HM THE Queen followed in the footsteps of Queen Victoria on June 13, making the short journey from Slough to London Paddington on one of GWR’s new Hitachi Class 800 units.
The trip marked the 175th anniversary of the first train journey by a British monarch, on June 13, 1842, when Queen Victoria travelled on a Great Western Railway broad gauge train driven by Daniel Gooch and assisted by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
On arrival at Paddington, Britain’s longest-serving monarch unveiled the name Queen Elizabeth II on GWR bi-mode Class 800 No. 800003. Following the naming ceremony, The Queen was presented with a pair of specially designed coins by Tim O’Toole, chief executive of GWR owner FirstGroup. The coins will become a feature of GWR’s new trains and will incorporate a unique design on each of the company’s 93 Hitachi Class 800/802 electro-diesel multiple units. Their design is inspired by the commemorative coins fitted to the cabside of GWR ‘King’ 4-6-0 No. 6000 King George V
when it attended the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s centenary celebrations in 1927.
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Mark Hopwood, GWR managing director, said: “We are delighted that The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were able to join us to mark this historic anniversary.
“We at GWR are extremely proud of our heritage and this occasion marks a very special moment in the history of the Great Western Railway.”
Freshly reinstalled as Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling added: “This is a truly inspirational event and a fitting tribute to the proud heritage of Brunel’s railway. This route remains one of the foundations of our rail network and as a nation we should be proud of our railways, which continue to be the bedrock of our public transport system.”
Four days later, GWR had further cause for celebration when the first of its uprated Class 802 bi-mode five-car trains arrived from Japan. It is the first of three pre-series AT300 trains being built at Hitachi’s Kasado plant (two five-car and one nine-car) with larger fuel tanks and more powerful diesel engines than standard IEP Class 800s.
A total of 36 sets have been ordered by GWR to replace HSTs on West of England services to Plymouth and Penzance from next summer. The remaining 33 trains are being built at the Hitachi Rail Italia plant in Pistoia. All should be in the UK by the end of 2018, with all West of England services planned to be operated by AT300s from mid-March 2019.
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