British Rail Class 390

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

British Rail Class 390 Pendolino
390 Rugeley 2010-06-22.JPG
A Virgin Trains Class 390 at Rugeley in 2010.
390001 Standard Class Interior.jpg
The interior of Standard Class aboard a Class 390
In service23 July 2002 – present
Built at
Family namePendolino
  • 2001 – 2004
  • 2010 – 2012[1]
Entered service2002
Number built57 trainsets
Number scrapped1 trainset
  • 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)Avanti West Coast
Depot(s)Longsight Electric TMD
Line(s) servedWest Coast Main Line
Blackpool North line
Car body constructionFriction stir welded Aluminium
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 (200 km/h)
  • Record: 145 mph (233 km/h)
Weight390/0: 466 t (459 long tons; 514 short tons)
390/1: 567 t (558 long tons; 625 short tons)
Traction motors2 × 4 EJA 2852 (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 British Rail Class 390 Pendolino is a type of electric high-speed passenger train operated by Avanti West Coast in the United Kingdom, leased from Angel Trains.[4] 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). They were ordered as 8-car sets, later extended to 9-car sets, of which some were then lengthened further to 11 carriages. These new 11-car trains were renumbered as the subclass 390/1. 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 Pendolino 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 trains 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 mi (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 (APT). 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 five-minute delay due to a signal fault.[8] The fleet is maintained at Longsight TMD near Manchester Piccadilly station.


The interior of First Class

During 1997, private operator Virgin Rail Group started operating the InterCity West Coast franchise, taking over from state-owned operator British Rail. Virgin had been awarded the franchise having made a commitment to replace the locomotives and rolling stock in use 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 manufacturers, Virgin placed an order with Alstom/Fiat Ferroviaria to produce the envisioned tilting train, which was known by the name Pendolino and was later designated under TOPS as the Class 390.[9]

The purpose of tilt on the Pendolino was to maintain passenger comfort levels when traversing curves at high speed by reducing the sideways forces on the train's occupants, minimising their tendency to slide across the carriage.[9] 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 and 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 them.[9]

The concept of deploying tilting trains on the West Coast Main Line was not an original one. During the 1980s and 1990s, British Rail had developed several plans to introduce new trains and pursued the development of the revolutionary, but ultimately unsuccessful, Class 370 Advanced Passenger Train (APT) for a protracted period.[9] Some years after 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 Pendolino order was for 54 nine-carriage sets, costing £500 million.[10] 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.[10]

The Pendolinos were intended to run at service speeds of up to 140 mph (225 km/h). Railtrack, therefore, embarked on a modernisation of the West Coast Main Line to allow for the faster line speeds.[10] However, the programme ran into serious difficulties. By its end, it was almost four times over-budget, had been delayed by a number of years, and had not improved the infrastructure as much as had been planned. Consequently, and in a manner reminiscent of the introduction of the InterCity 225, the lack of signalling upgrades resulted in the maximum line speed being set at 125 mph (200 km/h). Although the Pendolino's in-service top speed is well below British Rail's hopes for the APT, which was to reach up to 155 mph (250 km/h), it does match the maximum speed of 125 mph (200 km/h) for the APT in passenger service.

Fiat Ferroviaria introduced its first tilting trains during the 1970s. They were first operated on the Italian railways in 1976.[9] 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. The train can tilt to a maximum of eight degrees, at which point one side of the train is 380 mm (15 in) higher above the track than the other. In contrast to other Fiat Ferroviaria tilting trains which use hydraulic tilting actuators, the electromechanical system offers lower maintenance cost and higher efficiency.[9]



An unidentified Virgin Trains Pendolino tilting into one of the many curves on the northern part of the WCML.

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".[9] It has a maximum design speed of 140 mph (225 km/h), which requires compatible infrastructure to do so. A nine-carriage Pendolino reportedly weighs around 471 tonnes, which is equivalent to a dozen fully laden lorries.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9]

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.[9] This construction methodology has been claimed to have been readily compatible with the aerodynamic contouring techniques practised while also retaining considerable structural strength. Allegedly, at one stage of development, the nose was intended to taper as far forwards as 7 m (23 ft), similar to the noses of Japanese bullet trains.[9] However, as the design was refined, this was reduced to a tapering length of just 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in) due to design constraints, while a roof fairing extends the curvature rearwards by a further 3 m (9 ft 10 in), 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.[9]


The Pendolino features an actively actuated tilt system.[9] 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 Network 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.[9]

The active tilting mechanism is achieved using electrically operated tilt activators, which are situated under each carriage.[9] 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 onboard 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.[9]


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).[9] 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.[9] 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.[9]

The Pendolino features relatively shallow 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.[9]

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 (150 km/h) and derailed at a set of points sending the carriages off the track and down a bank, only a single person died. Furthermore, the majority of passengers were not even seriously injured due to the carriages' structural properties.

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 (430 kW).[9] Traction motors are suspended from the underside of the carriage bodies and connected to the driving wheels using a Cardan shaft and transfer gearbox thus lowering the unsprung mass and consequent track wear at high speeds, a feature inherited from its APT ancestor.[11] Combined, they are capable of producing a rate of acceleration of up to 0.43 ms−2, which enables the train to accelerate from stationary to 60 mph (100 km/h) in just over 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.[9] 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.[9]

Passenger amenities[edit]

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 on the outside of the doors themselves.[9] In response to criticisms of the pressure-operated automatic gangway doors fitted to the 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 Pendolino have press buttons instead. To assist the boarding process, the doors incorporate automatically extending steps, which deploy when the doors open; this feature is claimed to have been first used on the APT-P.[citation needed]

Originally, every seat had an integrated on-board entertainment system, which featured radio stations, including Virgin Radio, several BBC stations, and a number of pre-recorded music channels. Up-to-date information on the available channels was provided via listing booklets, which were available on board. Headphones were necessary to listen, which could be purchased at the shop.[9] During March 2010, this system was replaced by onboard WiFi provided by mobile operator T-Mobile.[12] First class passengers were provided with a 240 volt mains power socket at each seat.[9]

The Pendolino uses an electronic seat reservations system.[9] Each seat has a small dot-matrix LCD installed near the top. If the seat has been reserved, the display shows the station the seat is booked from until that station has been passed: after that point, it displays "Available unless occupied". The display can also show the name of the passenger if this has been entered at the time of booking. This information is provided by the 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.[9] The TMS is also used to provide route information to the passenger visual information systems. If a train is rescheduled, the system can rapidly be updated and the displayed information changed to reflect the new schedule.[9]


The original 53-set Pendolino fleet was delivered in nine-car formation, with vehicles built at the former Metro-Cammell Washwood Heath plant (by then owned by Alstom), in Birmingham. 31 sets were later extended to 11-car formation, with the addition of two new carriages (the 653xx Trailer Standards and the 689xx Motor Standards), built by Alstom at Savigliano, in Italy. Four additional Savigliano-built 11-car units (nos. 390 154-157) were delivered at the same time, to support service enhancements. The unit formation, as of January 2015 (and still at the conclusion of the Virgin Trains franchise, in December 2019), is described in the table below, with vehicles listed in the order they are formed in the unit:[13]

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


Interior of the cab of a Class 390, taken at Glasgow Central
Virgin Trains 390006 at Northampton in flowing silk livery

The service introduction of the Pendolino was repeatedly delayed, a fact which has been attributed to the poor project management and the collapse of infrastructure owner Railtrack.[14] 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.[15] 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 London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly.[14]

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 to 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 Trains lost 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.

The entire Pendolino fleet is allocated to Alstom's 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 are 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]

Fleet liveries and names[edit]

All sets were delivered in Virgin Trains livery of silver bodysides with black areas around the windows, red roofs and red cab-sides with the red areas on the cabs were separated from the silver with a curved white band. Doors were originally painted with grey and white stripes. These were re-vinyled in plain grey in 2015. All 53 of the original sets were given cast nameplates in a standard style bearing the word Pendolino on the top of each name although several sets were subsequently renamed with similar replacement cast nameplates being fitted. New cast names were applied to the additional four sets after they had initially entered service without names.

From September 2017 onwards, the fleet was repainted by Alstom in Widnes into a new livery known as "flowing silk", featuring plain white bodysides, black roofs and a vinyl applied red swoosh around the driving cab intended to visually represent a moving piece of silk.[16][17] The livery was designed to use neutral colours at the behest of the Department for Transport to allow for an easier rebranding.[18] The first set to wear this livery was 390 010.[19] All of the nine-car sets were repainted with 390 050 being the last to be treated in August 2018, with repaints then commencing on the eleven-car sets. The final set to receive the full flowing silk livery was 390 141 in August 2019. Subsequent repaints omitted all Virgin branding in preparation for the end of the franchise in December 2019.[20] Cast nameplates have been removed from each set upon repaint, however most of the Virgin-prefixed names have not been re-applied but generally those named after places, people and events have had the name re-applied in the form of a vinyl sticker.[18]


Key: In service Scrapped
Number Name Notes
390 001 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.[21]
390 002 Stephen Sutton[22][23] Formerly Red Revolution, then renamed Virgin Angel
390 003
(390 103)
Formerly Virgin Hero. Between 2014 and 2019 carried Royal British Legion World War I commemorative branding.[24]
390 004
(390 104)
Alstom Pendolino Formerly Virgin Scot. Between September 2010 and December 2018 wore a unique co-branded livery in partnership with Alstom and Virgin Trains.[25]
390 005 City of Wolverhampton[26]
390 006 Rethink Mental Illness Formerly Virgin Sun, then Tate Liverpool. New name carried as a sticker.
390 007
(390 107)
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 updated 'Flowing Silk' livery.

390 008 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[27]
390 009 Treaty of Union[26] Formerly Virgin Queen
390 010 Cumbrian Spirit[28] 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 updated 'Flowing Silk' livery. Cast The Cumbrian Spirit nameplates removed and name now carried by a sticker in the same style.

390 011 City of Lichfield[26]
390 012
(390 112)
Formerly Virgin Star. Wore temporarily applied Christmas-themed vinyls on each driving car during December 2014 and branded 'Traindeer'[29]
390 013 Blackpool Belle Formerly Virgin Spirit. Wore temporarily applied Christmas-themed vinyls on each driving car during December 2015 and branded 'Penguilino'.[30] Named ‘Blackpool Belle’ in 2018 to celebrate the launch of Pendolino services to Blackpool.[31]
390 014
(390 114)
City of Manchester[26]
390 015
(390 115)
Crewe All Change Formerly Virgin Crusader[26]
390 016 Formerly Virgin Champion
390 017
(390 117)
Blue Peter Formerly Virgin Prince.[26] Current name unveiled in October 2018 to mark the 60th anniversary of the BBC children's TV programme of the same name.[32]
390 018
(390 118)
Formerly Virgin Princess[26]
390 019
(390 119)
Progress Formerly Virgin Warrior,[26] then renamed Unknown Soldier. Name unveiled on 11 November 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Carries vinyls on all 11 carriages for Avanti West Coast Pride
390 020 Formerly Virgin Cavalier
390 021
(390 121)
Formerly Virgin Dream[26]
390 022
(390 122)
Penny the Pendolino[33] Formerly Virgin Hope
390 023
(390 123)
Formerly Virgin Glory
390 024
(390 124)
Formerly Virgin Venturer
390 025
(390 125)
Formerly Virgin Stagecoach
390 026
(390 126)
Formerly Virgin Enterprise
390 027
(390 127)
Formerly Virgin Buccaneer
390 028
(390 128)
City of Preston
390 029
(390 129)
City of Stoke-on-Trent 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.
390 030
(390 130)
City of Edinburgh
390 031
(390 131)
City of Liverpool
390 032
(390 132)
City of Birmingham
390 033 City of Glasgow Crashed at Grayrigg on 23 February 2007. Formally written off on 30 November 2007 with the undamaged cars sent to Virgin Trains Training Centre in Crewe, Cheshire.[34][35][36]
390 034
(390 134)
City of Carlisle
390 035
(390 135)
City of Lancaster Name missing on one side since repaint June 2019, name only carried on eastern side (when running in normal formation).
390 036
(390 136)
City of Coventry
390 037
(390 137)
Formerly Virgin Difference
390 038
(390 138)
City of London
390 039 Lady Godiva Formerly Virgin Quest. Renamed Lady Godiva on 4 April 2019.[37] [38] It also has the new Coventry flag on it.[39]
390 040 Formerly Virgin Pathfinder, then Virgin Radio Star. Wore branding on both driving cars advertising Virgin Radio from April 2016 until November 2017.
390 041
(390 141)
Formerly City of Chester
390 042 Formerly City of Bangor/Dinas Bangor. Wore a different nameplate on each side, one in English and the other in Welsh.
390 043 Formerly Virgin Explorer
390 044 Royal Scot Formerly Virgin Lionheart. Renamed before attempting to beat the London to Glasgow speed record set by the APT.[40]
390 045 Formerly Virgin Valiant, then 101 Squadron, then Virgin Pride. Carried rainbow branding on coaches A and K with #ridewithpride slogan.
390 046 Formerly Virgin Soldiers after the novel The Virgin Soldiers by Leslie Thomas.
390 047 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, Heaven's Angels name applied after record attempt to cover Glasgow–London in the shortest ever time on 22 September 2006.
390 048
(390 148)
Flying Scouseman Formerly Virgin Harrier. Renamed as part of the Liverpool Echo train naming competition in June 2017.[41]
390 049 Formerly Virgin Express[26]
390 050 Formerly Virgin Invader
390 051
(390 151)
Unknown Soldier Formerly Virgin Ambassador. Carried Union Flag branding and 'Business is Great' slogans on coaches A and K
390 052
(390 152)
Formerly Virgin Knight
390 053
(390 153)
Formerly Mission Accomplished
390 154 Formerly Matthew Flinders. Named at Euston station by the Duke of Cambridge on 18 July 2014
390 155 Railway Benefit Fund Formerly X-Men: Days of Future Past. Named at Euston station on 31 March 2014 to promote the film of the same name.[42][43] Named Railway Benefit Fund in April 2021 as part of a fundraising drive by Avanti West Coast, promoting the charity of the same name.[44]
390 156 Pride and Prosperity Formerly Stockport 170. Delivered to Manchester Longsight on 13 February 2012. First 11-car into service on 5 April 2012. Named on 9 December 2019 to celebrate the launch of Avanti West Coast operations on the West Coast Partnership franchise.
390 157 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.[45] 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.[46]

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 somewhat mitigated through the increased frequency of service, and with the increase to 11-car formations.

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.[47]

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.[48] Virgin Trains then leased a Class 90, Mk3 coaches and a DVT (Driving Van Trailer), all painted in Virgin's new livery, and nicknamed the "Pretendolino" by Alstom maintenance staff, as a temporary replacement for the train written off.[49] Occasionally, the name even appeared in official communications.[50] Subsequently, the set was handed back to the leasing company.

Fleet developments[edit]

Following a large 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.[51]

This required major changes to 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.

Because Washwood Heath works had closed, the additional vehicles were manufactured in Alstom's Savigliano factory in Italy.[52]

Virgin Trains 390104 Alstom Pendolino at Preston station in February 2017

The first new sets were built with 11 cars and delivered via the Channel Tunnel to Edge Hill.[53][54] The first was accepted on 12 July 2011.

In March 2012, 390 055 operated a test run on the East Coast Main Line from Edinburgh to London King's Cross.[55]

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.[56] The lengthening project was completed in December 2012.[57]

As part of the subsequent extension of the franchise until April 2017,[58][59] Virgin Trains made further enhancements to the Pendolinos.[60] The 21 nine-carriage sets each had one first class carriage converted to standard class.[61][62][63] This work was completed by September 2015.[64]

In December 2019, all 56 trains transferred to Avanti West Coast, operators of the new West Coast Partnership, and will receive an interior refurbishment including new seating.[65]

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos. Notes
Class 390/0 Avanti West Coast 22 2001–2004 9 390 001-390 002, 390 005-390 006, 390 008-390 011, 390 013, 390 016, 390 020, 390 039-390 040, 390 042-390 047, 390 049-390 050 390 033 mainly scrapped (due to the Grayrigg derailment)
Class 390/1 31 11 390 103, 390 104, 390 107, 390 112, 390 114-390 115, 390 117-390 119, 390 121-390 132, 390 134-390 138, 390 141, 390 148, 390 151-390 153 31 units lengthened to 11 cars in 2012.
4 2010–2012 390 154-390 157 New sets purchased as part of extra 106 vehicle order.[54]


Virgin Trains Class 390/0 in the original livery
Virgin Trains Class 390/1 in the original livery
Virgin Trains Class 390/0 in the flowing silk livery
Virgin Trains Class 390/1 in the flowing silk livery
Avanti West Coast Class 390/0 based on concept art
Avanti West Coast Class 390/1 based on concept art

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.[66] With Alliance Rail not able to obtain this, in June 2017 it dropped its plans to purchase 390s.[66][67]


Over the years the Pendolino has been replicated in model form by three manufacturers. Dapol was the first to unveil its new model in late 2001. Hornby released theirs in early 2007. Revolution Trains (produced by Rapido Trains Inc) released their N gauge Pendolino in early 2018.


  1. ^ "Angel Trains and Alstom sign order for new Pendolino high speed tilting train sets and extra carriages to lengthen existing trains" (Press release). Angel Trains. 19 September 2009. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011..
  2. ^ Marsden, Colin J. (2011). Traction Recognition (Second ed.). Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 216. ISBN 9780711034945.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Class 390 'Pendolino'". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Class 390 - Virgin Trains West Coast". 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. Sutton: DVV Media Group. 1 October 1998. ISSN 0373-5346. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  6. ^ Marsden 2011, p. 237
  7. ^ Bickell, David (10 September 2013). "Train protection and driver aids". Rail Engineer. Coalville: Rail Media. Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Virgin train breaks speed record". BBC News. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2015. Virgin Trains made the 401 mile journey in three hours and 55 minutes - knocking 19 minutes off the record set 25 years ago
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b c Knight, Stephen (2 December 1998). "Virgin's first West Coast tilt train 'on test by July 2000'" (PDF). Rail. No. 345. EMAP Apex Publications. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 May 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  11. ^ Valenti, Michael (1 June 1998). "Tilting Trains Shorten Transit TimeOld, Curved Train Tracks Typically throw High-Speed Rail Travel-and Travelers-for a Loop. Tilting Trains can Keep the Speeds up Without Causing Passenger Discomfort". Mechanical Engineering. 120 (6): 78–81. doi:10.1115/1.1998-JUN-6. ISSN 0025-6501.
  12. ^ "Please note: Virgin Trains onboard entertainment system no longer functions" (PDF). Virgin Trains. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 August 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  13. ^ "Seating Plan" (PDF). Virgin Trains. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 March 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  14. ^ a b Hughes, Murray (1 February 2003). "Pendolino to attack the London - Manchester market". Railway Gazette International. Sutton: DVV Media Group. ISSN 0373-5346. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  15. ^ "Virgin Pendolino starts". Railway Gazette International. Sutton: DVV Media Group. 1 September 2002. ISSN 0373-5346. Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Virgin Trains' Pendolino has been given a new look". Global Railway Review. Brasted, Kent: Russell Publishing. 18 September 2017. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  17. ^ "New lick of paint for Virgin Trains' Pendolino" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 17 June 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  18. ^ a b "New livery for Virgin Pendolinos". Today's Railways UK. No. 191. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. November 2017. p. 70. ISSN 1475-9713.
  19. ^ "Virgin Trains' first repainted Pendolino back in traffic". Rail. No. 836. Peterborough: Bauer Consumer Media. 18 September 2017. p. 12. ISSN 0953-4563. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Naked Virgin Pendolino enters traffic". Rail. No. 888. Peterborough: Bauer Consumer Media. 25 September 2019. p. 31. ISSN 0953-4563.
  21. ^ "Virgin Trains names train to mark the launch of Bee in the City" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  22. ^ "Fundraising sensation Stephen Sutton has Virgin train named after him". BBC News. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  23. ^ "Flagship Virgin Trains Pendolino named in honour of Stephen Sutton" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ "New look for Virgin Pendolino". Coalville: Rail Media. 16 September 2010. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Alstom and Virgin Trains launched a co-branded branded Pendolino at London Euston today.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Milner, Chris (10 June 2019). "Grab yourself some Virgin Trains memorabilia". The Railway Magazine. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  27. ^ "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. Retrieved 18 November 2019. The 390008 Pendolino train, adorned with Mackintosh’s trademark moustache on the front and his name displayed in his own lettering on plaques on either side, arrived into Glasgow Central Station at 09.45am this morning.
  28. ^ "Virgin Trains celebrates 'Cumbrian Spirit' in the wake of the floods" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Pendolino 390010 now carries the name ‘The Cumbrian Spirit’ to acknowledge the courage and resolve shown by local as they rebuild their lives and businesses after the floods.
  29. ^ "Traindeer let loose on the Virgin Trains network!" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 2 December 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Sisters, Ella and Ruby Prior from Congleton, Cheshire have had their artistic vision brought to life as Virgin Trains reveals a “Traindeer” on their network, which was inspired by the design submitted by the girls for a Christmas card competition. The Pendolino train was given the full festive treatment and was transformed into a reindeer (complete with a red nose!) before being unveiled at Manchester Piccadilly station in a surprise reveal.
  30. ^ Clinnick, Richard (2 December 2015). "Meet the Penguilino". Rail. Peterborough: Bauer Consumer Media. ISSN 0953-4563. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Virgin's Pendolino train named Blackpool Belle to celebrate launch of electric services" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Virgin Trains has named one of its Pendolinos Blackpool Belle to celebrate the launch of its first electric services to and from the resort today (Monday 21 May). The 390013 Pendolino carries the name made famous by the resort’s first illuminated tram and an excursion train which took people across Lancashire for a Saturday night of dancing through the 1930s to 1960s.
  32. ^ "Virgin Trains marks 60 years of Blue Peter with train naming" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2013. Virgin Trains has named one of its flagship Pendolinos ‘Blue Peter’ to mark the 60th birthday of the world’s longest running children’s TV show.
  33. ^ "Penny the Pendolino becomes 'One in a Million'". RTM. 10 January 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  34. ^ "LocoScene". 30 July 2010.
  35. ^ "DfT rejects Virgin bid for longer Pendolinos". The Railway Magazine. London: Mortons of Horncastle. March 2008. p. 9. ISSN 0033-8923.
  36. ^ Coward, Andy. "Virgin Trains writes off its Lambrigg crash Pendolino". Rail. No. 585. Peterborough: Bauer Consumer Media. p. 66. ISSN 0953-4563.
  37. ^ "Virgin Trains flies the flag for Coventry" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 5 April 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Pendolino 390039 also proudly adorns the city’s first official flag on each cab end.
  38. ^ Sandford, Elis (4 April 2019). "Coventry welcomes Lady Godiva train on maiden voyage". Coventry Telegraph. Reach. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  39. ^ Sandford, Elis (7 December 2018). "Lady Godiva features on Coventry's first official flag". Coventry Telegraph. Reach. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  40. ^ "TODAY: Avanti West Coast to attempt London to Glasgow speed record". RailAdvent. 17 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  41. ^ Macdonald, Ian (8 May 2017). "The Flying Scouseman wins our Name a Train competition". Liverpool Echo. Reach. ISSN 1751-6277. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  42. ^ Clinnick, Richard (30 April 2014). "Meet the 'X-Mendolino'". Rail. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  43. ^ "Hugh Jackman & James McAvoy unveil Virgin's official X-Men: Days of Future Past train". Seenit. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  44. ^ "Avanti West Coast names Pendolino 390155 'Railway Benefit Fund'". RailAdvent. 27 April 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  45. ^ "The Pendolino: The 125mph train". BBC News. 14 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.
  46. ^ "Virgin cuts speed on Pendolinos". BBC News. 11 November 2004. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  47. ^ Derailment at Grayrigg 23 February 2007 (PDF) (Report). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. 14 July 2011. p. 151. Retrieved 13 November 2019 – via
  48. ^ "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.
  49. ^ Coxon, Dave. "The Class 390 Pendolinos". Testing Times. Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  50. ^ Virgin Trains [@VirginTrains] (4 May 2012). "On Sunday our Pretendolino hauled by class 57 will run" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2019 – via Twitter.
  51. ^ The DfT accreditation process document specified 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 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."Pendolino lengthening and fleet expansion project". Department for Transport. 28 March 2008. Archived from the original on 8 April 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2019 – via The National Archives.
  52. ^ "More West Coast Pendolinos". Railway Gazette International. Sutton: DVV Media Group. 8 June 2008. ISSN 0373-5346. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  53. ^ "News Journal" (PDF). Railway Herald. No. 250. Scunthorpe. 13 December 2010. p. 3. ISSN 1751-8091. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  54. ^ a b "West Coast Main Line increases its Pendolino fleet" (Press release). Alstom Transport. 14 December 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  55. ^ "Pendolino makes historic East Coast run". The Railway Magazine. London: Mortons of Horncastle. 13 March 2012. ISSN 0033-8923. Archived from the original on 28 October 2013.
  56. ^ "Longer Pendolino trains mean more seats for West Coast passengers" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 6 December 2012. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013. Five rail industry organisations were today celebrating the successful completion of a project to provide an extra 7006 seats to the West Coast Pendolino fleet which now has a total of 29,834 seats. 106 carriages were ordered by the Department for Transport (DfT) in July 2008 to create four completely new 11-car trains (44 carriages) and to lengthen 31 of the existing trains from 9 to 11 carriages (62 carriages)
  57. ^ Pendolino lengthening complete Today's Railways UK issue 133 January 2013 page 66
  58. ^ "Written statement to Parliament: Rail franchising". Department for Transport. 26 March 2013. Archived from the original on 13 August 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013 – via
  59. ^ "Fresh start for franchising" (Press release). Department for Transport. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2019 – via
  60. ^ "We're looking to build on the retention of train franchise" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  61. ^ "Pendolino Coach G Conversions". The Red Letter (Mailing list). Virgin Trains. 15 June 2015. Archived from the original on 28 March 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2019 – via Newsweaver.
  62. ^ "More Seats for Virgin Trains Pendolino Fleet" (Press release). Virgin Trains. 10 April 2015. Archived from the original on 28 March 2018 – via Mynewsdesk.
  63. ^ "Better journeys for passengers on the West Coast Main Line" (Press release). Department for Transport. 19 June 2014. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014 – via
  64. ^ "Virgin trains adds 2,100 seats to its West Coast Mainline Pendolino fleet". Railway Strategies. Archived from the original on 26 August 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  65. ^ "Firstgroup and Trenitalia Welcome West Coast Partnership Award". London Stock Exchange. 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  66. ^ a b "HSTs for Alliance Rail as Pendolino plans face difficulties". Today's Railways UK. No. 182. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. February 2017. p. 14. ISSN 1750-6905.
  67. ^ "Alliance drops Pendolino plan as Southampton paths identified". Railway Gazette International. Sutton: DVV Media Group. 19 July 2017. ISSN 0373-5346. Archived from the original on 19 June 2017.