Pictures released by Hitachi, however, show the usual cavalier disregard for alignment of seats and windows, so unless the actual trains are very different from the illustration, these are unlikely to be pleasant to travel in. Part of the trouble is the sheer cost of the trains, which means that seats will have to be crammed in to make the investment pay its way. And with diesel engines under three out of the five coaches in the "electric" version of the train, running costs will be higher than for a normal train, not least, due to the need to drag the heavy engines around under electrified routes. When running in diesel mode, passengers will be subjected to the throbbing and vibration of big underfloor engines, which we have learned to love and enjoy since the coming of the Virgin Voyagers.
These trains have ended up like this largely because of the way the civil servants at the Department specified them - as a dual-mode train, with no need for a change of locomotive where the electrification came to an end. Claimed figures for energy consumption have been disputed as they do not seem consistent with what is usual for trains of the same weight running at the same speeds.
The real objection to these trains is that they are bad value for money, since their introduction involves writing-off trains which are able to continue in service for any forseeable time horizon. These include not only the HST units, but also the locomotive-hauled mark 3 vehicles for which there remains a healthy demand from the train operators, and now, the fleet of over 80 mark 3 coaches which has just been put up for sale by Irish Railways. Studies have shown that mark 3 stock is good for at least another 20 years. Both Vossloh and Bombardier have now come up with new designs for locomotives for hauling passenger trains, which could operate in push-pull mode with this existing stock.
If there was a need for additional stock on the fully electrified services on GW, existing designs like the class 444 Siemens Desiro, as running on South West Trains routes, would do nicely.
Under a strategy of retaining mark 3 stock indefinitely, there would, however, still be a need for additional vehicles, to comply with modern accessibility requirements provide passenger-carrying driving trailers. The drawback, which is largely imaginary, is the need for locomotive changes, probably at places like Bristol and Oxford. For the rest, it is one of those instances where a better product is available at a fraction of the cost. And the IEP is not a cheap train. Because the contract is to supply and operate the trains for their full lifetime, it is difficult to discover the actual cost of the trains, but it is thought to be in the region of £2.0 milllion to £2.5 million per vehicle, which is roughly the same as a locomotive capable of hauling existing stock or new vehicles intended for locomotive haulage, the latter typically costing about£700,000 each.