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Classes 220 & 221
Virgin Voyager & Super Voyager


photograph by John Lewis

On 3 December 2001 220023 was the leading unit of the "Sussex Scot" pictured here at Kensington Olympia.

The class 220 Voyager and class 221 Super Voyager are the state-of-the-art fleet of DEMUs designed, constructed and maintained by Bombardier introduced in June 2001 to revolutionise Virgin Trains Cross Country services. They replace VT XC's entire loco hauled fleet and the majority of HSTs. This revolution to cross country services has been fought on several fronts: Working with Railtrack on infrastructure improvements to increase line speeds and the number of paths. Introducing new rolling stock in the form of Voyagers to improve reliability, run faster, introduce new features for passengers such as computerised seat reservation indicators, at seat full food service for first class, at seat audio channels, power sockets for running computers and charging mobile telephones and an on board self service shop, plus the reintroduction of long-lost railway carriage favourites such as window blinds and reading lights. Running shorter trains but at increased regular frequency and aiming towards a clockface timetable hitherto unthought of for such long distance services.

Voyagers are already working on services to Bournemouth/Poole, Brighton/Gatwick Airport and Portsmouth Harbour and Super Voyagers are currently being introduced, though tilt running is not yet implemented. The Brighton line was the first on the Southern to receive Voyager services on the 22nd July 2001 and the first ever Super Voyager train carrying fare paying passengers was the 20.20 Birmingham New Street to Brighton on the 12th April 2002. All loco hauled Cross Country services to and from Bournemouth/Poole had been eliminated by April 14th> 2002. Note that Voyager and Super Voyager are Virgin Trains' brands and these names cannot be used by similar Bombardier DEMU units to be introduced in the future by other TOCs.

The 34 strong Voyager fleet is numbered 220001 - 220034 and formed of 4 cars Driving Motor Second (DMS) - Motor Second Restaurant Buffet (MSRB) - Motor second (MS) - Driving Motor First (DMF). Seating is for 26 first class and 162 standard class passengers, each unit had three toilets and is gangwayed within the unit only.

The 44 strong Super Voyager fleet is numbered 221101-221144 and is the 5 car tilting version (though the final four units are 4 car formed as per class 220 and will be used on Euston - Holyhead/Blackpool services) formed DMS - MSRB - MS(A) - MS(B) - DMF. Seating in 5 car formations is for 26 first class and 224 standard class passengers with 4 toilets and again gangwayed within the unit only.

220006 Clyde Voyager The Virgin branding, as befits its flamboyant founder, is prominent on these units and the public doors are highlighted for the visually impaired by white and grey cross-hatching.  By contrast the driver's cab door looks more like that on an airliner.

photograph by Ozz Scott

In complete contrast and making life difficult for railway enthusiasts the unit number is discreet!  Some would say the prominent coupler spoils the sleek looks of these units however the regular joining of units when travelling over the trunk parts of the cross country network is an important part of the strategy for using multiple units.

photograph by Ozz Scott

220002 Forth Voyager
220006 and 220002 up close and personal! 220006 Clyde Voyager and 220002 Forth Voyager are seen here coupled together at Poole sidings in late 2001. The pairing of these units at this location is most appropriate for the photographer who hails from Scotland and now lives in the Poole area!

photograph by Ozz Scott

Externally the two classes are very similar with only 5 cars and heavier bogies readily signifying the class 221 - even the unit numbers are not very visible as they are small and applied low down the front valance on the driving motors. The cars are of steel construction, the driving motor cars being 78ft 2in long and intermediate cars 74ft 11in long, all passenger doors being of the single leaf swing plug design. All cars are 8ft 11in wide and 12ft 4in high. Being DEMUs there is one Cummins 559kW engine in each driving motor car, the pair of engines in each unit supplying power via generators to two Alstom Onix 275kW 3 phase traction motors per car. Top speed is 125 mph. Both rheostatic and electropneumatic braking systems are provided, and these units can only work in multiple with other class 220 or 221s. Bar couplings are used between cars on each unit with prominent Dellner couplings at each end. Tilt actuation on the Super Voyagers is hydraulic.

Construction was split between Bombardier works at Brugge (Belgium) and Horbury Works Wakefield. All bodyshells were constructed at Brugge, as was fitting out of the earlier units. Thereafter the bodies were transported to Wakefield for fitting out. The first finished Voyager unit was completed at Brugge in the autumn of 2000 and road testing had begun by the end of that year with the first finished Voyager unit arriving at Wakefield in January 2001. By April 2002 all Super Voyager bodyshells had been completed and 15 finished units were on test in the UK. Compared to the recent introduction of other diesel and electric unit types, the Voyager and Super Voyager projects have been commendably smooth.

Maintenance is part of the overall deal and Bombardier has a lifelong maintenance contract for the stock. To provide this Bombardier built a new depot on a green field site at Barton-under-Needwood just south of Burton-upon-Trent on the Derby to Birmingham line. Named Central Rivers Traction Maintenance Depot this is fairly centrally placed on the sprawling Cross Country network and in good proximity to VT's Birmingham New Street Station hub. Although about half the Voyager and Super Voyager fleet can be cycled through Central Rivers every day elements of servicing and maintenance is required towards the extremities of the Cross Country network. To enable this Bombardier have sub-contracted other depots, and on the Southern this involves EWS at Three Bridges and a joint EWS/Bombardier/Virgin operation at Eastleigh.

Not only has the introduction of these units been a technical, logistical and operational success but they are also proving to be popular with passengers. The only complaint has been the lack of luggage storage space which given the currently predominant leisure market served by Cross Country services is an unfortunate oversight. However if the eventual reduction in journey times and increased regularity of services proves a success Cross Country services may become seen as viable for business travellers.

The engine and generator compartment in the driving motor cars is remarkably compact. Note the huge windscreen wipers!

photograph by Ozz Scott

220002 Forth Voyager
Voyagers in Poole sidings Another picture of 220006 and 220002 at Poole sidings in late 2001, showing off a lot of the roof detail.

photograph by Ozz Scott

...and from the other side of the tracks.

photograph by Ozz Scott

Voyagers in Poole sidings
220002 Detail of the roof above the air conditioning unit of 220002. We look forward to seeing the fine detail on the forthcoming Bachmann models!

photograph by Ozz Scott

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This page was last updated 3 December 2002

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