Rail Engineer editor David Shirres was given the opportunity to ride on one of ScotRail’s new Hitachi-built Class 385 units during one of its mileage accumulation runs. The unit has to complete 2,000 miles fault free running before it can enter service.

On board, Hitachi’s Class 385 programme manager, Andy Radford, advised that the type approval testing, undertaken by four specially kitted out units, was virtually complete. This required a demonstration of compliance with around 2,000 clauses in the relevant standards to be shown in a technical file which will soon be submitted to the ORR. It is expected that the ORR will issue their letter of authorisation to run the units with passengers by mid-March.

Travelling on the empty four-car unit was a weird, though impressive experience. The ride was smooth as the train accelerated up to 60 mph in 47 seconds. The Class 170 units that currently operate the Edinburgh to Glasgow service take around one minute 50 seconds to reach this speed. The 1 in 41 gradient up Glasgow Queen Street tunnel is one of the steepest on the network. Going up the tunnel, the driver had to throttle back once the unit reached the tunnel’s 50 mph speed limit. After the tunnel, the unit continued this climb at the permitted speed of 60 mph, again not at full power. At full throttle, the Class 170 DMUs can only climb this gradient at around 40 mph.

Managing director of the ScotRail Alliance Alex Hynes advised that the introduction of the Class 385 will reduce journey times between Edinburgh and Glasgow from 51 to 42 minutes by December this year. Initially, seven-car Class 385 trains, comprising four and three-car units, will operate peak services. The units have corridor connections which Alex explains offer operational and customer benefits, although this reduces the size of the driver’s cab.

These seven-car trains will have 479 seats, 27 per cent more than the current six-car Class 170 DMUs. When platforms are extended in December 2019 as part of the Glasgow Queen Street redevelopment, the service will be operated by eight-car Class 385s with 546 seats.

It was a pleasure to ride on a Class 385 between Edinburgh and Glasgow and good to know that the line’s passengers will soon be able to benefit from these units and the electrification of the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line.


Read more: Building ScotRail’s 385s