LNER’s twitter feed has announced the final trains that locomotive 91108 will work today before being taken off-lease, the locomotive is due for a ‘G’ Exam, the cost of which can’t be justified, so it will be retired at Bounds Green depot in North London tonight. This is the first of the 125 mph Class 91s to be withdrawn. Introduced between 1988-91, the 32 strong fleet have been the backbone of East Coast services ever since. Now they’re being displaced by the new Hitachi built ‘Azuma’ trains which already operate the London – Leeds route before entering services on Anglo-Scottish services from the 1st August. Here’s 91108 in Virgin Livery at Kings Cross in November 2015.
This is LNER’s tweet with details of the 3 services 91108 will work today.
The first train (1E01) is due into Kings Cross at 0938. Here’s timings for the other two services, starting with 1S23, the 11:00 to Edinburgh which stops at York, Darlington, Newcastle and Berwick on Tweed. The final train is 1E23, the 16:30 from Edinburgh, which stops at Berwick, Newcastle, Darlington, York and Stevenage, before arriving at Kings Cross at 20:51. So, if you want to have one final run behind this loco, these are the places to go to. I’m hoping to be out to record the event myself later today.
The gradual withdrawal of the Class 91s is yet another sign of how much UK railways are changing over the next few years. Thousands of new vehicles have been introduced, with thousands more to come. The East Coast will look very different as LNERs fleet is being completely replaced and strengthened, whilst their HSTs and Class 91s will disappear. It’s not just LNER. Trans-Pennine express are introducing two new fleets and Hull Trains is also replacing all their Class 180s with Hitachi Class 802s. Meanwhile, Northern’s new Class 195s and 331s will be gracing sections of the ECML too. Over the years the Class 91s have carried several different liveries as the TOCs running them have changed. Today, 91119 has been repainted in the original BR ‘Intercity swallow’ colours the locos carried when new.
Some Class 91s may yet re-appear. Whilst the future of the HSTs is uncertain, some Mk4 coaches will transfer to Transport for Wales and open-access operator is still expected to take some Class 91s and short Mk4 sets to operate its new Blackpool-Euston service from 2020.
Due to an incident in the Huntingdon area, 1S23 is running 23 minutes late and isn’t due into York until 13:17.
I’m now racing up the ECML behind 91108 for a last run behind the old girl – unless she appears in another incarnation in the future. At the moment that’s uncertain as her next appointment after today is at Wabtec, Doncaster, where she’ll be used as a “Christmas tree”, being stripped of spares to allow other Class 91s (several are out of use) to be returned to service. We hit the maximum 125 mph between York and Northallerton.
Here’s a couple of pictures of 91108 arriving at York and sitting at Darlington earlier.
As much as nostalgia kicks in at this point, I’m not sad to see these trains go. They’ve done their job but the world’s changing. On the way back I bumped into fellow RAIL magazine contributor Gareth Dennis on a Southbound HST. We swapped stories about the old and new trains when Gareth made a very good point when we were discussing the “sh*t off a shovel” acceleration of the new Azumas.
On a post Hs2 railway the new trains will allow greater connectivity on the ECML through extra stops without a huge sacrifice in end to end journey times. That said, end to end will be less important to most passengers because if you’re going to do Leeds -London you’d do it on HS2, not the ECML but in-between it’s a different matter. The connectivity HS2 will allow on the existing network is a major selling point.