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1976: New train speeds into service

VIDEO : BBC reporter takes first train to Bristol

British Rail began its new 125mph High Speed Train (HST) service today. The first London-Bristol service arrived three minutes early.

The Inter-City 125 has been introduced to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London.

British Rail will extend the HST service to other major cities over the next two years.

Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 has recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world.

Most other countries have developed electrically powered high-speed trains.

The cost of electrification on Britain's network was considered prohibitive so the diesel-powered 125 is a new product from existing technology.

In the absence of an official ceremony by British Rail to mark the occasion, few passengers were aware they were making history this morning as the first 0805 left Paddington on time.

New features

But most travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort. The carriages feature aircraft-like seating, with sliding electric doors at each end.

Hot food is served quickly from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven.

Rail bosses are hopeful the improved service, which has been introduced without a rise in fares, will bring in more business.

Increased fares over the last two years have been linked to a fall in passenger traffic of 15 to 20%.

In Context
When the service was launched a single adult ticket between Bristol and London cost 5.

The month before the launch the train driver's union Aslef demanded that trains be manned by two drivers when travelling at speeds in excess of 100mph.

British Rail estimated this would cost them 300,000 in over-manning.

The introduction of the Inter-City 125 made significant reductions in journey times across the UK and led to a marked surge in passenger numbers.

Variations of the 125 were sold to Australian railways.

Intercity 125s are still in operation although the faster, electrically powered Inter-City 225 has emerged as its successor.

In March 2006 the government announced the 125 would be phased out of service - although some companies, like First Great Western, say they are investing millions of pounds to keep them going for at least another decade.


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