Image of a GWR Castle HST: GWR Castle HST set at Plymouth, leading power car is 43187 Cardiff Castle.

British High Speed Trains set for Mexico

Image of a GWR Castle Class HST set at Plymouth. The leading power car is 43187 Cardiff Castle. Murgatroyd49 / WikiCommons

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 They may be withdrawn from almost all operations in the UK, but the iconic High Speed Trains (HST) are gearing up for an international voyage, leaving their familiar tracks to find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.

Three quarter view of CrossCountry Trains HST power car at Bristol Parkway
CrossCountry Trains were already withdrawing their HST sets before the Mexico deal emerged. The operator is already short of rolling stock to cope with demand.

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).

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for and

12 comments op “British High Speed Trains set for Mexico”

Matthew Longstaff|30.08.23|13:31

I doubt this. Why would a new line in Mexico be built to the British loading gauge?

Dave Mills|30.08.23|16:52

Most if not all high speed lines in the world use the British standard Track gauge ie 4 feet 8.5 inches, meaning the HST rolling stock will be fine.

The Loading gauge, ie the maximum dimension of rolling stock which is safe to run on a given railway, varies much more widely, both between and even within countries. For example, HS2 is designed to the Continental loading gauge allowing trains of up to 15ft or 4.7m compared to the normal British 12 ft or 3.91m.

Dave Simpson|30.08.23|18:07

Most loading gauges for standard rail gauge lines are roomier than the UK standard. If that is the case for Mexico HSTs will easily fit with room to spare. A bigger issue might be access: HSTs, like all UK trains, are designed for high platforms. These are less common in many other countries, and HSTs have no descending steps to enable low platform access.

Tom Cruise|31.08.23|06:57

I don’t think they’re for the Maya train because all of the trains for that project are being provided by Alston and are being built in Mexico I think they are for the newly modernized interoceanic corridor which will have a non electrified line and will have passenger train service as well as cargo and these trains would be perfect

paul hemmings|31.08.23|09:21

Nice to see the Hsts having a new lease of life, I serviced the Mtu engines on the fleet run by Fgw till my retirement.
Perhaps I should apply for a job in Mexico!

Jane Sullivan (BudgieJane)|06.09.23|23:45

In reply to Dave Simpson, trains designed for high platforms use portable steps to take passengers up from low platforms.|13.09.23|17:27

Loading gauge won’t be an issue. I’m sure this upgraded line will be built to the AAR loading gauge. HST’s will need hi-level platforms. If the platforms are built to AAR clearance, there will be wide gaps at HST doors.
Easy solution – gauntlet tracks. A concern will be if the air-con is up to operating in a tropical climate. I don’t the cooling capacity of a/c systems fitted to HST coaches, but unless they are at least 7-8 tons (1 ton = 200 BTU/min = 3.517 kJ/s = 3.517 kW) they will struggle.

Miles Thomas|18.09.23|14:13

If this is just the power cars (and presumably also trailer cars) then I wonder what coaching stock they will be hooked to.

Thomas Harrison|18.09.23|16:46

Miles Thomas, 11 mark 3 coaches have been shipped over with the HSTs.

Thomas Harrison|18.09.23|16:47

Miles Thomas, 11 mark 3 coaches have been shipped over with the 3 power cars.

Michael Pease|19.09.23|13:06

I hope that when the Mexicans refurbish the HST vehicles they will finally modify the last of the vehicles which had air conditioning intakes near the disc brakes. This problem was identified decades ago, but modifications proceeded at a snail’s pace. The smell from the brake pads was dreadful!

E Daniel Roblero|21.09.23|16:17

These trains will be used in another train project called interoceanic line that will connect the two oceans through the Tehuantepec isthmus intended for the crossing of goods in a stretch of 186 miles.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.