[31]
Penny the Pendolino[32] Formerly Virgin Hope.
Virgin Glory[33]
Virgin Venturer[34]
Virgin Stagecoach[35]
Virgin Enterprise[36]
Virgin Buccaneer[37]
City of Preston[38]
City of Stoke-on-Trent[39] Wore temporarily applied vinyls on all nine coaches advertising Superman Returns during 2006 and temporarily applied vinyls on all nine coaches advertising Monkey: Journey to the West during 2007.
City of Edinburgh[40]
City of Liverpool[41] Carries "Business in the Community" planter on 691 & 692 vehicles
City of Birmingham[42]
390033 City of Glasgow Crashed at Grayrigg on 23 February 2007. Formally written off on 30 November 2007 with the undamaged cars sent to Crewe Training Centre[43][44][45]
City of Carlisle[46]
City of Lancaster
City of Coventry
Virgin Difference
City of London
390039 Formerly Virgin Quest
390040 Formerly Virgin Pathfinder, then Virgin Radio Star. Wore branding on both driving cars advertising Virgin Radio from April 2016 until November 2017.
City of Chester
390042 Formerly City of Bangor
Dinas Bangor
Wore a different nameplate on each side, one in English and the other in Welsh
390043 Formerly Virgin Explorer
390044 Formerly Virgin Lionheart
390045 Virgin Pride Formerly Virgin Valiant, then 101 Squadron. Carries rainbow branding on coach A and #ridewithpride slogan.
390046 Formerly Virgin Soldiers After the novel The Virgin Soldiers by Leslie Thomas
390047 Formerly Virgin Atlantic, then Heaven's Angels, then CLIC Sargent. From 2006 this set was named after the official nominated charity of Virgin Trains which was intended to change on rotation, Heavens Angels name applied after record attempt to cover Glasgow–Euston in the shortest ever time on 22 September 2006.
Flying Scouseman Formerly Virgin Harrier. Renamed as part of the Liverpool Echo newspapers Train naming competition in June 2017.[47]
390049 Formerly Virgin Express
390050 Formerly Virgin Invader
Virgin Ambassador Carries Union flag branding and 'Business is Great' slogans on coaches A and K
Virgin Knight
Mission Accomplished
Matthew Flinders Named at Euston Station by HRH The Duke of Cambridge on 18 July 2014
X-Men: Days of Future Past Named at Euston Station on 31 March 2014 to promote the movie of the same name
Stockport 170 Delivered to Manchester Longsight on 13 February 2012. First 11-car into service on 5 April 2012. Named to celebrate Stockport station's 170th anniversary.
Chad Varah Carried the slogan '11 Car Pendolinos – Successful Project Completion' on the front of coaches A and K during Autumn 2012

Problems and incidents[edit]

In October 2004, a train overshot the platform at Liverpool Lime Street station and collided with the buffer stops, and a similar incident occurred a few weeks later at the same station.[48] The Rail Safety and Standards Board's inquiry into the incident identified a software glitch in the wheel-slip protection (WSP) system whereby the train's friction brakes were inhibited at low speeds after prolonged coasting (such as that occurring on approach to a station). The units were once again limited to 110 mph (180 km/h) for a short period until modifications to the software were made.[49]

As a result of the smaller cabin dimensions necessitated by the tilting geometry, the higher floor needed to package the tilting mechanisms themselves, and the need to provide disabled toilets, the units have a lower seating capacity than the nine-car Mark 2 and Mark 3 rakes that they replaced. The result has been severe overcrowding on some services, something that Virgin has somewhat mitigated through the increased frequency of service.

The smaller size of the Pendolino windows has attracted comment and, in fact, the window size is unprecedented for British railway rolling stock. The wider window pillars mean that in some standard class carriages, 22.5% of the seats are parallel with either no window or only a limited portion of one, however the roll-over strength of the bodyshell was commented on regarding the crashworthiness performance of the train in the RAIB Accident Report into the derailment at Grayrigg.[50]

Grayrigg derailment[edit]

The scene at the Grayrigg derailment

On 23 February 2007, a faulty set of points caused a Virgin Trains Pendolino to derail near Grayrigg in Cumbria. The train, unit 390 033, named "City of Glasgow", formed the 17:15 departure from London Euston bound for Glasgow Central. 115 people were on board, one of whom died from trauma suffered in the crash. The train's excellent crashworthiness was credited with preventing more fatalities.

The train was formally written off on 30 November 2007, owing to the prohibitive cost of repair against the price of a new set; a driving car and carriage from the train have subsequently been put into use for training purposes at the Virgin Trains Talent Academy in Crewe.[51] Virgin Trains then leased a Class 90, Mk3 coaches and a DVT (Driving Van Trailer), all painted in Virgin's new livery, and affectionately nicknamed the "Pretendolino" by Alstom maintenance staff, as a replacement for the train written off.[52] The name made a resurgence in official communications[53] when the "Pretendolino" was used instead of the usual Pendolino or Voyager stock, typically when there were stock displacement issues or the regular stock was unavailable. Subsequently, the set was handed back to the leasing company, and has since been transferred to TransPennine Express.

Fleet developments[edit]

Virgin West Coast Class 390/1 11-car Pendolino EMU 390107 at London Euston on 19 April 2012, on its first day of working as an 11-car unit

Following a very sharp increase in passenger numbers following the WCML modernisation, the Department for Transport announced a capacity increase by procuring additional sets (with one intended to replace the unit damaged at Grayrigg). Four new sets have been built with 11 cars, and 31 existing sets lengthened to 11 cars.[54]

This required major infrastructure changes to allow stations and depots to accommodate the 11-car units. Virgin Rail Projects was set up to introduce these new trains with the new franchise winner as well as Alstom, Network Rail and the current franchise holder, Virgin Trains West Coast, to ensure the new sets were able to run from 1 April 2012.

With the closure of the Washwood Heath works, the additional vehicles were manufactured in Alstom's Savigliano factory in Italy.[55]

390 104 at Preston station on a London Euston - Glasgow Central service

The first new sets were built with 11 cars and delivered via Dollands Moor to Edge Hill.[56][57] On 14 July 2011, Virgin Trains announced that chief operating officer, Chris Gibb, had accepted the train (as a 9-coach set) from Alstom Transport UK managing director Paul Robinson and Malcolm Brown, Angel Trains' chief executive, at Alstom's Edge Hill Traincare Centre in Liverpool on 12 July.

In March 2012, 390055 operated a test run on the East Coast Main Line from Edinburgh to London King's Cross.[58]

With the franchise process in place, and Virgin Trains' franchise extended until December 2012, the first 11-car set (390 156) entered service on 5 April 2012. The remaining new sets were brought into service, and 31 sets increased to 11 carriages, over the next eight months.[59]

As part of the subsequent extension of the franchise until April 2017,[60] Virgin Trains made further enhancements to the Pendolinos.[61] The 21 nine-carriage sets each had one first class carriage converted to standard class.[62] This work was completed by September 2015.[63] (Coach G conversions - Virgin press releases[64], work underway[65], work complete[66])

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos. Notes
Class 390/0 Virgin Trains 22 2001–2004 9 390001, 390002, 390005, 390006, 390008-390011, 390013, 390016, 390020, 390039-390040, 390042-390047, 390049-390050 390033 written off in the Grayrigg derailment
Class 390/1 31 11 390103, 390104, 390107, 390112, 390114, 390115, 390117-390119, 390121-390132, 390134-390138, 390141, 390148, 390151-390153 All units lengthened to 11 cars in 2012.
4 2009–2012 390154-390157 New sets purchased as part of extra 106 vehicle order.[57]

Alliance Rail Holdings[edit]

In its successful submission to operate services from London Euston to Blackpool North, Alliance Rail Holdings proposed purchasing four Class 390s for entry into service in 2018. However, as the 390s no longer met crashworthiness standards for new trains, a derogation would have been required. With Alliance Rail not able to obtain this, in June 2017 it dropped its plans to purchase 390s.[67][68]


Hornby Model Railways manufactured a model of the Class 390 in '00' Gauge.[69] The "train pack" consists of a four-carriage train; extra carriages are available separately.[70]

Rapido Trains has announced that it will be producing the Class 390 in 'N' Gauge.[71] Various "train packs" are to be produced consisting of five-carriage, nine-carriage and eleven-carriage trains; extra carriages will be available separately.

Dapol also manufactured a Class 390 in '00' Gauge.[72]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Angel Trains and Alstom sign order for new Pendolino high speed tilting train sets and extra carriages to lengthen existing trains Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. – Angel Trains. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  2. ^ Traction Recognition, Colin J. Marsden, Page 216, ISBN 978-0-7110-3277-4, Published 2007 (First edition) / 2009 (Referenced edition), Ian Allan, Hersham, Surrey
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Class 390 'Pendolino'". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Class 390 - Virgin Trains". Angel Trains. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Tilting trains hold the key to Virgin's ambitious franchise". Railway Gazette. 1 October 1998. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  6. ^ Marsden 2011, p. 237
  7. ^ David Bickell (10 September 2013). "Train protection and driver aids". Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Virgin train breaks speed record". BBC News. 22 September 2006. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "Full tilt: Virgin's 140mph Pendolino trains". Mathieson, SA. March 2002. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Knight, Stephen. "Virgin's first West Coast tilt train 'on test by July 2000'." Archived 20 May 2018 at the Wayback Machine. Rail Magazine, 15 December 1998. Issue 345.
  12. ^ "Media Room & Brand News". Archived from the original on 17 June 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Grayrigg derailment", Wikipedia, 21 May 2018, retrieved 7 June 2018
  14. ^ "Please note: Virgin Trains onboard entertainment system no longer functions." Archived 20 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Virgin Trains.
  15. ^ "Seating Plan" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 March 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Pendolino to attack the London - Manchester market." Rail Engineer, 1 February 2003.
  17. ^ "Virgin Pendolino starts." Archived 28 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Rail Engineer, 1 September 2002.
  18. ^ "Fundraising sensation Stephen Sutton has Virgin train named after him". BBC Online. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  19. ^ Limited, Alamy. "Stock Photo - Virgin class 390 Pendolino train, 390 103 'Virgin Hero' in Remembrance livery honouring the dead of the first world war". Alamy. Archived from the original on 6 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  20. ^ "390104 "Alstom Pendolino"". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  21. ^ "New look for Virgin Pendolino". Archived from the original on 22 March 2012.
  22. ^ "390005 `City of Wolverhampton`". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Virgin Trains 390006 "Rethink Mental Illness"". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Virgin Trains names train after Scottish cultural icon Charles Rennie Mackintosh" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 19 March 2018. Archived from the original on 17 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Virgin Trains Class 390 390009 'Treaty of Union' - Wigan North Western". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Virgin Trains Pendolino 390010 Cumbrian Spirit". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  27. ^ "390112 'Virgin Star' passing Barton & Broughton Loop working 1S62 12:30 London Euston to Glasgow Central". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  28. ^ "390013 "Virgin Spirit" is seen shortly after arriving on Platform 6 at Manchester Piccadilly working 1H72 17:40 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Meet the Penguilino". Rail Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Virgin Trains marks 60 years of Blue Peter with train naming" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 16 October 2018.
  31. ^ "43013 (1Qxx, 0519 Craigentinny T&R.S.M.D. to Crewe C.S.) alongside 390121 `Virgin Dream`". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  32. ^ "390122 'Penny the Pendolino - Beth Tweddle MBE'". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  33. ^ "390123 (Virgin Glory)". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  34. ^ "390124 (Virgin Venturer)". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  35. ^ "390125 (Virgin Stagecoach)". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  36. ^ "390026 "Virgin Enterprise"". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  37. ^ "Virgin Trains Pendolino 390127 Virgin Buccaneer". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  38. ^ "390128 `City of Preston` (1S62, 1230 London Euston to Carlisle)". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  39. ^ "Virgin 390129 ( City of Stoke on Trent )". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  40. ^ "Virgin Trains Pendolino 390130 City of Edinburgh & 390134 City of Carlisle". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  41. ^ "390131 (City of Liverpool)". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  42. ^ "Virgin Trains 390132 "City Of Birmingham"". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  43. ^ "LocoScene".
  44. ^ "DfT rejects Virgin bid for longer Pendolinos". The Railway Magazine. London. March 2008. p. 9. ISSN 0033-8923.
  45. ^ Coward, Andy. "Virgin Trains writes off its Lambrigg crash Pendolino". Rail. No. 585. Peterborough. p. 66.
  46. ^ "Virgin Trains Pendolino 390050 Virgin Invader & 390134 City of Carlisle". Flickr. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  47. ^ Macdonald, Neil (8 May 2017). "The Flying Scouseman wins our Name a Train competition". Liverpool Echo. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017.
  48. ^ "The Pendolino: The 125mph train". BBC News. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2010. Until the Cumbria crash there had been only minor incidents involving the Pendolino train. These included two incidents at Liverpool Lime Street Station where the train hit buffers at the platform.
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  51. ^ "The News in Pictures" (PDF). Railway Herald (244). Scunthorpe. 1 November 2010. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  52. ^ Coxon, Dave "The Class 390 Pendolinos" Archived 11 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Testing Times, accessed 13 March 2010.
  53. ^ Virgin Trains "Twitter" Archived 11 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine., accessed 31 March 2014.
  54. ^ The DfT accreditation process document specifies 31 lengthened sets, with options for lengthening a further 21 sets and procuring a further 23 full sets. Four lengthened sets were to be achieved within by 31 March 2012 (within the then franchise period) but not to see public use until the following franchise had been re-let from 1 April 2012.Department of Transport Pendolino lengthening and fleet expansion project Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
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  56. ^ "News Journal" (PDF). Railway Herald (250). Scunthorpe. 13 December 2010. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
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  58. ^ Pendolino makes historic East Coast run Archived 28 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine. The Railway Magazine 13 March 2012
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  64. ^ "Pendolino Coach G Conversions" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 15 June 2015. Archived from the original on 28 March 2018.
  65. ^ "More Seats for Virgin Trains Pendolino Fleet - first set in service" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 10 April 2015. Archived from the original on 28 March 2018.
  66. ^ "More Seats for Virgin Trains Pendolino Fleet" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 8 September 2015. Archived from the original on 28 March 2018.
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  68. ^ Alliance drops Pendolino plan as Southampton paths identified Archived 19 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Railway Gazette International 19 July 2017
  69. ^ "Virgin Trains Pendolino Train Pack". Hornby Trains. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  70. ^
  71. ^ "Pendolino in N". Rapido Trains. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  72. ^ "Dapol Limited Edition Virgin Pendolinos". Dapol. 25 September 2003. Archived from the original on 6 February 2005. Retrieved 27 August 2016.


  • Marsden, Colin J. (2011). Traction Recognition (2nd ed.). Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711034945.

Further reading[edit]

  • Knight, Steven (2–15 December 1998). "Virgin's first West Coast tilt train 'on test by July 2000'". RAIL. No. 345. EMAP Apex Publications. p. 6–7. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External links[edit]