The Class 221 Super Voyager is a class of diesel-electric multiple-unit express trains built in Bruges, Belgium, by Bombardier Transportation in 2001/02.
The Class 221 are similar to the Class 220 Voyager units, but were built with a tilting mechanism enabling up to six degrees of tilt to allow higher speeds on curved tracks, most have five coaches, and they have a different bogie design. They have a maximum speed of 125 mph (200 km/h).
Currently these trains are divided between two operators, Virgin Trains (West Coast) (20 sets) and CrossCountry (23 sets). The sets operated by CrossCountry have now had their tilt function disabled to improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs.
The Class 221s were produced as 5- or 4-coach sets. Each coach is equipped with a Cummins QSK19 diesel engine producing 560 kW (750 hp) at 1,800 rpm, driving an electrical generator which powers two motors, each driving one (inner) axle per bogie via a cardan shaft and final drive. 1,200 miles (1,900 km) can be travelled between refuellings. The coach bodies, the engines and most of the equipment of the Class 221s are the same as the Class 220s, but the bogies are very different: the Class 220 Voyager B5000 bogies have inside-frames which expose the whole of the wheel faces, while the Class 221 SuperVoyager Y36 bogies have a more traditional outside-framed bogie. Unlike the Class 220s, the Class 221s were built with a hydraulic-actuated tilting system to run at high speed around bends, though this has now been removed from the 23 sets operated by CrossCountry.
Each coach weighs between 55 and 57 tonnes, with a total train weight of 281.9 tonnes for a 5-car set (227 tonnes for a 4-car set). The trains have air-operated (pneumatic) and rheostatic brakes, with an emergency stopping distance of 350m at 60 mph (97 km/h).
Class 221 units do not have automatic sanding equipment, and instead have “one-shot” sanders which activate when all of the following conditions are met:
As it was necessary to take the train out of service for refill following the deployment of sand, Bombardier fitted a second sand bottle, allowing two uses before the train would need to be withdrawn from service. The Virgin Trains fleet was modified between December 2008 and March 2009; the CrossCountry fleet between February and June 2011.
All Class 221 units are maintained at the dedicated Central Rivers TMD near Burton-on-Trent.
As part of a franchise commitment to replace all of the Mark 2 and High Speed Train sets waterproof case for 4s, Virgin CrossCountry ordered 40 five-carriage sets. In addition four four-carriage sets were ordered to replace High Speed Trains on Virgin Trains’ North Wales Coast Line services to Holyhead. However all entered service with Virgin CrossCountry.
In November 2010, Virgin Trains reformed its three four-car sets into two five-car sets and a residual spare two-car set by inserting the two intermediate (non-driving) cars from 221144 into 221142 and 221143, giving 20 five-car sets (and two spare driving cars) football jerseys for boys. This was aimed at providing more flexibility and consistency in operating Birmingham-Scotland and London-North Wales services.
All vehicles are air-conditioned and fitted with Wifi provided by T-Mobile. Hot spots the at-seat audio entertainment system is still present however it has now been disabled since the WiFi hot spots were introduced. Power sockets are also available for laptop computers and mobile-phone charging. First-class accommodation has 2+1 seating, standard class 2+2 seating. Virgin Trains’ units are fitted with CCTV. These trains, unlike the older trains they replaced, have electronic information display boards in the exterior walls showing the train number, the time, the coach, the train’s destination and the next station. This is also a feature of the Class 220 and Class 222 high speed DEMUs (The Class 390 trains also have such electronic information display boards, but in the doors).
The trains have been criticised for providing insufficient space for luggage and bicycles deer meat tenderizer. Also, because the units are designed to tilt, the carriages have a tapered profile that narrows towards roof level, resulting in a less spacious interior than the conventional carriages they replaced.
The formation and capacity of each unit depends on the operator.
All units are owned by Voyager Leasing, a consortium of Lloyds Banking Group and Angel Trains. They are leased to the train operating companies.
On their introduction in 2002, Virgin Trains was the operator of all Class 221s, which it used on CrossCountry and West Coast Main Line services as well as on the North Wales Coast line.
With the decision to transfer those CrossCountry services that operated via the West Coast Main Line to the InterCity West Coast franchise at the same time as the former franchise was relet, on 11 November 2007 the fleet was split. Virgin West Coast were allocated 221101-221118 and 221142-221144 while CrossCountry gained 221119-221141. However while CrossCountry overhauled five High Speed Train sets, 221114-221118 were subleased for a 12-month period.
CrossCountry’s Class 221s operate alongside 220s on the routes inherited from Virgin CrossCountry. Since these routes are not cleared for tilting operation (with the exception of Wolverhampton to Stockport), in 2008 the tilting equipment was locked out of use and shortly afterwards was isolated altogether, replacing the hydraulic rams with fixed tie-bars. This change was made to improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs.
Virgin Trains (West Coast) uses the Class 221 units primarily from London Euston to Scotland via Birmingham New Street (despite the route being electrified throughout) and from London Euston to Chester and North Wales. They are also used by a few London Euston to West Midland services.
The trains to and from Scotland often operate as double units and alternate between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley (in turn alternating with TransPennine Express trains to and from Manchester Airport). When longer trains are needed for some of the busier services, a Pendolino will run through from and to London Euston, and the Super Voyager then fills in for it on the London to West Midlands route.
The trains on the North Wales route sometimes work in pairs between London Euston and Chester and terminate variously at Chester, Holyhead, Bangor or Wrexham.
Units have been stopped due to waves breaking over the sea wall at Dawlish in storm conditions, inundating the resistor banks and causing the control software to shut down the whole train. This problem was fixed by a software upgrade to the control software.
On 8 December 2005, 221125 suffered an exhaust fire at Starcross. Other members of the Voyager class suffered similar fires in the 2005-2006 period due to an incorrectly performed engine overhaul.
On 25 September 2006, 221136 collided with a car on the track at Moor Lane, Copmanthorpe, North Yorkshire. The 14:25 Plymouth to Edinburgh was decelerating on its approach to York station at 9pm when it collided with the car, which had crashed through a fence on to the line. Despite being derailed in the 100 mph crash, the train remained upright. Nobody on board was injured.
On 4 July 2009, 221112 was involved in a collision between with a set of freight train container doors, Eden Valley Loop, Penrith. At 16:27, Virgin Trains (1M86) service from Edinburgh to Birmingham New Street passed service 4M16, a container freight train which was in the Eden Valley Loop. The train struck one or both open doors of wagons 12 and or 13 of the container train. The crew of the service water bottle glass, heard the impacts and stopped to report the damage to their control at 16:28. The train suffered damage to all cars consisting of scratching to bodywork, in particular doors, as well as severe damage to one door step. The Super Voyager was one of three trains to be damaged by the container doors,also involved was a Class 390 and a Class 185.
CrossCountry 221131 derailed between Arbroath and Montrose on 4 November 2012 blocking another line. The police and various operators set up a £25,000 reward after it was believed that the train hit something deliberately placed on the track.
On 20 November 2013 a Virgin Super Voyager overran the platform and ran into the buffers at Chester. One passenger was taken to hospital. The RAIB report concluded that this was due to exceptionally low adhesion between wheels and rails, combined with train’s sanding system being inadequate. The report recommended that the sanding equipment on the class be upgraded.
Some of the Virgin-operated Class 221 SuperVoyagers were named after famous voyagers, some fictional and some real, as follows:
† – Refers to CrossCountry units.
^ – Refers to 4 coach units.
‡ – Refers to 4 coach units converted to 5 cars.
§ – Refers to stored & disbanded units.
In 2014, CrossCountry set 220007 suffered a fire seriously damaging coach C. As a quick fix, CrossCountry decided to remove a coach from unit 221135, and place this vehicle within 220007. There is a noticeable difference between the vehicles due to the different sort of bogies used on Class 220 and Class 221 units. In February 2015 both 220007 and 221135 were returned to their original formations.