Bombardier Voyager

The Bombardier Voyager is a family of high-speed 125 mph diesel-electric multiple-units built in Belgium by Bombardier Transportation, for service on the railway network of the United Kingdom. Construction of the Voyager family took place between 2000 and 2005, consisting of three classes - the Class 220 Voyager, Class 221 Super Voyager and Class 222 Meridian. These three classes are currently operated by CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and CrossCountry, and East Midlands Railway respectively.

Bombardier Voyager
Classes 220 (left) and 221 (right) at Durham, showing different bogie designs
The interior of standard class on board a class 220 operated by CrossCountry
In service2001–present
ManufacturerBombardier Transportation
Built atBruges, Belgium
Number built105 sets
Number in service105 sets
Operator(s)Avanti West Coast
East Midlands Railway
Car body constructionSteel
Car length23.85 m (78 ft 3 in) end cars
22.82 m (74 ft 10 in) other
Width2.73 m (8 ft 11 in)
Maximum speed125 mph (200 km/h)
Prime mover(s)Cummins QSK19
Power output750 hp (560 kW) per car
Braking system(s)Rheostatic
Safety system(s)AWS, TPWS
Coupling systemDellner[1]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

Bombardier Voyagers are used on various intercity services throughout Great Britain, including the longest direct rail service in the United Kingdom, which is a CrossCountry service from Aberdeen to Penzance which takes over 13 hours to complete..


Class 220

The Class 220 Voyager was built to operate Cross Country intercity services. Virgin CrossCountry received 34 four-car sets in 2000/01.[2] All passed with the CrossCountry franchise to Arriva CrossCountry in November 2007.[3]

Class 221

The Class 221 Super Voyager was built as a tilting version of the Class 220. Although visually similar, they were fitted with a tilting mechanism and heavier bogies. Virgin CrossCountry received 40 five-car and four four-car sets.[4] All passed with the CrossCountry franchise to Arriva CrossCountry in November 2007.[3]

With the removal of West Coast Main Line services from the CrossCountry franchise in December 2007, 16 were transferred to Virgin Trains West Coast for use on InterCity West Coast services.[5] A further five moved from CrossCountry to Virgin Trains West Coast in December 2008. CrossCountry removed the tilting equipment from its Class 221s to improve reliability and lower cost of maintenance.[6]

On 8 December 2019, all of the West Coast sets passed to Avanti West Coast, the new operator of the West Coast Partnership franchise.

Class 222

The Class 222 Meridian DEMUs are broadly similar to the original Voyager units, but feature a number of reliability improvements and different internal layout.

The Class 222 was built in the light of experience gained with the 220 and 221 units; in particular, many more components were installed under the floor so as to increase space for passengers. Twenty-seven sets were built:

  • Midland Mainline ordered 23 Meridians, to replace 17 Class 170 Turbostars and provide stock for a later cancelled London St Pancras to Leeds service.[7] Originally configured as 16 four-car seven and nine-car sets, they were later re-formed into a combination of four, five and eight-car units.[8] All were transferred to the new franchise holder East Midlands Trains (EMT) in November 2007. When EMT took over the franchise, it removed a car from six of its eight-car sets, to lengthen previously four-car units. The last remaining eight-car unit was reduced to five cars.[9] All passed with the franchise to East Midlands Railway in 2019.
  • Hull Trains obtained four 4-car Class 222/1 Pioneers in 2005 to replace four Class 170 Turbostars.[10] These units are slightly different internally from the 222/0 Meridian trains. Following a maintenance incident and the long-term unavailability of one unit, First Hull Trains replaced its Class 222 fleet with a fleet of Class 180 Adelantes in 2009. The Class 222s were transferred to EMT for use with the rest of the Class 222 fleet.[11]

Technical problems and criticism

  • The Class 220s and 221s have been criticised for being cramped as they are designed to be able to be converted to tilting operation, since when tilted they must still fit within the loading gauge.
  • Because there is one diesel engine per car, there is increased underfloor noise, vibration and rattles when compared to the InterCity 125 sets and locomotive hauled trains that the units in this family replaced.
  • There is very little space to store heavy luggage or bicycles. Although CrossCountry has now removed the shops from its trains to increase capacity, the bicycle compartment can now only store 3 instead of the original 4 bicycles.
  • CrossCountry services formed of Classes 220 and 221 frequently have to be stopped at Exeter St Davids or Newton Abbot when waves break over the Dawlish sea wall, due to the roof mounted brake resistors.
  • The trains are notably shorter than the trains they replaced, resulting in reduced capacity. In addition, most seating in Standard Class is in airline configuration with fold-down tables, which are too small for large laptops.

Accidents and incidents

  • In 2006, a Class 222 unit had to be taken out of service due to a door opening in Northamptonshire on a London-Sheffield service, while the train was at speed.[12]
  • On 14 March 2008, a fire broke out on a Voyager at Banbury. About 100 passengers were evacuated from the train.[13]
  • On 20 April 2012, a Voyager unit caught fire at Nottingham. The fire was caused by a buildup of grime which was heated by the movement of the train's wheels.[14]
  • On 18 July 2018, a Voyager unit caught fire shortly after leaving Derby whilst operating a service to Glasgow Central. All 175 passengers were evacuated.[15]

Proposed conversion to electrical operation

In 2010 Bombardier proposed the conversion of several Voyager multiple units into hybrid electric and diesel vehicles capable of taking power from an overhead pantograph (electro-diesels EDMUs). The proposal was named Project Thor.[16]

In October 2010 it was speculated that 123 additional pantograph vehicles would be manufactured at Derby Litchurch Lane Works, and 21 sets converted, at a cost of approximately £300million,[17] however in 2011 the plant did not have the facilities to manufacture steel carriages,[18] though it was expected that much of the work would take place in the UK, and provide work for the Derby plant.[19] In December 2011 a proposal to electrify 30-35 sets for the CrossCountry franchise, referred to as "eVoyager", was considered by the Department for Transport.[20]


  1. "Mechanical And Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  2. Virgin Voyagers enter public service The Railway Magazine issue 1203 July 2001 page 8
  3. Bio-fuel under review as Virgin confirms Voyager moves Rail issue 575 26 September 2007 page 16
  4. Virgin Voyager collection complete Virgin Trains 21 October 2002
  5. New Operator's Trains Rail issue 580 5 December 2007 page 65
  6. Miles, Tony (August 2008). "CrossCountry stops tilting". Modern Railways. London. p. 71.
  7. Midland Mainline orders fleet of Meridian Class 222s The Railway Magazine issue 1212 April 2002 page 4
  8. MML to reconfigure Meridian fleet Today's Railways UK issue 59 November 2006 page 60
  9. EMT starts Medidian reconfiguration Today's Railways UK issue 77 May 2008 page 63
  10. Hull Trains goes for Voyager-style units The Railway Magazine issue 1219 November 2002 page 9
  11. 222/1s for EMT Today's Railways UK issue 86 February 2009 page 57
  12. RAIB Report into incident
  13. Wilkinson, Matt (14 March 2008). "Train fire is out". Oxford Mail. Newsquest. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  14. "Nottingham railway station disrupted after engine fire". BBC News Online. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  15. "Train evacuated near Derby after fire beneath carriage". BBC News Online. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  16. "Transport and the economy: Memorandum from Bombardier Transportation UK Limited (TE 89)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2011. Project Thor, being developed with a number of UK private sector partners, would see 500 existing diesel multiple unit vehicles converted to bi-mode diesel / electric capability, allowing them to operate as electric trains where there is already electrification infrastructure in place, continuing their journey in diesel mode where the wires end.
  17. "Bombardier's electrification plan presented to ministers". RailNews. Stevenage. 6 October 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  18. "Bombardier: Doubts over Derby factory's CrossCountry hopes",, BBC News, 16 September 2011
  19. "Cross Country contract may save Derby Bombardier jobs",, BBC News, 11 September 2011
  20. "eVoyager project costs still seen as too high by DfT",, Railnews Limited, 23 December 2011
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