[UK] Clash of the titans: One of these five companies will design UKs new high speed train

Some companies are open, they use the buzz around UK’s ambitious HS2 (High Speed 2) project to raise the visibility of their own products. Other companies don’t spend time on a preliminairy designs and await the outcome of the official bidding process. This process is now ongoing. Today, HS2 Ltd announced the five companies that have been shortlisted to join the tender process for the rolling stock of HST2. The lucky few: Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi Rail, Patentes Talgo and Siemens.

First some numbers:

  • 2017: (November): announcement of the five selected manufacturers
  • 2018: (Spring): invitations to tender process will be issued
  • 2019: contract awarding
  • 2026: first trains enter service
  • the total contract value for the rolling stock including design, manufacturing and maintenance is an estimated 2,75 billion pound
  • Maintenance to be performed at a dedicated depot in Birmingham
  • Maximum design speed of the new trains will be 360 km/h

So we must have patience. Implementing a high speed line takes time, as does the development and engineering of the rolling stock. First services are now envisaged to start in 9 years. During this period still a lot can change, and will change. It would therefore be highly speculative to state with what train type the five selected manufacturers will enter the competition. But at least we can try, right?

Based on what manufacturers have released themselves recently in the light of the HS2 project, or the most recent and successful implementations in other markets, we can give you an idea of the train designs that will be the basis for the future HSTs. And remember, only one type will be running on UKs HS2 line in the future.


Up til now, Alstom has shown digital impressions and a scale model of its vision on a HS2 high speed train. We see an exterior design that is similar to the Avelia HST Alstom is currently developing for Amtrak. We see the same compact power car design as the Amtrak concept train that was presented in 2016.

Rendering: Alstom Design&Styling

Recently Alstom released the final design for the Amtrak Avelia and it looks different, providing us a more realistic image of direction in which Alstom is moving. By the way, the image above tells us that double decker trains are still an option for the UK.. Update: The tender specifications require that the new HS2 trains need to be ‘classic compatible’. This means the new trains will have to fit the British loading gauge for operation on the conventional network, which is smaller compared to standard loading gauges on continental Europe and smaller as the loading gauge of HS2 dedicated tracks. This requirement makes the implementation of double-deck trains very challenging and highly unlikely (Although DLR and Andreas Vogler Studio may disagree on this, search for ‘AeroLiner3000’). Alstom released this design impressions in 2016 when it was still exploring the options of a ‘captive’ and ‘classic compatible’ HS2 high speed train design.

Rendering: ALSTOM SA 2017. Design&Styling


Bombardier product family for very high speed trains is the Zefiro range. Two recent developments based on this platform are the Zefiro V300 for Italy (with a customer specific exterior design by Bertone) and several Zefiro derivates for the railways of China. We have not come across any specific HS2 design impressions so far of this company.

Rendering: Bombardier

We can imagine the Zefiro concept and technology will be the basis for Bombardier’s bid, but about the design nothing can be said. See both images just as inspiration.

Photo: Bombardier

Hitachi Rail

Hitachi Rail is from Japan, but in the past decade the company has heavily invested in entering the European market. Hitachi Rail UK is now successful daughter company that is the manufacturer of UKs Intercity Express program. Over the past years, Hitachi has been developing a complete range of concept trains for the UK market, including the AT400 designated platform for very high speed.

Photo: Hitachi Rail

Nice element in this render of an AT400 is the blue/white livery, referring to the original Shinkansen Super Expres bullet trains (series 0) from the 60s. That design revolutionised high speed rail travelling in Hitachi’s home country. So, we see a ‘UK bullet train’ here. Its exterior design itself is quite generic.

Patentes Talgo

Imoression: Talgo

An outsider in this competition will be Patentes Talgo (or just Talgo) from Spain. An outsider as Talgo always tends to do things differently. Talgo is especially known for its short body single axle train concept, that it will also use for high speed rail in Spain. So far, Talgo has built two prototypes of the Avril, the name of its HST platform. The design render above shows the general Avril design, in a ‘British’ livery. The exterior design is similar to what we have seen in renders of the Avril currently under development for Spanish railoperator Renfe.


Siemens does not give us anything HS2-specific at this moment. But they do not need to maybe. They are already building new high speed trains for the UK: The Velaro for Eurostar (you see one on the right in the image below). Based on the exact specifications of the tender, Siemens can adjust its Velaro design to meet the HS2 requirements.

The Velaro for Turkey, Germany and Eurostar – Photo: Siemens