British High Speed Trains set for Mexico
Venerable but not finished yet. They may be withdrawn from almost all operations in the UK, but the iconic High Speed Trains (HST) are gearing up for an international voyage, leaving their familiar tracks to find a new home in Mexico, with potential for other overseas destinations. Examples of the trains, credited as the fastest diesels in the world and as the trains that saved Britain’s long distance rail travel, could be set for a sunset in the sunshine of Mexico. Units that last saw service in the UK with CrossCountry Trains, LNER, and GWR have been observed on the quayside at British ports, embarking on Transatlantic voyages.
The trains, which have been a staple of the British rail scene for decades, are on the cusp of an emigration, when most observers expected the veteran formations to head for one last trip to the breakers yard. However, their withdrawal from UK service, is not the death knell. A new line on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, which was to have been electrified, has taken the units for an interim diesel powered service. Barring the handful of units still on duty in Scotland, and some charter, heritage and engineering trains, it marks the end of HSTs in widespread regular service on this side of the Atlantic.
New life in the New World
A series of unsubstantiated social media posts suggest there is life in the old dogs yet. A fleet of surviving HSTs have been parcelled up and dispatched on a journey to Mexico. Examples have been seen in a variety of liveries, including the colours of East Coast operator LNER, and the West Country operator GWR, being hosted from the quayside at Great Yarmouth and on to a ship, apparently bound for Mexico. Sources claim that the plan involves more than just the initial batch, and more HST power cars and their passenger vehicles will be on their way overseas.
It’s understood that the destination for these HSTs is the Tren Maya line in the Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun, Mexico. The controversial Tren Maya project, aimed at bolstering tourism in the region, was initially intended to utilise electric traction. The line’s construction has been criticised as politically motivated and environmentally questionable.
However, to streamline construction costs, the decision was made to shift to diesel traction, aligning with the capabilities of the acquired rolling stock. The initial voyage has been entrusted to cargo vessel BBC Arkhangelsk, operated by BBC Chartering GmbH & Co KG, based in Leer, Germany. The HST was designed in the late 1960 and early 1970s. The units were a highly successful upgrade to intercity passenger transport and were used on prestige routes on non-electrified lines, including the London – Edinburgh East Coast Main Line, and on services from London Paddington to the West Country and South Wales. An example of the class holds the world speed record for diesel traction of 148.5 mph (239.0 km/h).